Dec 15

Statement on Journalists Arrests

New York, December 14, 2014 –

The raids on Turkey’s top selling newspaper Zaman and prominent TV organization STV are profoundly disturbing to all of us who value democracy, tolerance and the role of a free press in safeguarding both. Journalists who report about the suppression of human rights are not enemies of the state; rather they are documenting the actions of those who undermine the safeguards of a democratic Turkey.

Whether driven by a desire to shift public attention from the anniversary of corruption probes, or by public criticisms of systematic nepotism and excesses of the presidential palace, these raids and arrests are politically motivated. Such actions taint Turkey’s image around the world and raise the growing authoritarianism of the Erdogan regime to a new level.

Participants of Hizmet civic movement remain committed to democracy, fundamental human rights and freedoms. Accusations or arrests against people simply based on their worldviews, without any evidence of wrongdoing, reflect a new level of repression by Erdogan’s regime.

We urge democratic countries and organizations to strongly condemn these actions.

About Alliance for Shared Values

Alliance for Shared Values is a non-profit that serves as a voice for dialogue organizations affiliated with the Hizmet in the U.S. (also known as Gulen movement). The Alliance serves as a central source of information on Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet.

For more information, please visit

Safiye Embel
Tel: +1.212.682.4278 or

Dec 03

Turkish-Muslim foundation builds well in Africa in memory of the late James Foley

Turkish-Muslim charities, Kimse Yok Mu and Embrace Relief Foundation, have jointly constructed a water well in Uganda dedicated to the memory of James Foley, an American journalist killed by ISIS.

John Foley, father of the murdered journalist, attended an award-giving ceremony to introduce the opening of the well. “Jim has received many awards recently for his courage, his commitment, and his compassion but I can’t think of a more appropriate acknowledgement of his life than this well.” said late journalist’s father.

Stating that his son had always worked for the good of others, Foley continued: “I can’t tell you how wonderful a gift of a well is, because it brings life to so many who have so little and this is all what Jim is about.” Emphasizing the significance of a Muslim organization to honor his son’s legacy, Foley said: “I can’t think of a more warm and meaningful evening than this in which love has been stressed as a guiding principle for our international dealings and faith in God, whomever you wish to call it – Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Baptist.”

John Foley

At the event, New Hampshire Governor, Maggie Hassan, expressed her gratitude to the Embrace Relief and Kimse Yok Mu and thanked them for the well. Osman Dulgeroglu, the CEO of Embrace Relief stated that the terrorist acts of ISIS are a disgrace to the faith they proclaim and are crimes against humanity. “Our Muslim donors have thought that dedicating a water well, a source of life, to the memory of late journalist James Foley would be an excellent way to show support for our shared commitment to human life and to denounce the atrocities of ISIS.” said Dulgeroglu.

The well, constructed with the support of Istanbul based Kimse Yok Mu and US based Embrace Relief, will supply clean drinking water to 2,000 Ugandans.

Foley had been working as a freelance journalist covering the Syrian civil war when he was abducted by ISIL forces in November of 2012. He was not heard of again until a video of his beheading emerged in August of this year, with his captors explaining that the act was carried out in response to American airstrikes against ISIL.

About Embrace Relief

Embrace Relief is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization based in the US that brings together teams of volunteers to collaborate on humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts. These teams provide an array of support, offering to assist financially, emotionally, and physically with families in need and with families and communities ravaged by disaster. The foundation collects for, delivers and distributes supplies and resources to families, individuals and institutions.

About Kimse Yok Mu

Kimse Yok Mu (KYM) is a nonprofit humanitarian aid and development organization based in Istanbul, Turkey and active in 113 countries. KYM focuses on disaster relief, humanitarian aid and education of vulnerable populations, accessible health care and cataract surgeries, post-conflict/post- disaster development, capacity building, and increasing access to clean water. Holding consultative status of the United Nations (UN) ECOSOC. KYM is also a solution partner of the UN.

Nov 12

At a multicultural center, Muslim women teach Turkish cooking

A traditional Turkish dish of eggplant kebabs during a hands-on turkish cooking class at The Mosaic Foundation. The foundation offers cooking classes as one of the ways it teaches about Turkish culture. (Photos by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)
Photo: A traditional Turkish dish of eggplant kebabs during a hands-on turkish cooking class at The Mosaic Foundation. The foundation offers cooking classes as one of the ways it teaches about Turkish culture. (Photos by Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

AURORA — About noon on Sunday, not long after some returned from church services, about 40 people gathered for a Turkish cooking lesson from two women wearing hijabs.

The instructors, Elif Akbulut and Gulsum Ciftci Katmer, are members of the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation, a nonprofit organization that hosts social, cultural and educational activities. The foundation was founded by Muslim Turks interested in establishing interfaith relationships with Christians, Jews and others.

Many of those who showed up for the cooking class had been to a Mosaic Foundation- sponsored lecture, movie, Turkish language lesson or trip that also featured Turkish food. The meals garnered so much interest that the foundation’s president, Ismail Akbulut, decided to add cooking classes to the center’s activities.

“I just got back from Turkey, and I’m here because the food is fabulous and I love to cook,” said Jaclyn Yelich.

“And I want to cook homemade Turkish food. I loved the meatballs there, and how fortunate we are to be making them today!”

Meatballs and eggplant kebabs were on the menu. A cafe table held copies of recipes for the kebabs and a pilaf — pilav in Turkish — that, alternating with bulgur, accompanies nearly every meal.

As Elif Akbulut demonstrated toasting the rice and a little orzo (she likes to add a couple spoonfuls of the grain-shaped pasta to make rice look more appealing), the others leaned forward. Most of the students were women who already know how to cook rice, but not like this.

“Rinse the rice first, and in southern Turkey, they add lemon juice to make the rice very white,” Akbulut said.

“Then you can cover the rice with hot salted water and leave it alone until it’s cool. Or you can first put the rice in a pan with a little oil or butter, and fry this until the rice toasts a little, and then add the water. I like to add some orzo to make it look nice.”

Her audience looked puzzled but interested. Add orzo, a pasta, to rice?
Elif Akbulut, left, and Gulsum Katmer demonstrate how to prepare Turkish pilaf during a hands-on turkish cooking class.

Elif Akbulut, left, and Gulsum Katmer demonstrate how to prepare Turkish pilaf during a hands-on Turkish cooking class.
Photo: Elif Akbulut, left, and Gulsum Katmer demonstrate how to prepare Turkish pilaf during a hands-on Turkish cooking class.

“It does make it look prettier,” said Amy Tamminga, after she sampled the finished pilaf, freckled with golden bits of orzo.

Then Katmer demonstrated eggplant kebabs, which include the meatballs Yelich likes so much, seasoned with finely ground onion, bread crumbs and spices.

Traditional Turkish cooks mince onions into fine pieces that almost are a paste, Katmer explained, “but I like technology.” So she put roughly chopped, peeled onion pieces into a mini-blender and gleefully watched them dissolve into mush.

“Faster,” she said with the satisfaction of someone who knows the tedious task of mincing an onion with only a knife.

She mixed the decimated onion into ground beef, along with other ingredients, deftly shaping meatballs the size of walnuts. Then, assigning cutting boards to four onlookers, Katmer and her helpers sliced slender Japanese eggplants — much slimmer than the outsize pear-shaped version at supermarkets — into round slices that matched the size of the meatballs.

One of the helpers was Amina Guder, age 9, who clearly is handy with a knife, slitting green chile peppers into thin slices.

“I like to cook at home,” she said. Her father, Ismail Guder, the foundation’s executive director, looked on as Amina and the others alternately threaded eggplant slices and meatballs on skewers.

The communally made kebabs baked in the foundation’s oven while everyone sat down to plates of previously prepared eggplant kebabs, pilaf and a salad of diced tomatoes and cucumbers.

“This is so good!” said Rosann Engblom, who brought her daughter, Quinn, a high school senior who’s been studying world religions.

“I’m all about food, and I love learning different ways of cooking. The eggplant is delicious! It melts in your mouth! Is that how the kebabs we made will be?”

Katmer, who was at the same table, smiled a little guiltily.

“No, these eggplant slices were fried in a little oil before they went on the skewers,” she admitted.

“For me, this tastes better, but it’s not as healthy as if you don’t fry the eggplant. But it tastes so good!”

Claire Martin: 303-954-1477, or

Source: Denver Post:

Sep 17

Fethullah Gulen’s Condemning Message about ISIS is Published on Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, LA Times

ISIS Cruelty Deserves Our Strongest Condemnation

As a practicing Muslim deeply influenced by tenets of my faith, I strongly condemn the brutal atrocities of the ISIS terrorist group. Their actions are a disgrace to the faith they proclaim and are crimes against humanity. Religion provides a foundation upon which to establish peace, human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. Any interpretations to the contrary, including the abuse of religion to fuel conflicts, are simply wrong and deceitful.

ISIS is not the first group to use religious rhetoric to mask its cruelty-Al Qaeda did so 13 years ago and Boko Haram more recently. What they all have in common is a totalitarian mentality that denies human beings their dignity.

Any form of violence against innocent civilians or prosecution of minorities contradicts the principles of the Qur’an and the traditions of our Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings). ISIS members are either completely ignorant about the faith they proclaim or their actions are designed to serve individual interests or those of their political masters. Regardless, their actions represent those of a terrorist group and, as such, they should be brought to justice and compelled to answer for their horrific crimes.

I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased in Iraq and Syria, and to the families of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines. May God give them strength, patience and perseverance, and alleviate their suffering. I also pray for the immediate and safe release of hostages and ask God, the Merciful, to lead us all toward mutual respect and peace. I invite everyone around the world to join me in these prayers.

Fethullah Gulen
Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate

Aug 26

Fethullah Gulen Statement on ISIS

New York, August 22, 2014 – I deplore the brutal atrocities being committed by the ISIS terrorist group hiding behind a false religious rhetoric and join the people of conscience from around the world in calling for these perpetrators to immediately cease their cruel and inhuman acts. Any form of attack, suppression or persecution of minorities or innocent civilians is an act that contradicts the principles of the Qur’an and the tradition of our Prophet upon whom be peace and blessings.

ISIS members are either completely ignorant of the spirit of Islam and its blessed messenger, or their actions are designed to serve their individual interests or those of their political masters. Regardless, their actions represent those of a terrorist group and they should be labeled as such and be brought to justice.

The goal of religion is to establish peace based on universal human rights, rule of law and high human values in the world. Any interpretations to the contrary, including the abuse of religion to help fuel conflicts, are either false or deceitful. In true Islamic thought based on its core principles, every mean to a legitimate end should also be legitimate itself. To think or act otherwise is nothing but Machiavellism.

I send my heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the deceased in Iraq and Syria, and to the family and friends of the slain journalist James Foley. May God give them patience and perseverance, and alleviate their suffering. I pray for the immediate release of other hostages and ask God, the Merciful to lead us all into a world of mutual respect and peace. I invite everybody to join together in this prayer.

May 25

What is Sufism?

Dr. Sophia Pandya on Sufism

On May 18, 2014, Multicultural Mosaic Foundation hosted another special speaker along with sampling of delicious Turkish food. The program started with a prayer for and a commemoration of the 300 hundred miners who died in Soma, Turkey last week. Dr. Sophia Pandia’s speech was titled “What is Sufism?” She joined us from California and gave a lively speech full of humor and exciting facts while informing the audience on the mystical dimension of Islam that is also called Tasawwuf. Dr. Pandia is a professor of religious studies at California State University and specializes on women, religion, and globalization.

Speaker Series on Sufism

Dr. Pandia gave many example stories from Rabiatul Adawiyya’s life while explaining different tenets of Sufism that included its critics, its evolution in stages over the centuries from a subversive to a more institutionalized movement, sources of Sufism, its practices, different branches, gender related issues, and different branches. She posited that claim of authority is an endless debate in the religious context that includes Sufism.

As the pearl of Islam, Sufism is interested in the esoteric side or the kernel of Islam which represents the hidden meanings. Sufis believe that “one should die before they really die” meaning that one’s ego must die, and one must achieve “fana” in order to be with God. Fasting, taking vows of silence, practicing celibacy, sleeping on the floor are some of the Sufi practices to move away from the body towards God. sufism in anti-orthodox and women like Rabiatul Adawiyya were able to attain a high status, because Sufism emphasizes spirituality.

Dr. Pandia also talked about Hizmet and Fethullah Gülen’s interpretation of Sufism that expresses love of all creation through service or hizmet, and has helped raise a new generation of moderate, spiritual, educated people who are able to engage with democracy, pluralism, and the contemporary world while building bridges through interfaith dialogue and braking stereotypes. She also mentioned the “super hizmet women” who are dedicated in such Hizmet activities of the type of outward Sufism that actively seek ways to reach out to others.

Dr. Sophia Pandya and Ismail Akbulut

Finally, Dr. Pandia presented the verse 24:35 from Qur’an depicting a beautiful image of God. The program ended with several questions that Dr. Pandia answered such as the commercialization of the Whirling Dervishes performances, and Al Ghazali’s leaving of practice of law in order to taste Sufism.

Apr 30

Press Statement Turkish PM’s Politically-motivated Crackdown on Law-abiding Citizens, including Mr. Fethullah Gulen, Undermine Democracy

NEW YORK, April 29, 2014 – We continue to be deeply disturbed by Prime Minister Erdogan’s politically-motivated attempts to crackdown on law-abiding citizens who have done nothing but exercise their right to democratic dissent.

The prime minister’s talk about demanding the extradition of Mr. Gulen, when there are no charges or legal case against him, is a clear indication of political persecution and harassment. Such manipulative tactics are common practices in autocratic regimes, not in a democratic country that respects the rule of law.

Mr. Gulen is a proud Turkish national and a law-abiding U.S. resident who has devoted his life to democracy, human rights and freedoms.

Mr. Gulen and Hizmet participants should be recognized for their service to society and for fostering dialogue and understanding between Turkey and the world. Instead, the Turkish government shamefully uses false pretense to oppress and harass its own citizens, both within and outside Turkey.

The prime minister has already used his position of power to propagate hate speech against Mr. Gulen and his sympathizers, defaming them in the media outlets that he controls, that constitute the majority of Turkish media networks and reach millions of citizens.

Despite a months-long defamation campaign, the prime minister and his cronies have failed to show any evidence to justify their accusations. Any evidence introduced in the future will be scrutinized as possibly fabricated.

While we remain concerned about Prime Minister Erdogan attempting to take undue advantage of Turkey’s strategic relationship with the US, we place our trust in the US tradition of democracy and the rule of law, and believe that Mr. Erdogan’s move will ultimately be seen as yet another alarming attempt by his government to suppress the freedom of their citizens and silence their critics.

Unfortunately, his actions will only achieve one thing: They will continue to polarize Turkey and isolate the Turkish people from their democratic allies around the world.


About Alliance for Shared Values

Alliance for Shared Values is a non-profit organization that serves as a voice for civic organizations affiliated with the Hizmet initiative in the U.S. (also known as Gulen movement). The Alliance serves as a central source of information on Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet.

For more information, please visit
Media Contact: Yasemin Aksoy, tel: 212.682.4278, email:

Mar 18

Cooking Classes @ Mosaic

Cooking Class


The 1st session of Turkish Cooking Classes was held on March 2nd , Sunday, at 11:30 am at Mosaic foundation. We learned how to cook Turkish style lentil soup ( Mercimek corba) and Bulgur salad ( Kisir). Guests enjoyed having hands-on experience by chopping vegetables for soup and salad. We all enjoyed delicious food served in a kind environment with warm conversations.

Cooking Class


The 2nd session of Turkish Cooking Classes was on March 16th , Sunday, at 12 pm at Mosaic Foundation We learned how to cook Baklava and Cheese borek. Guests enjoyed to learn how to cook Baklava and Borek in an easy and practical way. After learning the details of how to make these Turkish dishes they enjoyed these food served in a friendly environment and the warm conversations.

Cooking Class

Cooking Class 1

Cooking Class 2

Mar 05

We Can’t Overlook Issues in Turkey

The Tim Danahey Show

Turkey is in turmoil. It borders Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Greece. It shares the Black Sea with Russia and the Ukraine. The strategic implications of Turkey’s unfolding political failures loom over Middle East peace and regional stability. Prime Minister Erdogan has replaced the judiciary and prosecutors who investigated his administration that is allegedly rife with corruption. He even redefined corruption to be limited to stealing from public money. That means bribes paid to government officials from private corporations are now considered legal. As Erdogan breaks his working relationship with Hizmet (Fetullah Gulen’s adherents) and his AKP party, he seeks to re-establish a base with Islamists who are favored by only ten percent of the population. Learn what’s happening in this country of 70 million people that is the United States’ fifth largest trading partner. You should be concerned.

Link for radio interview

Guest: Ahmet Kuru, San Diego State University

Feb 20

The Muslim Martin Luther?

Fethullah Gulen Attempts an Islamic Reformation
By Victor Gaetan

In a video posted on his Web site last December, the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen called on God to curse Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gulen, who has lived in exile in the United States since 1999, declared in a sermon broadcast on Turkish television, “Those who don’t see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief: may God bring fire to their houses, ruin their homes, break their unities.” This went far beyond the normally secular bounds of political debate in Turkey.

But to fixate on Gulen’s lack of political polish is to miss the point. Gulen and Erdogan have been described in the West as political rivals, but there has always been more at stake in their clash than earthly affairs. Whereas Erdogan may frequently indulge in Islamist political rhetoric, it is Gulen that has tried to make actual contributions as an Islamic intellectual and develop a genuinely modern school of Islam that reconciles the religion with liberal democracy, scientific rationalism, ecumenism, and free enterprise. Regardless of who wins the battle for Turkey’s political future, it is vital that Gulen’s religious legacy be preserved.


Erdogan has repeatedly portrayed Gulen, and his religious movement, known as Hizmet (which translates to Service), as part of a political conspiracy, calling it a “parallel state” responsible for initiating a series of corruption investigations against his administration. These accusations are impossible to substantiate. Hizmet has no formal membership, no headquarters, and no hierarchy, which makes it impossible to know whether Gulenists are overrepresented in law enforcement and the judiciary, let alone orchestrating a putsch. There are many civic organizations in Turkey that are explicitly linked to Gulen, but, in keeping with Gulen’s teachings, they neither endorse nor reject any political party.

Gulen’s theology went hand-in-hand with Turkey’s capitalist revolution. The country’s new entrepreneurs were pious Muslims who drew on Gulen’s teaching to justify their embrace of free enterprise, strong democratic institutions, and dialogue and commerce with other faiths.

Although Gulen has always assumed that pious Muslims would be drawn to politics, he has long warned against allowing religion to be used as a tool to pursue political power. In this sense, Gulen has followed in the footsteps of Said Nursi, a great Turkish scholar of Sufism, who inspired an Islamic revival in the late Ottoman period and under Ataturk’s republic. Nursi’s 6,000-page commentary on the Koran, Risale-i Nur (Epistles of Light), argued that true spiritual knowledge was accessible to all Muslims without the guidance of a “master.” Nursi considered materialism an enemy of Islam, but he also advocated modern science instruction in Muslim schools.

Gulen has endorsed this same basic approach. Born in eastern Turkey in 1941, he grew up studying the Koran. He began to manage a mosque as well as a study center in the city of Izmir in the 1960s. Pushing beyond Nursi’s concept of strengthening religious conscience, or inner discipline, Gulen emphasized the importance of public service as a way for believers to glorify God while repressing selfish impulses.

These teachings were in sharp contrast to the political pronouncements of Islamist groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, that gained ground in the Middle East in the mid-twentieth century. Where the Brotherhood considered it a religious obligation to control the state and to make Islamic law the basis of jurisprudence, Gulen argued that religion suffered from politicization. Where the Brotherhood implies that jihad is necessarily an armed struggle, Gulen emphasized that jihad is a moral and spiritual struggle.

In 1970, Gulen was arrested by a newly installed military government, and his license to preach was revoked. But his private talks to small groups — in mosques, theatres, coffee shops, and schools — were taped and distributed. Gulen leveraged his growing fame to establish a series of student hostels, or “lighthouses,” that offered private prep courses for university entrance exams. In 1979, personal friends of Gulen set up a publishing business so that he could provide his growing number of students with study materials. Yamanlar College in Izmir, the first Gulen-inspired private high school, followed in 1982. By 1983, he had a wide national following.

Today, Gulen sympathizers run more than 1,500 schools and universities in 120 countries, including Afghanistan, Austria, Bosnia, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Sudan, and the United States. (In Texas alone, Gulen affiliates manage 26 public charter schools.) The Gulen movement provides countless scholarships for the poor to attend their schools, which mostly emphasize science and math. By contributing as volunteers, or financiers, to the movement’s education network, supporters also engage in a form of sanctified charity.

His commitment to education as the main solution to problems plaguing most Muslim societies is the most concrete expression of Gulen’s religious teachings. Drawing on Islam’s sacred texts — the Koran, hadith (words of the Prophet), and Sira (biography of the Prophet) — as well as Turkish and Ottoman cultural tradition, Gulen has developed a distinct form of Islamic theology that puts social engagement, not political engagement, at its center.

The Utah-based political scientist Hakan Yavuz, author of Toward an Islamic Enlightenment: The Gulen Movement, sees four defining characteristics in Gulen’s project. First, Gulen emphasizes that a believer’s piety can be measured by his practical actions, specifically, the degree to which the person improves the human condition. Second, Gulen argues that Islam must be an ecumenical religion. Muslims, he believes, are obliged to seek consensus in their communities and should value social participation and dialogue with other groups. (Gulen’s movement has placed a particular emphasis on interfaith dialogue, especially with Christians and Jews.)

Third, Gulen teaches the inviolability of individual rights. Religious engagement, he maintains, must be voluntary, which is one reason that Gulen’s followers are usually referred to as “volunteers” and their total numbers are never officially counted. Finally, the Gulen movement endorses critical thinking as a foundation for knowledge that glorifies God, rather than as something that contradicts revelation. Science, Gulen teaches, is a vehicle for Muslims to honor their religious duty to improve the economic condition of their societies.

To the extent that Gulen has had anything to say about politics, it has almost always been in the service of promoting democracy and cultural tolerance. Asked by The New York Times about his attitude toward the Turkish government, Gulen responded, “I always believe in being on the side of the rule of law, and I also believe in the importance of sharing good ideas with the officials of the state that are going to promise a future for the country. Accordingly, irrespective of whoever is in charge, I try to be respectful of those state officials, keep a reasonable level of closeness and keep a positive attitude toward them.” He has also emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy civil society outside the control of the state. Private schools, private enterprise, volunteerism — these were the institutions that Turkey required if it hoped to maintain its traditionally inclusive culture.

Gulen’s theology went hand-in-hand with Turkey’s capitalist revolution, which was sparked by economic deregulation in the 1980s. The country’s new entrepreneurs were pious Muslims who drew on Gulen’s teaching to justify their embrace of free enterprise, strong democratic institutions, and dialogue and commerce with other faiths and ethnic groups. Gulen, in turn, urged this new capitalist class to work hard and succeed — not for personal gain but to enhance the spiritual well-being of society. The prophet Muhammad was also a merchant, he reminded them.

Gulen has shown that he will refuse to be intimidated, but it is still an open question whether his movement can withstand the AKP’s relentless campaign against it.


It should come as no surprise that the Gulen movement saw a potential ally in Erdogan’s AKP party. In 2002, under the AKP flag, Erdogan spoke out in favor of greater religious and economic freedoms. Like the AKP, the Gulenist movement had identified the military and the old secular economic elite as impediments to those freedoms. Although the Gulenists never offered an explicit endorsement, it seemed keen to work with the AKP. After Erdogan won, the AKP (as well as Justice Department officials said to be affiliated with the Gulenists) supported a series of court cases that landed hundreds of military officers and businessmen in jail. (Although there were many flaws in the trials’ methods, blame falls mainly on the shoulders of the AKP, which had sole authority to direct the proceedings.)

But the alliance did not last. The AKP and the Gulenists have fundamentally different understandings of Turkish identity and how it relates to Islam. The AKP has its roots in Turkey’s National View ideology, which was originally advanced by former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan in his manifesto Millî Görüş (National View), published in 1969. Erbakan argued that Turkey should turn away from the West and forge a political, economic, and military union with Muslim countries. According to this view, national strength, especially as expressed in conflict with the West, is a bigger priority than healthy democratic institutions. Erbakan is still a clear source of inspiration for the AKP in general, and for Erdogan in particular. When Erbakan died, in 2011, Erdogan cut short a trip to Europe in order to rush back for his funeral, attended by hundreds of thousands in Istanbul. Germany’s most influential Turkish Islamist organization is a Millî Görüş community that Erdogan has encouraged to resist Western assimilation, in accordance with Erbakan’s teachings.

Predictably, Hizmet and the AKP have clashed over Erdogan’s bellicose foreign policy and undemocratic domestic maneuvers. When a Turkish NGO attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza and was confronted by the Israeli navy (resulting in nine deaths), Erdogan responded by accusing Israel of terrorism and genocide. Gulen responded to Erdogan’s belligerence, by calling it not “fruitful,” and adding that he sought Israeli permission anytime his charities wanted to help the people of Gaza.

Another point of contention has been Turkey’s relationship with the European Union. As a strong proponent of closer ties with Europe, the Gulenist movement has been frustrated by Erdogan’s refusal to pursue more serious accession talks with the EU. Occasionally, Erdogan has pursued policies — such as legislation restricting Internet access and reducing the independence of prosecutors — that seem designed to antagonize EU officials. Gulenists have also been concerned by Erdogan’s support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Free speech has always been a critical issue for the Gulenist movement, so it has also spoken out against Erdogan’s persecution of journalists and his broader disdain for democratic dialogue. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey has incarcerated more journalists over the past two years than any other country in the world. (Close on Turkey’s heels: Iran and China.) Gulen sympathizer Alp Aslandogan, president of the New York–based Alliance for Shared Values, a nonprofit umbrella group for Hizmet-affiliated groups, recounted the “intimidation, inspections, and fines” that now confront publishers. “Media group owners face threats to their businesses. Never in Turkish history has a single person or party achieved this level of media subservience.”

Erdogan’s response to last summer’s Gezi Park protests must have been particularly troubing for the Gulenists. In some sense, the diverse group of protesters, who originally gathered to demonstrate against the demolition of an Istanbul park, were the model of the sort of engaged pluralistic civil society that the Gulenists champion. Erdogan decided to order police to disperse the protests with force, which resulted in days of violent confrontation. Gulen placed the blame on Erdogan for not listening to the protesters’ demands in the first place. That seems to have convinced Erdogan to declare war directly on the Gulenist movement. In September, Erdogan announced that the government planned to close all private schools helping students to prepare for university exams: the Gulenist movement runs about 20 percent of such schools in Turkey and they represent a vital source of income, as well as one of the main ways in which Gulen’s ideas are introduced to the public.

Erdogan and the AKP have taken to describing Gulen’s movement as a power-hungry conspiracy. But there is little evidence of a concerted Gulenist push for power. The movement has stayed true to its teachings by devoting massive resources and attention to running schools, charity organizations, and media entities, in Turkey and abroad. Gulenists have not made a concerted push to infiltrate the AKP, or to seat their own members in parliament. Gulenists have regularly denounced the AKP’s corruption as a violation of Islamic ethics and Hizmet principles. There is no reason not to take those criticisms at face value.

Gulen has shown that he will refuse to be intimidated, but it is still an open question whether his movement can withstand the AKP’s relentless campaign against it. Erdogan is clearly intent on marginalizing the Gulenist movement, even at the expense of the rule of law in Turkey. This week, President Abdullah Gul signed a law allowing government agencies, without a court order, to block access to any Web site. Last week, parliament passed a bill giving the executive branch complete control over the judiciary, allowing the government to nominate and fire prosecutors at will.

Turkey would clearly be harmed if Gulenist teachings on tolerance and individual rights were successfully quieted. But the loss for Islamic culture would be an even greater tragedy.

Foreign Affairs, Victor Gaetan, February 20, 2014,

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