June 9, 2013

Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement - Ori Soltes, Georgetown University

A cult leader? A shadowy kingmaker? A Muslim mafioso? A spy? A saint? A fraud? Who is this man and what is his agenda?

An excerpt from, "Who Is Fethullah Gülen?" by Claire Berlinski (City Journal, Published in Autumn 2012):
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.
Indeed, America is the only country in the world where the Gülen movement has been able to establish schools funded to a great extent by the host country’s taxpayers.

But does the cemaat want something more than money? Its supporters call it a “faith-based civil-society movement.” Mehmet Kalyoncu, an advisor to the ambassador of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations, has observed correctly that the cemaat’s Turkish enemies call it a creature of the CIA or the Mossad, a secret servant of the pope, or a Trojan horse trying to Christianize Muslims or weaken them. To some Western critics, such as Michael Rubin, the cemaat is “a shadowy Islamist cult,” anti-Semitic, anti-Western, and trying to Islamize Americans. Gülen is a second Khomeini, Rubin has warned, who is trying to establish a new caliphate.

But none of that is quite right. According to researcher Aydin Ozipek, who attended a Gülen school, “the primary objective of the Gülen Movement is to increase its share of power.” That, it seems to me, is the most accurate description of all. The cemaat poses problems not because its members are pious Muslims (that’s probably the most admirable thing about them) but because it’s a power-hungry business that often behaves repulsively—like a mafia, in other words. Gülen does not run “madrassas” in America, as some have suggested; he runs charter schools. He does not “practice taqiya”; he just dissimulates, like any ordinary politician.
Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement Ori Soltes, Georgetown University. Source: RumiForum. Published on May 16, 2013.

U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen. Source: CBS.