|Who Is Fethullah Gülen?|
|Controversial Muslim preacher, feared Turkish intriguer--and "inspirer" of the largest charter school network in America|
by Claire Berlinski
Yet there is a bit more to the story. Gülen is a powerful business figure in Turkey and--to put it mildly--a controversial one. He is also an increasingly influential businessman globally. There are somewhere between 3 million and 6 million Gülen followers--or, to use the term they prefer, people who are "inspired" by him. Sources vary widely in their estimates of the worth of the institutions "inspired" by Gülen, which exist in every populated continent, but those based on American court records have ranged from $20 billion to $50 billion. Most interesting, from the American point of view, is that Gülen lives in Pennsylvania, in the Poconos. He is, among other things, a major player in the world of American charter schools--though he claims to have no power over them; they're just greatly inspired, he says.
Even if it were only for these reasons, you might want to know more about Gülen, especially because the few commentators who do write about him generally mischaracterize him, whether they call him a "radical Islamist" or a "liberal Muslim." The truth is much more complicated--to the extent that anyone understands it.
|The Grand Turk|
|Erdogan's Troubling Friends|
|In 1974, when Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was president of the Istanbul youth group of the MSP (the Islamist National Salvation Party), he wrote, directed, and starred in a play called Mas-Kom-Ya, which addressed subversive elements in Turkish society: masons, communists and yahudi (Jews). This very same performer has managed to convince gullible Western politicians that Turkey is committed to EU membership. Equally convincingly, he has played to the Arab gallery since his AKP (Justice and Development Party) came to power in 2002.|
Erdogan’s tirade against Shimon Peres during a panel discussion at last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos – “you know very well how to kill” – earned plaudits all around the Arab world. The Lebanese daily Dar A-Hayat suggested that Erdogan should restore the Ottoman Empire and be the Caliph of all Muslims. By some accounts, this has been identified as the driving force behind Turkey’s expansionist foreign policy, which has been dubbed “neo-Ottoman.”
This new course obviously played out in Turkey’s role in the Gaza flotilla incident. According to Debka (an open source intelligence website) the flotilla was personally sponsored by Erdogan, and according to the same source, he is even prepared to sail aboard the next flotilla himself. Some awareness of the consequences must have been know, as a week before the flotilla sailed, Ankara threatened Israel with reprisals if it was impeded.
Ankara’s support for Iran’s nuclear program, ostensibly for peaceful purposes, is likewise a cause for concern in the Western world, and President Abdullah Gül has admitted in an interview with Forbes magazine that “it is their final aspiration to have a nuclear weapon in the end.”
Turkey and Syria have agreed on a long-term strategic partnership and Erdogan continues to defend Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir (who is on the International Criminal Court’s wanted list) with the claim that “a Muslim can never commit genocide.”
Also alarming is the secret meeting between Prime Minister Erdogan and a Sudanese financier, Dr. Fatih al-Hassanein, during an Arab League summit in Khartoum in 2006. Dr. al-Hassanein is believed to have ties with al-Qaeda and other Islamist movements (e.g. in Bosnia).
What has caused another stir is the friendship between Prime Minister Erdogan and a Saudi businessman, Yassin al-Qadi, who, according to the U.S. Treasury and the United Nations Security Council, is a major financier of Islamic terrorism. Erdogan’s advisor and co-founder of the AKP, Cüneyd Zapsu, was also al-Qadi’s partner.
Robert Ellis is a regular commentator on Turkish affairs in the Danish and international press.
|Reclusive Turkish Imam Criticizes Gaza Flotilla|
|[WSJ] SAYLORSBURG, Pa.--Imam Fethullah Gülen, a controversial and reclusive U.S. resident who is considered Turkey's most influential religious leader, criticized a Turkish-led flotilla for trying to deliver aid without Israel's consent.|
Speaking in his first interview with a U.S. news organization, Mr. Gülen spoke of watching news coverage of Monday's deadly confrontation between Israeli commandos and Turkish aid group members as its flotilla approached Israel's sea blockade of Gaza. "What I saw was not pretty," he said. "It was ugly."
Mr. Gülen said organizers' failure to seek accord with Israel before attempting to deliver aid "is a sign of defying authority, and will not lead to fruitful matters."
|Crisis in Turkey|
|Daniel Pipes writes about Turkey at a crossroads in its history as a country. Will it remain secular, or slide toward Islamist?|
The arrest and indictment of top military figures in Turkey last week precipitated potentially the most severe crisis since Atatürk founded the republic in 1923. The weeks ahead will probably indicate whether the country continues its slide toward Islamism or reverts to its traditional secularism. The denouement has major implications for Muslims everywhere.
Turkey's military has long been both the state's most trusted institution and the guarantor of Atatürk's legacy, especially his laicism. Devotion to the founder is not some dry abstraction but a very real and central part of a Turkish officer's life; as journalist Mehmet Ali Birand has documented, cadet-officers hardly go an hour without hearing Atatürk's name invoked.
On four occasions between 1960 and 1997, the military intervened to repair a political process gone awry. On the last of these occasions, it forced the Islamist government of Necmettin Erbakan out of power. Chastened by this experience, some of Erbakan's staff re-organized themselves as the more cautious Justice and Development Party (AKP). In Turkey's decisive election of 2002, they surged ahead of discredited and fragmented centrist parties with a plurality of 34 percent of the popular vote.
Parliamentary rules then transformed that plurality into a 66 percent supermajority of assembly seats and a rare case of single-party rule. Not only did the AKP skillfully take advantage of its opportunity to lay the foundations of an Islamic order but no other party or leader emerged to challenge it. As a result, the AKP increased its portion of the vote in the 2007 elections to a resounding 47 percent, with control over 62 percent of parliamentary seats.
Repeated AKP electoral successes encouraged it to drop its earlier caution and to hasten moving the country toward its dream of an Islamic Republic of Turkey. The party placed partisans in the presidency and the judiciary while seizing increased control of the educational, business, media, and other leading institutions. It even challenged the secularists' hold over what Turks call the "deep state" -- the non-elected institutions of the intelligence agencies, security services, and the judiciary. Only the military, ultimate arbiter of the country's direction, remained beyond AKP control.
Several factors then prompted the AKP to confront the military: European Union accession demands for civilian control over the military; a 2008 court case that came close to shutting down the AKP; and the growing assertiveness of its Islamist ally, the Fethullah Gülen Movement. An erosion in AKP popularity (from 47 percent in 2007 to 29 percent now) added a sense of urgency to this confrontation, for it points to the end of one-party AKP rule in the next elections.
The AKP devised an elaborate conspiracy theory in 2007, dubbed Ergenekon, to arrest about two hundred AKP critics, including military officers, under accusation of plotting to overthrow the elected government. The military responded passively, so the AKP raised the stakes on Jan. 22 by concocting a second conspiracy theory, this one termed Balyoz ("Sledgehammer") and exclusively directed against the military.
The military denied any illegal activities and the chief of general staff, İlker Başbuğ, warned that "Our patience has a limit." Nonetheless, the government proceeded, starting on Feb. 22, to arrest 67 active and retired military officers, including former heads of the air force and navy. So far, 35 officers have been indicted.
Thus has the AKP thrown down the gauntlet, leaving the military leadership basically with two unattractive options: (1) continue selectively to acquiesce to the AKP and hope that fair elections by 2011 will terminate and reverse this process; or (2) stage a coup d'état, risking voter backlash and increased Islamist electoral strength.
At stake is whether the Ergenekon/Balyoz offensives will succeed in transforming the military from an Atatürkist to a Gülenist institution; or whether the AKP's blatant deceit and over-reaching will spur secularists to find their voice and their confidence. Ultimately the issue concerns whether Shari'a (Islamic law) rules Turkey or the country returns to secularism.
Turkey's Islamic importance suggests that the outcome of this crisis has consequences for Muslims everywhere. AKP domination of the military means Islamists control the umma's most powerful secular institution, proving that, for the moment, they are unstoppable. But if the military retains its independence, Atatürk's vision will remain alive in Turkey and offer Muslims worldwide an alternative to the Islamist juggernaut.
Our list of allies grows thin.