Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

What do the Turkey protests say about Fethullah Gülen?

Image Credit: FreedomHouse2 (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Image Credit: FreedomHouse2 (Flickr) (CC BY 2.0)

Few contemporary thinkers are as controversial as Fethullah Gülen. To his supporters, he is a visionary who promotes religious tolerance, while to his opponents, he is a closet Islamist who seeks to subvert the secular order. For examples of the different treatment, see these suspicious views, this middle-of-the-road treatment, and this effusive interview or biography.

That he is deeply influential in Turkey is without doubt. While Gülen himself stays clear of direct involvement in politics, his supporters permeate the Turkish government and, especially, its security forces. Indeed, with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) monopolizing power, the best way to think about divisions inside government are not along political party lines but rather as factions within the AKP: some members follow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first and foremost, others prefer Abdullah Gül, while for others Gülen is the master. Factional rivalries and animosities run so deep that the wives of Erdoğan and Gül do not speak to each other.

As the AKP has consolidated control, Gülen’s forces have become the paramount power in the security forces. Two years ago, those security forces arrested investigative reporter Ahmet Şik and, in a blatant equivalent of prosecuting “thought crimes,” declared illegal his unpublished manuscript describing the penetration of Turkish state organs by Islamists. That Şik was attacked in Taksim Square and hospitalized with serious injuries is probably not a coincidence.

Fethullah Gülen has gently criticized Erdoğan’s handling of the Gezi Park protests, yet it is unclear if his criticism is simply a populist strategy to weaken a prime minister and sometimes-ally that has gotten too big for his britches, or whether Gülen is sincere. Unfortunately, the latter is likely not the explanation: because Gülen has such active influence among the security forces, the police behavior probably reflects more upon the real Gülen than all of those shadow organizations who continue to sing his praises as a man of peace.

5 thoughts on “What do the Turkey protests say about Fethullah Gülen?

  1. Since Rubin is able to label Gulen as not sincere, double-faced, etc, without any real evidence, I like to question his image as an independent analyst who honestly and objectively tries to present an accurate image of world events. I think behind his independent and objective face, he really tries to undermine any worldwide leader with an Islamic background whose actions and words disprove the neo-con thesis of hostile and backward Muslim world. From his comfy seat in Washington, DC, 5,000 miles from Istanbul, he sees no problem with character assassination efforts. He manages to bring the conversation to Gulen while everybody is focusing on ERdogan’s mishandling of the crisis. Sik’s injury is no accident? Yeah, right.. that was one conspiracy theory that the Turkish public was unaware of and thanks Rubin for crafting one.

    • Selim,

      First of all, Michael Rubin does not just sit in his “comfy seat…5,000 miles from Istanbul.” He travels regularly to Turkey and the middle east, knows many foreign languages, and does investigative reporting. He was in Turkey just recently.

      More importantly, the Gulen connection is not irrelevant at all. I am of Turkish origin, live in the states and have met many Turkish immigrants who admit being followers of “hoca efendi”. The Turkish police committing these horrible acts are the face of Gulen! Do you understand?

      Rubin gets it…and your ad hominen attacks are a sign that you would rather engage in name-calling than actual intellectual arguments in response to Rubin’s column.

    • gulen like erdogan, do you know nearly 9 years Gulen and Erdoğan worked together. now, they fight for power.. Gulen is a danger men.

  2. Selim is possible another brainwashed cult member who attended Hocaefendi’s lighthouse schools.
    Gulenists control the polis, judicial system, AKP party, education, media and now sadly the military in Turkey. So you can gather that the Gulenists controlled polis have specific marching orders to use the heavy hand against the peaceful protestors who are tired of Cemaat controlling everything.
    If you are not Gulencis, you don’t have a job in the higher ranks of government. THere are over 300,000 unemployed teachers in Turkiye, why is that? Replacing teachers with Gulenics only.
    Selim wake up before it’s too late, the Islamic cultural revolution is happening in Turkey and secularist are not going to let you steal our democracy.

  3. Isn’t it time for the USA to kick this dangerous Imam out..?
    His long arms in Turkey catches innocent people to be cautioned or arrested if they even slightly criticize him..
    He is ignorant, backward, belongs to a Kurdish Sect (Nurcu”).. He is extremely rich and powerful.

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