The Army of the Imam: Who is Fethullah Gülen?
Fethullah was born in Erzurum in 1941. He left primary school, but later took an examination to get the diploma. At the age of 10 he had read the Qu'ran and at the age of 14 he held his first sermons (tr: vaaz vermek). Like his father he was an imam. At the end of the 1970's he adopted the doctrine of Said Nursi and spent his time in an association called Nurcus and the Spreading of Science (tr: Nurcular ve İlim yayma Cemiyeti).
Between 1963 and 1966 he was on duty in Edirne and Kırklareli. Two years after Gülen started to work in Edirne he had to conduct his military service. He was sent to İskenderun, where he faced charges because of a sermon, but he was acquitted. Yet, he staid in military prison for ten days as disciplinary punishment. After his military service Gülen stayed for one year with his family in Erzurum after 1963. At this time he founded the second Association to Fight Communism (the first one had been founded in Izmir). In 1966 Fethullah Gülen was appointed to Izmir.
The Gülen movement was founded by 12 men. The definition of this parish that emerged in the 1970s, this sect or organization that is known by the name of its leader is no longer the work of religious scholars, but part of sociology. In the NTV Mag journal that did not appear for long Tolga Çelik stated on Fethullah Gülen: “The journey of Gülen who is known in recent years for his schools, the Lighthouses (Işık Evleri) and his relations to politics and media, started with the Nur Sect."
The different way of Fethullah Gülen
Fethullah Gülen did not always abide by the advice of his superiors. Mustafa Sungur, one of the elderlies had told him to open a “Nur Class”, which he did not in the beginning. Later he opened classes known under the name of “Lighthouses” (tr: ışık evleri) together with Mustafa Birlik and Mehmet Metin. In addition, he did not put the books of Said Nursi but his own appeals in front. His speeches were recorded and distributed as cassettes throughout the Aegean, even earning money and gaining supporters with them. Some elderlies opposed this, but other leading figures in the region stood at his side.
The name that is most discussed since the rise of the political Islam at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, when AKPJustice and Development Party came to power is certainly Fethullah Gülen. The Gülen parish adopted itself to the socio-political conditions of the time, but managed to stay independent of political parties. In each government formed with parties close to them or even on their own they gained a serious power. Even if Gülen maintains that he is the follower of the ideas of Said Nursi he got the current political power in interpreting the views of Nursi in his own manner. He was one of the important leaders of the Nur parish, but became the almost sole man, because of the incredible amount of money he governs and being organized in the cadres of the State.
(In the 1970s) He saw that the New Asia Parish got worn off and that the MSP gained political strength day by day. He started to criticize the New Asia Parish and praised the MSP. Thus the groups got closer. Trying to weaken the New Asia group Necmettin Erbakan told his followers to stay around Fethullah Gülen and help him. This made the star of Fethullah Gülen lighten up. His parish immediately got active, in particular after the Friday prayers in Bornova (Izmir) Mosque. There was another attempt to get him back in the ranks of the New Asia group, but the structure of Fethullah Gülen had settled.
The MSP members made propaganda for him saying that he was not like the other Nurcus and actually a member of the MSP, although he could not openly become politically active. Meanwhile Fethullah Gülen just like the New Asia Parish had his own camps, classes, journals, dormitories and most important of all, he was rich.
At this time he declared his closeness to the State. He criticized the boycott of the Turkish Islam Institutes in 1977. He drew a final line to the New Asia Parish declaring that it was too political. When some of the classes of the New Asia Parish entered the Gülen Parish a great shock occurred. His brain team gathered in the journal “Leakage” (Sızıntı) established in 1978. Still he stayed under the shadow of the MSP, although members of the “writers” and other Nurcu groups joined his parish. He felt that the time had come to cut the ties to the MSP. He dismissed the directors of classes that had come from the MSP and replaced them with members of his parish. Most observers thought that this was only a “change in service”. However, the MSP got aware of it and a discussion arose that was carried out openly after on 24 June 1980 Fethullah Gülen had criticized the MSP and the National Paper (Milli Gazete) in one of his sermons without speaking out their names. Yet, the leadership of the MSP did not openly criticize Fethullah Gülen and the fight did not broaden.
During his time as preacher in İzmir Bornova the conditions allegedly got worse and Gülen did not go on duty by constantly obtaining medical reports. In November 1980 he was appointed to Çanakkale but again obtained a medical report and did not start his duty. On 20 March 1981 he resigned from the post of a preacher.
One day after the coup of 12 September 1980 Fethullah Fülen was put on a list of wanted people. According to his own account he went around in Anatolia. On 12 January 1986 he was detained in Burdur. This time Prime Minister Turgut Özal intervened and after one night at the police station Fethullah Gülen was taken to Izmir and released.
Fethullah Gülen's support for military interventions
One of the most important names in the Nur Parish is Mehmet Kutlular, the owner of the newspaper New Asia (Yeni Asya). In an interview with Ruşen Çakır he said: “The State politics changed after 1980. Formerly the anarchists and Marxists were the danger, now the devotees became the danger. Therefore, one had to get in touch with the devotees and work together with them. Mainly intelligence officers visited members of the parish. They also came to me and offered to work against Milli Görüş (National View) and the Süleymancıs abroad, but I refused... The State told these groups 'have respect for Atatürk and we shall help you'.”
In the continuation of the interview Mehmet Kutlular states that Fethullah Gülen who like him comes from the Nurcu tradition supported the State and that the generals intended to use him against the Wealth Party and, when his duty finished, they attacked him. After the military coup of 1971 Fethullah Gülen was arrested for the attempt to change the secular nature of the State and base it on religious grounds and sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment. This verdict by Izmir Military Court of 20 September 1972 was confirmed by the Military Court of Cassation. With the amnesty announced in 1974 under Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit he was released after seven months in custody.
In October 1980 Gülen published an article in the journal “Leakage” entitled “The last police station” including the following lines: “The boat of the nation rolled from one side to the other, about to capsize. On the lips were thousands of foreign songs, on their tongues thousands of killing wines... A more rooted and inspired movement was necessary... When our hopes came to an end the soldiers came to our rescue and we once again send our salutes.”
After 28 February 1997 Gülen spoke on TV on the line of the National Security Council. His words “the government should go” were the headlines of all newspapers the next day. On the fourth anniversary of the 28 February coup the columnist in the daily Zaman and at the same time speaker of the parish Hüseyin Gülerce wrote: “It may be puzzling, but 28 February was quite useful at the time. Taking a breath inside and outside the country there was more leisure to speed up positive changes. Those who tarnish Islam and use it separated. The Islam circles understood that religion may not be used for politics.”
Contacts to politicians
On 30 November 1994 Fethulah Gülen came together with Prime Minister Tansu Çiller. This was the first time that the leader of a parish met a Prime Minister after Said Nursi, the founder of the Nur Parish had met Prime Minister Adnan Menderes in 1961. Later other politicians met Gülen including Mesut Yılmaz (ANAP), Necmettin Erbakan (RP), Bülent Ecevit (DSP) and Aydın Menderes (DP).
Wealth of the Parish
There is no certain information on the financial dimension the parish has reached. As long as the parish does not reveal this information nobody will know. Since the beginning the donations of shop owners under the term of grace (himmet) has been the backbone of financial sources. The educated generation has opened so many companies and holdings that are profitable. It may not be wrong to say that the Gülen movement has become a parish holding beyond national boundaries.
The group is running lobby activities in Washington as well as in Brussels. It owns media organs with TV, newspapers and journals and runs schools, dormitories, classes and universities with more than 2 million students.
The journal “Leakage” (tr: Sızıntı) was at the beginning distributed for free not only to members of the parish, but also to private houses. The director of publication Arif Sarsılmaz narrated the founding stage of the journal in an article he wrote in 2006 as follows: “It was 1979 and our land was in anarchy and chaos. A small group wanted to stay away from chaotic events and study. They had left university that had been turned into a battle field and listened to someone without materialist interpretation. He told them what kind of human model would secure the liberation and stability of the country and what kind of activities had to be conducted. Our Reverend Highness addressed their mind and heart... The journal that was to slowly enter their souls started publication in February 1979.” The Reverend Highness was, of course, no one else but Fethullah Gülen.
The journal “Leakage” was continued with the daily “Time” (Zaman) showing a great development in the 1990. The TV stations “Samanyolu” and “Kanal 7” followed. More stations including radio stations and according to the new technology, websites followed. The media sector that the AKP wanted to dominate together with the Gülen Parish was to be more than half in their hands as of 2010.
Gülen's enforced exile
When the soldiers were no longer in need of Fethullah Gülen, of whom they benefitted in the 28 February coup a court case was opened against him that forced him to “emigrate” (hicret) to the USA.
From the ashes of the RP emerged the AKP and the political Islam came again to power in 2002, and this time on its own. The support of Fethullah Gülen played a great role in this. The Islam streams finally got organized from top to the bottom of all ministries. Important parts of the staff in the Ministries for National Education, Interior, Health, Transport, Agriculture and Village and even in the Ministry of Culture headed by Ertuğrul Günay who comes from a left tradition were changed. The appointed persons all came from the Islam tradition, some of which had been dismissed for their affiliation.
Confessor Nurettin Veren
Nurettin Veren knew Fethullah Gülen since his sermons in Kestanepazarı Mosque (Izmir) in 1988. He was one of 12 people that founded the Akyazılı Foundation. According to his own account he was the right arm of Fethullah Gülen for 30 years. In 2004 he “betrayed” his teacher and made many allegations and confessions. He stated that in 1995 a difference of view emerged between them. He had gone to the USA to see Fethullah Gülen, but for more than one month could not see him, because he believed that the cassettes that had resulted in a court case against Gülen had been leaked and sold by Veren.
When Veren criticized Gülen during a talk Gülen had attacked him with a rabble and asked others to kill him, although he was in the United States. Gülen accused Veren of attempting to kill him and take his place. After return to Turkey some people intervened and Nurettin Veren was again made the general coordinator of the daily Time (Zaman). Therefore, Nurettin Veren said, he stayed silent for three years. After that Veren made statements to the journal Enlightenment (Aydınlık) of the Workers' Party (IP) and accused Gülen of partnership with the CIA and various dangerous initiatives against Turkey. Later Veren continued his “revelations” on an own website until it was hacked. On 1 November 2005 he became a member of the IP, whose leader Doğu Perinçek is one of the defendants in the Ergenekon trial.
The lawyers of Fethullah Gülen sent statements to all organs that published the “confessions” of Nurettin Veren maintaining that his remarks were lies and slander.
The series of translated passages
- The Army of the Imam: Who are the Nurcus?
- The Army of the Imam: Who is Fethullah Gülen?
- The Army of the Imam: Infiltrating the Police
- The Army of the Imam: Trial of the Gülden Parish
- The Army of the Imam: Avcı, Ergenekon and Epilogue
- ↑ Instead of including own explanations the DTF preferred to link to pages on Wikipedia. They will show up as internal links. If you want to stay on the relevant pages use the right mouse and “open on new page/or tag”.
- ↑ Five years at the time, now 8 years; DTF.
- ↑ The strengthening of the movement is part of The Army of the Imam: Who are the Nurcus? in the section of "Candidate for Leadership".
- ↑ The source is given as NTV Mag, 6 October 2000, but it is not clear, where the quotations ends; DTF.
- ↑ Faruk Mercan, Fethullah Gülen, Publishing House Doğan
- ↑ Article not written yet on Wikipedia; DTF.
- ↑ Daily Milliyet of 26 June 1999
- ↑ Fethullah Gülen was tried in absentia at Ankara State Security Court No. 2 under Article 163 of the Turkish Penal Code for conducting Nurcu activities. He made the following statement via his lawyers: “Apart from being a Muslim I do not belong to any stream of Nurcu or the like. I have repeatedly stated that streams ending with -ci or -cu mean separatism and, therefore I do not belong to any stream. I am not the follower of anybody.”
- ↑ Journal “Leakage”, number 21
- ↑ Daily Zaman, 29 February 2000
- ↑ The book of Prof. Doğu Ergil, published by Timaş and entitled “Fethullah Gülen and his movement by 100 Questions” Gülen said on the financial sources: "Behind this project are benevolent people in villages, districts and provinces and young teachers who work for a wage on the level of a scholarship.”
- ↑ In his defence at Ankara SSCState Security Court 2 Fethullah Gülen stated that he only suggested to invest in the education of everybody not just certain people. The question on who owns the private schools in Turkey should be taken from the officials that allowed these schools to be founded.”
- ↑ Journal “Leakage”, number 28
- ↑ No date given, but it was in 1998; DTF