The leading US authority on the Gulen Movement (GM) at this time is Joshua Hendrick, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Loyola University Maryland. His new book “Gulen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World” was published in August 2013 by New York University Press. Fifteen pages are devoted to the Gulen charter school situation and are worth your investment in the book. From page 230:
“... by insisting on the nonpolitical nature of the GM’s lobbying and public relations efforts, by maintaining ambiguity regarding connectivity between individuals and institutions, by flatly denying suspect hiring and retention practices at affiliated charter schools, by allegedly engaging in gender discrimination at these schools, and by becoming the subjects of state and federal level investigation for financial mismanagement, the GM has opened itself up to intense criticism at best, and to potential criminal implications at worst.”
Hendrick recently spoke at one of the Gulen Movement’s self-promotional conferences.
Notable comments during his 12-minute long presentation (begins at 0:01:10 min.):
- 03:07 min.: “I am criticized by my colleagues and friends in the Gulen Movement for applying categories from western social science to explain mobilization of a Muslim social community.”
- 04:14 min.: “... this social movement or collective mobilization, more specifically, is, among many other things, accumulating influence and power in Turkey and increasingly more throughout the world.”
- 04:35 min.: explains that the papers presented at the conferences sponsored by Gulenist organizations are produced by sympathizers and the literature “has a certain narrative of the Gulen movement.” [see here for more info]
- 05:16 min.: “... these conferences are critiqued by people who have a different political perspective in Turkey of the Gulen Movement as being promotional conferences of a narrative to sort of promote the Gulen Movement as equivalent to Turkey, which it’s not. It’s an aspect of Turkey and there is a number of other narratives about Turkey that compete with the Gulen Movement.”
- 06:00 min.: “... dialogue is so, more often than not, restricted towards monotheistic faith communities... there’s also no dialogue that I’ve ever seen in the Gulen community with atheist communities, with agnostic communities, with New Age communities, with LBGTQ communities.”
- 06:25 min.: “Moreover, right now there’s a dozen or so fellows out in the front; I don’t know if you’ve seen them. They’re holding up Turkish flags of a variety of sorts and giving a particular political narrative of what’s going on in Turkey. I would define dialogue as inviting those people in here, cancelling the rest of the day, putting them up here and having a Q and A about what’s going on in Turkey. That’s what I would say would be dialogue.”
|Turkish-Americans protesting the Gulen Movement in front of the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on October 26, 2013.|
- 06:51 min.: “Those who are critical of the Gulen Movement are not a marginal few in Turkey. The Gulen Movement is as praised and supported as it is critiqued and feared, and that is something that needs to be engaged with I think... in order to understand what is the Gulen Movement in addition to its own promotion of itself.”
- 07:49 min.: “[The Gulen Movement] is a non-transparent organizational model...”
- 10:04 min.: (talks about how strategic ambiguity works in re to the Gulen charter schools)
- 11:22 min.: Hendrick explains how the Gulen community is organized, as diagramed on page 122 in his book.*
- 12:47 min.: “... the most powerful and important organizational strata of the Gulen Movement is the unaware consumer: the student at the school who has no idea that this is connected to any religious community; the consumer of products of a book or a financial product; or a piece of news because it’s in English – and there’s only two options if you are reading about Turkey – and you have no idea what the Gulen Movement is. And that is the biggest and most important, in my opinion, for the continual adaptability and mobilization of this organization.”
“There’s a completely rational, logical understanding for the organizational model of the Gulen Movement. That said, when the Gulen Movement moved outside of Turkey in the 1990s, and then to much of the world in the late 90s and 2000s, it moved into other local contexts where that ambiguity does not translate in a culturally communicative way. That is, in my opinion, what’s happening here. The ambiguous, strategically ambiguous, flexible organizational model of the Gulen Movement does not culturally compute with an American public and this is leading into a public relations problem, at best, in a number of states. It’s not leading to a problem in other states; it depends on that state’s particular politics around charter schools and the privatization of schools therein. So in Texas there’s a much friendlier community than there is in Pennsylvania.”
On this last point Hendrick is being far too simplistic. Yes, Texas is a major node of Gulenist activity in the US and also home to the largest number of Gulen charter schools (45 in the state this year), but that is due to reasons that do not have anything to do with Texans’ so-called friendliness towards charter schools.
Other reasons why Texas probably ended up as a Gulenist stronghold relate to 1.) the failure of local media to fully inform the public (i.e., contrast reporting in Texas with the reporting of Martha Woodall at the Philadelphia Inquirer, also see here and here); 2.) the Gulenists' success with their efforts to recruit Texas public officials and others to be their sympathizers, people who may, or may not, have consciously agreed to serve them in that capacity (a gullibility factor); 3.) the large amounts of money contributed to Texas politicians by members of the GM; 4.) strong ties and lucrative contracts between major business interests in Texas relating to Turkey (i.e., the defense and energy industries); 5.) and more. Even the size of Texas may have been a factor. Perhaps the Gulenists recognized that their chance of being detected would be reduced if they could spread their activites across such a large geographical area. Hopefully an academic who is not a GM member or one of its recruited sympathizers will explore this topic one day.
* Click on image to enlarge.
* Click on image to enlarge.