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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.

9 Comments »

9 comments on “Fethullah Gülen

  1. Carlos on said:

    I would suggest you read the academic papers produced by the recent conferences in Gulen’s name.

    http://www.gulenconference.nl/main.php?page=5
    http://www.fethullahgulenconference.org/
    http://www.fethullahgulen.org/content/section/293/4/

  2. Fréderike Geerdink on said:

    Of course Carlos, but like I said, it makes me a bit suspicious that there is also a big business network. Gülen Movement has big commercial interests in Turkey and worldwide even though the movement is mainly presented as a religious one.

  3. Melan on said:

    hello Fréderike,
    All the Turkish schools and hundreds of organizations, as a part of Gulen movement, are all non-profit organizations. And for the business network, they are not led by Gulen but by his followers.
    I personally believe, those people involved in Gulen movement are all unique. I had a change to meet them in DC through a Turkish dialogue organization (RumiForum), and thats also when I met the real Muslims of our world, maybe the only real muslims left.

    I suggest you to listen to this, http://www.interfaithradio.org/node/491

  4. remy on said:

    Fethullah Gulen is only an illiterate cult leader (is not even a primary school graduate but he graduates from primary school taking exams from outside ?!!!) waiting to return to Turkey at the proper time if secular western modern Turks lose the battle against these islamist fanatics one day, just like Homeyni of Iran.

    Whatever he says, or writes or preaches to the west is very different and are all lies, becase even the videos at you tube and google in turkish, in his own native mother tongue tell all the truth about this fanatic illiterate cult leader who is sponsored by fanatic islamists with lots and lots of money aorund the world. Ask any secular modern Turkish people and they will tell you the truth about him and his cult and their fanatic sheria dreams for Turkey.

    So he may call himself even Einstein of moslem world and/or Turkey. By the way what makes you believe he is what he says he is because the most prominent characteristics of these fanatic Islamist are “takiyye” which means you may lie whenever it serves your own purpose!

    So how does this happen ??? An intellectual??? Please get real and think about it!

  5. Melan on said:

    Remy,
    I don`t really want to get in to any ugly arguments, but I guess, not Gulen but you are quite ignorant!
    Than can you explain me what kind of an “illiterate” person, have mastered, several languages (French, English, Arabic, Persian and several other, his Turkish must off course be exceptional as his native language).
    And how can he be the writer of numerous books?

    Well, I tell you what, this is a really pretty website. And I love reading Frederike`s blog, and I don’t really want to see any bullying, ugly arguments here! Please either try to be more respectful or shut your bulky m up!
    Thanks,
    Melan.

    P.M. The confirmation code below is asking me to type “must greek” what a coincidence (:

  6. hypatia on said:

    Dear Frederike,
    I have taught at Fatih University, one of the Gulen schools, for a couple of years. During this time I have had the opportunity to observe a lot and befriend some of the Gulen followers. Unfortunately, what your correspondent says about ‘takkiye’ is true. You are picking up on the right scent when you say that Gulen’s business interests might make him less pure as a spiritual leader. His dream of returning to the pre-Tanzimat era in Turkey includes what we would call sharia law and mandatory religious education (not including the Alevis or Christians or any other minorities, but promulgating by subtle force a sort of Saudi/Wahhabist version of Islam) that only pretends to be moderate despite their favorite word, dialogue. In fact, the Fethullah Gulen organization is run in a very tightly controlled way and like the AKP, media control and manipulation of public opinion have succeeded in giving a sunny picture of some very dark realities.
    I am leaving the school at the end of the summer. While the working conditions are very good (to keep their YOK ratings they hire quite a few Western English teachers and professors), I can no longer participate in this cult-like environment. The girls’ dorms are straight out of the handmaid’s tale, all the staff disappears for Friday prayers at the on campus mescid (illegal in Turkey) and many of the students’ minds are closed long before they get to campus, having attended medreses. I’ve made some progress teaching, but at the expense of my own health and self-esteem (as a Western woman I am viewed as “promiscuous” to quote a female Gulen apologist and fausse feminist). Good to see that you are not wholly taken in but giving the benefit of the doubt. Me too, for a couple of years. The verdict, for me at least, is in. Read the Chronicle.com blog on Fatih University (NB.: the pro-apologist among my colleagues has just left for greener pastures).
    Please do not publish my name (i have not yet resigned) but I will. I have not decided how I will go about writing journalism (or better yet, fiction) on the Gulen movement. It is almost too unbelievable for journalism. Best regards, hypatia

  7. Pingback: A tangled mess at Journalist in Turkey, background articles, news and weblog about Turkey and Istanbul

  8. Jonathan on said:

    I would disagree with hypatia.

    None can be perfect, the people you are talking about are trying to be good… They are doing their best. It is not something tangible to name it as a cult.

    Because hypatia was kind of minority, she probably didnt like it much.

    And last thing to mention. You would not this person, and would not hear about him, if his opponents would not make him popular!

  9. hypatia,
    Obviously you are quite angry on something about the school but this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can bully Gulen`s schools everywhere or at least an academician shouldn’t do this.
    I get the feeling that you are also quite obsessed with some ideas that makes you uncomfortable. For instance, if prayers of people around you or their moral values bothers you or you cant stand it. If you cant do it then why don’t you just quit? That is obvious when you said that you are seem as a “promiscuous” as a ‘western’ woman. Oh.. also that western thing!! its becoming verrryyy popular these days.! You are not the ONLY western working at Gulen`s institutions, probably there are more than thousands of western academicians and many of them are having their life time experiences!

    I agree with Jonathan, don’t make you opponent more popular just walk away, teacher at another school, let your skin age somewhere else, die and never have time to face realities!. lol that way quite harsh I guess. sorry !

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