This week, Fethullah Gülen was elected most important intellectual in the world in an internetpoll organized by the US magazine “Foreign Policy” together with the British magazine “Prospect”. Who? Fethullah Gülen. He’s a Turk, but he lives in the USA. He leads the Gülen Movement, an Islamic path that preaches a modern interpretation of Islam and encourages dialogue between religions. So says Gülen, and so say his millions of followers in Turkey and abroad. But he also has an extensive business empire, including (amongst other things) media. And he has schools, thousands of them in many, many countries. Eventually, according to many of his opponents, he and his movement want to overthrow the secular order in Turkey. He was even sued because of this suspicion, but that court case was also news this week: after years the case was dismissed by Turkey’s highest court.
As an outsider, it’s hard to have an opinion about Fethullah Gülen. I have no emotional attitude towards him, unlike his devoted followers and fierce opponents. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories – like the most spectacular one, which is that, working from the USA, Gülen is the real leader of ruling (Islamic based) AK Party. But when you read about his movement, it all seems just too nice, too good, too loving to be true, especially when you know the guy has big commercial interests in Turkey and around the world. Maybe now that he is no longer under legal threat, he will return to Turkey, probably not to stay but only to visit and, who knows?, to preach – there’s already speculation about that. Maybe that will provide some extra clues about who Fethullah Gülen really is.
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