IAHIN – Who is Fethullah Gulen?

Who is Fethullah Gulen?The leader of the main opposition Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP), Kemal KIlIdaroIlu, rightly called it andldquoa coup against democracyandrdquo when Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem DumanlI and STV network executive Hidayet Karaca, together with a number of screenwriters and television producers, were detained on Dec. 14 on the incredible charges of founding or belonging to andldquoan armed terrorist organization aiming to seize the sovereignty of the state.

andrdquo The mass detention was obviously ordered by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to direct public attention away from the biggest corruption probe in the history of the country, involving four ministers, among others, that was revealed a year ago and has since been suppressed by the government.President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan maintains, with no proof whatsoever, that the probe was nothing but a andldquocoup attemptandrdquo against his government by what he calls the andldquoparallel state,andrdquo meaning the faith-based Hizmet social movement inspired by the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in the United States since 1999 in self-imposed exile.

On Dec. 19 the judge of a special court set up recently in the context of measures to suppress the corruption probe decided to arrest Karaca, and released DumanlI pending trial, banning him from traveling abroad.

The court also issued an arrest warrant for Gulen, and it was soon after reported that the Justice Ministry is to formally demand his extradition from the US based on that warrant.It is obvious that the case against DumanlI and Karaca is nothing but an escalation of the efforts of ErdoIan and his government to silence the mounting opposition to its increasingly arbitrary and authoritarian rule.

There is really not much else to be said about it. But the arrest warrant for Gulen does require an assessment.

This shows, first of all, how justified Gulen has been in choosing to continue to reside in the US, despite having been acquitted of all legal charges against him for conspiring to subvert the secular regime in Turkey. It is indicative of the healthy distrust of the hardline secularist regime in Turkey in general and the ErdoIan government in particular that Gulen has felt while his enemies regarded him as a close ally of ErdoIan in his efforts to Islamize the regime in Turkey.

Gulen and the Hizmet movement he inspired, alongside liberal-minded individuals, including myself and other groups, did support the AKP government in its first two terms in power, when ErdoIan seemed to be leading the country toward the consolidation of a liberal and pluralist democracy. In his third term in power, ErdoIan has obviously entirely abandoned and reversed that direction.

Gulen is undoubtedly the religious scholar who has put forward the most tolerant, peaceful and pro-democracy interpretation of Islam in the entire Muslim world. There is an irony in ErdoIan accusing Gulen of being a andldquoleader of a terrorist gang, a false prophetandrdquo and continuously spewing out hate speech against him, while it is widely believed that his government has, if indirectly, given support to radical Islamist groups resorting to terrorism in the fight against the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, an opinion shared by people such as Francis Ricciardone, the former US ambassador to Turkey, and Joseph Biden, the vice president of the US.

There is also an irony in that ErdoIan, while calling Gulen a andldquoterroristandrdquo and accusing him of running a andldquoparallel stateandrdquo in Turkey, is engaged in peace talks with the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK) (regarded as a andldquoterrorist organizationandrdquo by both the EU and the US), which is known to have established a true andldquoparallel state,andrdquo a de facto administration, in the Kurdish-majority regions of Turkey, setting up courts, collecting taxes, recruiting fighters and maintaining orderThe injustice and unfairness that Gulen and the Hizmet movement have been subjected to by pro-Kemalist and pro-Marxist hardline secularists on the one hand and Islamists on the other has no bounds. I am fully convinced that the significance of Gulen lies in the fact that the movement he inspired is performing the highly important service to the democratization of Turkey of convincing increasing numbers of devout Muslims of the vital importance for a civilized society of a regime based on the rule of law that secures individual as well as minority rights.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman