Friday, June 15, 2012

Why Americans should learn about the Gulen movement

Beyond the issues with the Gulen movement’s stealth acquisition of the operation of the largest network of U.S. charter schools (as reported by CBS News 60 Minutes, The New York Times, and elsewhere), Americans should also become aware of the influence of this cult in Turkey.* A great deal has been written about the increased power of the Gulen movement in Turkey, its connection to the rise of political Islam there, and the GM's relationship to the AKP, Turkey's ruling party. All of this bears close watching. Please watch this excellent report from Worldfocus, a production of WNET, and read some of the following pieces about the social shifts.

*The term "cult" was used by Andrew Finkel, an Istanbul-based foreign correspondent, during his interview on CBS News 60 Minutes
Lesley Stahl: Would you call it a personality cult?
Andrew Finkel: Yes.

THE FOLLOWING WAS ADDED ON 6/17/2012: Excerpts from an interview (6/15/2012) with Harvard professor Dani Rodrik on Erdoğan, Gülen, and the future of Turkish politics (emphasis added)

Q: What role plays the Gülen movement? You have been extremely critical of the movement…

A: With good reason.  It is well documented that Gulenist sympathizers have been involved in a wide range of shady dealings, improprieties, and dirty tricks. While professing democracy and human rights, Gulenists have been the strongest supporters of judicial practices that are nothing short of egregious – ranging from widespread use of fabricated evidence to jailing journalists for their writings...

Q: We conducted one of the rare interviews with Gülen a few months ago. To us, he answers seemed to be well balanced, entirely peaceful and pretty state-of-the art thinking concerning the relationship between state and religion. We didn’t have the impression, that Gülen is a great actor. He seemed to believe what he said. Is this man dangerous?

A: Unfortunately, what Gulen and his followers say, and what they condone or support are often completely different.  I didn’t start out as a Gulen critic.  But looking closer at what was going on behind the scenes in the Gulenist-suported court cases, it became pretty obvious that the movement is up to its neck in dirty tricks.  And it is hard to say that this is the work of just a few over-zealous devotees.  The Gulen movement’s media flagship Zaman and its editorialists are engaged in a steady stream of distortion and disinformation in support of these shady activities.

Q: Do you think Fetullah Gülen has a hidden Islamic agenda, too? And if so, how does it show in his speeches?

A: Frankly, I do not know what his ultimate goal is.  I judge him by what his sympathizers are doing on the ground.  There are lots of useful educational and philanthropic activities.  And then there is some pretty scary stuff...

Q: The Gülen people have chosen education as their main field of operations? Talking to parents of Gülen schools, we never heard anything about hidden indoctrination. It more seems like they try to give the kids an excellent education. What’s wrong with the Gülen schools?

A: I have nothing against the educational work and the philanthropy per se.  Much of this is obviously a good thing.  But given the lack of transparency and secretiveness that dominate the movement, there are legitimate and nagging worries about what is going on.  In the U.S., for example, the Gulen affiliated charter schools have now come under close scrutiny and there is evidence of systematic pattern of financial improprieties: kickbacks from teacher salaries to the movement, predominant resort to Gulen-affiliated contractors and businesses, and so on. 

Q: What about the Gülen people worldwide? We have quite a few groups here in Germany, and so far they haven’t caused any reason for suspicion. They engage themselves in groups which try to open a dialogue with Christians and Jews. Are they all sleepers just waiting until someone calls them for the “jihad”?

A: I think there is too much of an obsession in the Western media about whether the Gulen movement has a hidden Islamic agenda.  What should concern us is not the Islamic dimension, but simply the shady dealings and improprieties in which many of their devotees are engaged.  This has gone the furthest within Turkey, where they have inordinate power.  Certainly what I have observed of their activities in Turkey make me worried about their influence elsewhere.

I love their discourse on inter-faith tolerance, dialog etc.  But I cannot take it seriously until the movement comes to terms and explicitly renounces the shameful practices it has engaged in and supported.

Q: If you meet Gülen people and start discussing their movement – what would you tell them they should do and what they better don’t do?

A: I would say, stop being paranoid and come clean.  The earlier you shed your links to (and support for) illegal practices the more likely you will survive.  Otherwise, you will go down in history as just another disgraced religious cult that led its followers astray.



Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher from one of the Turkish charter schools in California. Much of what you said about lack of transparency, secretiveness, and shady dealings are true. Not to mention the illegal practices that they do to raise test scores. I resigned from my position because of these reasons. Thank you so much for posting this!

Gulen is a Fraud said...

Dear Anonymous (ex Gulen Charter School teacher in California)

Thank goodness you resigned before the school terminated you. I have heard from 1 dozen ex teachers from these "Gulen Inspired' schools.

Not only do they terminate you for no reason, they also attempt to suspend your teaching license at the state.

They have no rights or authority to destroy anyone's career whilest they make room for more of their brethren to teach in the USA. The exploitation of the teachers knows no boundaries. They also demand their fellow brethren to kick back as much as 40% of their salary to the Movement.

Thereby exploiting their fellow Gulenists not to mention breaking of EEOC laws.

You can read about some of these EEOC lawsuits on this website: