Monday, June 27, 2011

Gülen movement’s US ride getting tougher

Friday, June 3, 2011

All eyes are focused on Turkey for yet another significant voting day, June 12. In Washington, lately, three questions occupy the minds of those who follow Turkey: First, they wonder whether the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will be able to gain enough seats to write the Constitution by itself. Second, they wonder about the sex-scandal tapes, which wiped out a considerable number of high officials in the opposition National Movement Party, or MHP. And third, they want to know exactly what the Fethullah Gülen movement wants to do and what their ambitions and intentions are.
While the first two questions can only be speculated upon, Gülen-U.S. relations are becoming more interesting as the days go by. Gülen, the leader of millions of Muslim followers based in Turkey, himself lives in the U.S., and many in the country’s media are well aware of who he is.
The movement in Turkey has long since abandoned the policy of keeping equal distance from political parties. Especially during the constitutional referendum last September, members of the movement actively worked for the passage of the changes. The movement argued that it wasn’t politics they got involved with, it was a matter of principal; supporting the independence of the judiciary.
This time, though, it is a general election, and the movement’s media organs are openly supporting the AKP and doing so forcefully. Even olive branches offered by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new leader of the main opposition party, CHP, to the movement on several occasions were turned down. In appearance, the CHP’s decision to put forward a few jailed Ergenekon suspects as candidates is the sticky point between the two. Having an ideological adversary like the CHP also works for Gülenists to show there is still more to be done in Turkey.
In the U.S. though, the biggest criticism appears to be the ambiguity about the group’s structure. Its informal membership of millions of followers worldwide, rapid increase in the numbers of schools and how they are funded in U.S., and a vast variety of narratives about its real power in Turkey continue to pique the interests of Turkey watchers. Today, there is even confusion over what to call the followers of Fethullah Gülen; while Gülen refuses to describe it as a “movement,” and rejects any direct link; other prominent figures of the group have no problem calling it so.
To Gülen’s credit, lack of transparency on the part of the movement, or as one U.S. investigative journalist called it, “evasiveness,” is not all reasonless, but merely the result of decade-long habit. The rigid secularism of the Turkish state since the beginning specifically targeted religiosity.
The Gülen movement, which started in the early 1970s, had therefore plenty of reasons to go undercover to avoid the wrath of the Turkish military, which was supported by a coalition consisting of the bureaucracy, judiciary and media for decades.
Sophisticated strategies, which were designed by Gülen and leading figures of the movement, foresaw that violence, or civil disobedience was not the answer for the future of Muslims in Turkey. Pursuing the best education and one’s elevation in every state institution was the answer to changing the country from the bottom to the top. The movement still believes that the circumstances are not entirely changed and that the old reactionary mindset of Turkish secularism is there and alive; therefore, it is not time to come out into the public sphere with full disclosure.
How the strategies that worked so well for the movement in Turkey can be translated into the U.S. is still an open-ended question. Obviously, the movement does not see the U.S. as an equal to Turkey; instead, the U.S. can be seen as the best market to prove that a pious Muslim can coexist and be perfectly happy in a Western democracy.
In the last couple of months, especially since Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener’s arrest in Turkey, negative publicity against the movement seems to be gaining momentum in the U.S.
“There is a great deal of interest and curiosity on the side of the U.S. media and unless questions about their closed structure and some other tax allegations are answered clearly, the U.S. media will not leave them alone,” said one U.S. Turkey observer in Washington. Arguing that hundreds of schools are being opened in more than two dozen U.S. states without any links or coordination of some sort, the movement fails to convince the U.S. media and the experts alike.
The United States’ Anglo-Saxon tradition and tolerance make it rather easy to organize and become involved with any kind of religious sect, as long as it is peaceful. When U.S. journalists and authorities feel they are left in the dark about some of a movement’s other activities, they complain they can’t find any spokesperson for the movement to ask their question; understandably, the mood turns sour toward the movement.
In addition to all of that, in recent times, some conservative Christian groups, who have considerable influence on conservative media and politicians, coupled with growing Islamophia in America, appear to be promising that the smooth ride the movement has so far enjoyed in the U.S. might get tougher.
As the movement increases its visibility in U.S., the scrutiny on its activities is also inevitably increasing.
The impression is that the movement is conscious about some of these shortcomings and is looking for ways to handle questions of transparency in the U.S. Only time will tell whether decades-old habits can be changed.

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Guest - Bissmich
2011-06-10 05:40:03
  Muratto, At least the US had the good sense to cut Turkey from the taxpayer dole.  

Guest - emre
2011-06-09 18:44:29
  Murat-to, are you arguing that two wrongs make a right?  

Guest - Muratto
2011-06-07 17:16:10
  Murat, you are a desperately lying paranoid! you must know that a pronoid person is someone who needs serious medical attention. Before you stretch you tongue out to the Gulen Movement regarding how American tax payers money intended, you first should really question as to how many $trillions of it has been donated to the israeli cause and elsewhere without the will and permission of the American citizens.  

Guest - economarriage
2011-06-05 20:39:20
  and do it now  

Guest - economarriage
2011-06-05 20:38:11
  gulen has to be open to American society. this is not turkey. no pressure in this country and everything should be transparent.  

Guest - Why?
2011-06-05 11:33:59
  It is maybe a stupid question, by why does teh Gulen movement have its base in US? The whole middle east is full of Islamic countries, so why not go there instead? Iran for example, has its whole country run according to Islamic principles, so why did he not go there instead? He probably would gain a lot of support in Iran from his "Muslim Brothers". To me it sounds as odd as if an American or a European would go to Iran and set up a Christian church for Europeans.  

Guest - Kemal Yuceturk
2011-06-04 22:58:58
  I was wondering the answers of the questions about Gulen's scholls, allegedly, but I found the answers after some researches which are available to public openly. These schools do not belong to Gulen Movement. They belong to to the public who live there. The schools are under the curriculum that are approved by U.S. school policies. All kind of ethnic students are currently having better education that U.S.-run public schools. These schools have been inspected regularly like any other schools in the neighborhood and found nothing wrong so far.  

Guest - Murat
2011-06-04 18:18:34
  Make no mistake about it, the Gulen MOVEMENT in the USA is being looked at not only because of their lack of transparency but because they are handling American tax money intended for the education of American children NOT to launder among Gulen's front groups or pay for their members h1-b Visas. There are many federal and state law abuses and violations this group is being investigated for. Islamophobia has nothing to do with it, it is their actions and behaviors that speak volumes about this group. Their williness to bribe local officals, media and academia with honors, trips to Turkey and campaign contributions will not get them far in America. Currently there are 120 charter schools managed by followers of Fetos. There are many charter school applications being denied by this group as well as expansionism: Arkansas, Hawaii, Tennessee, Colorado, Virginia and more. Until Hizmet can come clean as Dr. Joshua Hendrick has suggested there will be no more Gulen Schools in the US  

Guest -
2011-06-04 14:21:58
  This should not be about 'handling questions of transparancy', suggesting it considers another PR-problem 'to be handled'. There is either transparancy or there is not. In any democratic country there should not be any shady zones tolerated in education. It is about time that this movement is watched and questioned more closely. The strategy of being orthodox islamic while pretending to be secular, and being extremely ambitious in expanding in education at the same time will harm Turkey much more in the end. Trustful and open minded parents are being mislead. Please be aware of that.  

Guest - Jeannine
2011-06-04 12:53:07
  Thanks for this very interesting and informative article!  

Guest - ohohmrbill
2011-06-04 05:00:21
  Those of us who opposed the Gulen Movement are not Islmaphobic. We study their actions, behaviors and words. The Gulen Movement is very aggressive, very dangerous and will soon be found that charged of illegal actives. In Turkey unless you write favorably of Gulen you be thrown in jail or sued. Recently Gulen commanded his CULT followers to do the same. A few years ago if any parent or teacher of these schools talked about the connection to Gulen, principals and board members threatened them to stop talking with threats of legal actions. Now that they loosely admitting they are we are supposed to forgive them for that? For defending lies with lawsuits? We have nothing against the people of Turkey. But Gulen's agenda and his goons. I also think it is very irresponsible to hold his Turkish Olympiads this year. No foreign child is safe in Turkey until the terrorist activities and elections are over. We are watching our politicians very closely if they deal with any of Gulen's groups.

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