MESOP OPINION : Fethullah Gülen’s power struggle with Turkey’s PM: How transparent is Gülen’s mission organization?

By Dr Aland Mizell: Kurdistan Tribune – 29-12-2013 – Gülen and his followers are accusing Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan of not being transparent and accountable, but also of being authoritarian and dictatorial. The question is how transparent is Gülen and his organization?

Recently, the Machiavelli in Pennsylvania revealed his authentic character by cursing the Prime Minister and causing hate toward the democratically elected leader. Why can’t the West and American academics see that Gülen is not committed to dialogue, peace, social justice, and social harmony? Until now Gülen has managed a two-faced campaign of outward moderation, while concealing his goal of political power, with great success. However, recently in his power struggle with Prime Minister Erdogan, Gülen has revealed his true goal and showed Turkey the real Gülen. Erdogan is standing tall in the public eye and gathering momentum; Gülen is lying low in the public eye and losing his credibility among the Muslims in Turkey.

The more Gülen is involved in politics, the more it will be the end of his mission organization. We  already see some of parents withdraw their kids from schools and Zaman newspaper already losing its readership. The current fight between Prime Minister Erdogan and Gülen is not about democracy, justice, or equality; rather it is a struggle for control of the Turkish state itself. Erdogan says, “I want to be totally in charge” while Gülen says, “No, I want absolute power.” The difference between the two is that Gülen presents himself as a more liberal player, a friend of the Jews, and an ally of the US. Erdogan, on the other hand, is accountable to the electorate. Gülen presents himself as a champion of interfaith dialogue, but in his early teachings he issued abrasive exhortations to Muslims to become bombs and explode and to tear to pieces the heads of infidels. The secrecy and obfuscation practiced by the Gülen mission organization in Turkey now is being used in the U.S. and around the world.

How democratic is Gülen himself? People in Turkey cannot speak negatively about only two individuals because doing so results in punishment. The first is the founder of Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and the second one is the founder of the Gülen Movement mission organization, Fethullah Gülen. In Turkey, if the someone curses, objects to, or speaks against Allah or the prophet Mohammed, it is not a crime and nothing will happen, but now doing any of those same things about Gülen will have grave consequences.

Gülen contradicts himself in what he says and what he practices. In his article in the Financial Times on September 27, 2012, he proclaimed, “A Muslim must always be straightforward and consistent in his actions and words.” But in reality he and his followers are not being consistent with either. For a long time Gülen and his followers argued that they are not political, but every day he gives fatwas from Pennsylvania and currently is launching a slander campaign against Turkey’s democratically elected Prime Minister. Thus, anyone following the elections to any degree will note that Gülen is showing his political ambitions, and he is trying to manipulate the upcoming election to take total control of Turkey.

The question is that if Gülen is so very transparent, should he reveal the truth behind his mask? Is he a Muslim representative? Is his organization religious or political?  Does Gülen have political ambitions? Why can’t he be publically involved in politics instead of hiding himself in the U.S. and continuing to confuse the public?  Should Gülen tell the world who he and his devotees are and what their true colors are? Should Gülen explain to countries around the globe if they are only a religious organization and what they are really about? Are they a humanitarian organization? Gülen is not a democratically elected public leader, but Erdogan is; therefore, Erdogan has a right not to listen to him but instead to his constituencies. Gülen called him “Prime Minister Authoritarian” and compared him to Pharaoh. I wonder how many of Gülen’s followers could object to his view? I wonder how many people could criticize him without being insulted, sued, or even jailed. In reality Gülen is one of the most authoritarian leaders today. Gulen and his movement claim to be believers in democracy, but in reality Gülen himself has supported undemocratic practices in Turkey, for example by praising the military for deposing democratically elected former Prime Minster Erbakan, as mentioned above. Further, Gülen failed to condemn the violence against the Kurdish people. Instead Gülen condemned Kurdish people who struggled for their basic rights. There is evidence that his organization has played a role in the unjust and undemocratic arrest of KCK members and the trials of some of his movement’s critics. The organization is entangled in an astonishing range of wrongs that run from slander to the framing of perceived opponents.

Let’s assume that some of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) members have received bribes, have been involved in corruption, and should pay the price for committing these crimes.  Corruption should not be tolerated, and people must be imprisoned.  What about the lies, deceptions and manipulations of the Gülen mission organization? Is lying not a form of corruption? If yes, then why do people not take action against these offenses? Gülen himself has given orders for his followers to bribe judges and not to take a step back. But most humans consider lying to be a despicable act. To prevent them from lying, some nations have passed laws with a view to punishing the liars. For example, in the U.S. those who lie in court are punished by imprisonment. Yet, many Gulenists do not hesitate to lie to the American people and to the world, if lies bring them power, monetary gains and respect.

We have seen in the past that liars were able not only to bring wealth, fame, and power to themselves, but they also succeeded in enslaving a large number of people by combining lies with their power to manipulate. For example, Gülen claimed that Erdogan tried to end his empire. If that is true, why has Gülen become internationally famous and gained more power during the AKP party’s rule? This charge does not play out because, for example, in Kurdistan, Foreign Minister Davutoglu told Prime Minister Barzani to help Gülen schools. Even in the United States, Foreign Minster Davutoglu talked to Hillary Clinton about Gülen about his charter schools, admonishing her that they should be supported. Among the many examples, even in Kazakhstan Gülen had some problems, so that Prime Minister Erdogan intervened and helped Gülen to not have his schools closed there. So Gülen knows how to use the people for his gain, but after he gets what he wants, he slanders and defames them if they do not genuflect to him.

Gülen’s power struggle is based on prevarications and equivocation. Gülen tells the public that his mission organization does not have a hierarchy, but in reality the Gülen movement is very hierarchical, and, like the Catholic pope, Gülen is the main person making the decisions. Gülen and his followers claim that Gülen is not the leader of a mission organization, and he has nothing to do with the operation of schools and activities, but in reality he went ballistic when Erdogan tried to close down his preparatory schools in Turkey. In reality Gülen gives monthy meetings with continent leaders, country leaders, region leaders, state leaders, and media leaders to discuss his mission organization. Gülen claims he does not know how many schools were organized around the world, but in reality he knows exactly and gives his media the precise numbers when it is needed. Gülen claims they are not political, but in reality they are trying to remove an elected prime minister. Gulenists claim they are moral and ethical and that only people who do not follow them are involved in unethical behaviors such as making sex tapes and bribery but in reality so much unethical conduct within the organization is going unnoticed. In 1994, one of Gülen’s teachers in Central Asia sexually abused a boy and nothing happened to him, but that is just one among many misdeeds, which includes denying the existence of the Kurds for a long time and calling Kurds terrorists for defending their basic rights.  Gülen has rejected the labeling of his organization as a gang, saying those who uttered this word committed traitorous behavior. But it is ok for Gulen to call Kurdish organizations terrorists?

Where does Gülen get his rights? Gülen teaches his followers that his mission group is a tolerant organization and the one chosen by God, and, therefore, no one has a right to criticize it because it is tolerant toward everyone. Yet, Gülen has exacerbated the polarization of the Turkish people into “them” and “the U.S.”; it happily exploits the divisions among the society, playing the left and right against each other for its own benefits. For example, as mentioned, he supported the AKP in the past, but now has aligned himself with the secular and left wing party, the CHP, against the AKP party. Gülen seeks to create his own parallel society that he hopes will be dominant

When the Prophet Mohammed died in the early 7th century, in a sense Islam died as well. The division among the Muslims began also. The reason for the division was a power struggle originating from the question of who would succeed the Prophet Mohammed as leader of the Muslims. Since then Islamists have been at war among themselves. However, when the Prophet Mohammed died, he left only one religion of Islam, his way of life, captured in the Quran and also the notion of the Muslim community. After his death, the Muslim community divided over the differences mostly derived from political, social, or ethnic compositions. A true Muslim should follow only Mohammed’s way of life and the Quran’s teaching, so when we look at Erdogan’s and Gülen’s fight, we realize that it is not about justice, equality, and truth, but rather about a power struggle.  Gülen criticizes Prime Minister Erdogan’s government for being corrupt, degrading him for his actions, and defaming him for not being transparent.

It makes me laugh to consider who is speaking. Are Gülen and his followers transparent?  The movement itself is anything but transparent because they are the most secretive organizations anywhere and are up to their necks in dirty tricks. The single most distinguished feature of the Gülen movements is the massive effort it devotes to creating a public image of itself that is totally at odds with reality. The question is why has Gülen’s organization been so successful? The simple answer is deception, manipulation, slander, and fear; it has nothing to do with their being chosen by God or bringing peace and love. Rich businessmen donate millions, and civil servants and skilled manual workers also contribute to the Gülen missionary organization. Does the public know about all this?  Without using the prime minister’s name, Gülen called him Pharaoh among his other condemnations and degradations; yet fifty percent of the people of Turkey voted for Erdogan and support him. What is he doing that makes Gülen not respect the fifty percent of the will of the people? The public face is altruistic but the veil of secrecy is selfish.

Gülen likes to portray himself as the only modest preacher and the one with absolute truth with the rest not being modest preachers and instead betraying his goal of bringing everyone to follow his teaching. The method he uses is that rather than building mosques, he is building schools where he can indoctrinate the students to follow him. There is no difference between his education and indoctrination. In reality education is the seeking of facts, and learning about what is true, and what is not. Indoctrination is about influencing people to believe in supposed facts, without being able to support these new facts with anything but opinion. In November 2011, Gülen called upon the Turkish military to attack the Kurdish guerrilla groups, “Locate them, surround them, break up their units, let fire rain down upon their houses, drown out their lamentations with even more wails, cut of their roots and put an end to their cause.” And still ignorant Americans and self-declared academicians see Gülen as peace loving, harmless, tolerant and ecumenical. We all know, however, that whoever criticizes Gülen is destroyed. What kind of Man of God and Peace will curse and ask for the killing of other human beings?

In conclusion, Gülen realized Erdogan was getting too much attention and credit and that the only way to stop him was for him to wage a campaign of defamation and deceit, intended to spread lies and misinformation about the AKP and Prime Minister. Gülen and his followers’ campaign lacks honesty, fairness and clean political competitions: it is basically lies, distortion, and slander. Gülen ‘s followers projected Gülen as being the only human being with whom Allah spoke in person, chose him, and gave him this mission.  Now he has “uncovered” these corruption cases within the minister’s families to damage the AKP government’s reputation when Erdogan liked to portray his administration as one that would never be prone to corruption. If the AKP is now perceived as equally corrupt as its predecessors, it will be a huge blow that will probably lead to Erdogan’s party getting fewer votes, but also the people will see what Erdogan has done for Turkey and recognize the double standard of Gülen’s mission organization.

I think the Prime Minister will and should seek out corruption, should investigate it, and should not tolerate it, but also the Prime Minister should go after Gülen’s financial empire one by one and investigate where the money comes from. How has the contributors’ money been used?  How can an NGO become a profitable organization, such as some of the Gülenists’ hospitals, banks, and schools, among others, have done? Erdogan should investigate how some Gülenists illegally obtain diplomatic passports. He should find, investigate, and punish those who are informers and share government classified information with Gülen.  Since the people do not democratically elect Gülen, he has no right to have this information, and it is unethical to obtain it. I think Erdogan will uncover their corruption and will go after Gülen’s empire incrementally. The current fight will have a domino effect on the Gülen movement domestically and internationally.

Hundreds of American protesters poured into the neighborhood of Gülen’s compound in Poconos, Pennsylvania. The protesters chanted that Gülen is the most dangerous person on the face of the earth. He has nothing to do with interfaith dialogue or peace or love. Some Americans now are aware of at least a few of his illegal activities include forcing teachers and employees to pay back certain percentages of their salary to his mission organization and bringing non-qualified teachers from Turkey, thereby leaving out American teachers in places where unemployment reaches high levels. This kind of protest will not end there, because now the Pandora’s box is open. We already see that some of his schools in Uzbekistan have been closed down, where once anyone who spoke against him was sued or imprisoned. From now on this power nexus might change, and many people will start to express themselves about the Gülen organization and its power.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to The Kurdistan Tribune,, Mindanao Times and Kurdish Media. You may email the author