"I Bury My Yearning for Turkey in My Chest"

Legally there is nothing preventing you from returning to Turkey. Why do you prefer to stay here?

I was seized with anxiety. Regardless of when, or if, I return to Turkey, those who have created controversy, made allegations, signed the execution of my death sentence [so to speak], will do so again the very same day I return. At my age, my blood pressure has risen to 20 points, and they have been unable to lower it with medicine. I thought living would be hard if I had to hear the same things all the time. I made the logical choice and stayed here. I stayed despite myself. I stayed by burying the longing in my chest. But, I have seen it as indirectly pushing myself closer to death. Some have no mercy. They write impossible things. They write despite the fact they are knowingly spreading lies. Even though they were pressured by various circles, some suggested the idea of "araf" to the court. Neither Heaven nor Hell--something in between. It shows this: Their conscience was pointing them in the right direction. However, there was an artificial public opinion conceived by some in Turkey and it was boiling over. They took this into consideration. I made my deposition to an American public prosecutor here. I swear. The prosecutor had compiled nearly 100 questions based on the claims. He was laughing at it all. What kind of law is this, that these kinds of things could be a crime?

Could you give an example?

For example, you said that if you are followed by someone and if you want to keep your position in the state institution, deal with it, do not make your feelings obvious. Unrealistic claims such as this. Organizational claims too, such as taking over management. The prosecutor laughed at these. Another thing is that I was faced with this for the first time. I met with the prosecutor only once.

He met me at the main door. He had a translator. He walked me the chair. He washed the glasses himself and brought water. Namely, like a psychiatrist or psychologist who considers a person's feelings, he wanted to take my deposition after he had comforted me. He left the room three times to let me think and to talk to my lawyers. He requested "yes" and "no" answers from me while he was asking questions. I wanted to add something, but he found it unnecessary. Then, he walked out the door. I said to myself, "If this is the courthouse, then long live America."

How do American officials regard you? As a guest or as a refugee?

I have not met with anyone during these five years. There were people I saw when I came here in 1997. There were people who I saw when they came to Turkey. There were academics, leaders of think tank organizations. There were people I saw within the framework of friendship. However, I have not seen any Americans, as I wish to prevent our people from reading too much into it.

What kind of a meaning do you think they would they read?

They said that the schools are supported by America. It is true that I have not denied this. Whether or not we deny this, they will say these things. Some sources of power in Turkey evaluate everything in a negative light. I abstain [from meeting with Americans] as [some in Turkey] would evaluate these meetings in a negative way. Conferences were held in favor of me, and some participated in them. There was Elisabeth Ozdalga. She said, "Let's meet" and I said, "no". There was Yasemin Congar, whom I had known from a while back, and her newspaper insisted a great deal, but I did not meet [her]. There was Asli Aydintasbas, I did not meet her so as not to provoke others. There were some here that were also provoked.

There are some people who say about you, "if America were not supporting him, he would not stay there such a long time."

I am regarded here as an official of religion. I have temporary residency as an official. I extend it every year. Meanwhile, I earn my living with publishing royalties from the books. There are hundred of people here like me. They are on duty in different mosques. They are not affiliated with Religious Affairs. I told the FBI [officer], who came here for an investigation related to my residency, that I gave pep talks. Some people came and I gave pep talks to them as well.

Do you have a feeling that the Americans watch you closely?

It is possible. It is necessary to think about that possibility in the perspective of how the Americans regard the Islamic World and Turks, or in the perspective of their own thoughts, considerations, and wishes. They themselves say that everyone is watched here, or controlled. But, they were not disrespectful to me. For another matter related to my works, they said with respect, "Let's benefit from him." For the investigation, two young men came, one from the FBI and the other from the State Department.

When did this happen?

Two months ago. A few incidents involving Turks occurred in Malawi. They asked, "Do you know anything about them?" And besides, a few friends had come to visit. They had all given the same address. [The FBI] had formed an information pool after September 11.

The ones who come undergo different evaluations. When they came, they asked a few questions to "benefit from his ideas." They behaved very nicely. When a person who knows us heard this, he said, "I wonder if they were disrespectful? If they were, let's apologize to our friends." Here, units are independent of one other. The main unit they are affiliated with does not have any knowledge about this. Basically, they were respectful. They had come for an investigation, however, they asked me sincerely: "How do you want the Americans to manage Iraq? What kind of an administration in Iraq would be sensible after the invasion?" I said that: "An invasion has happened. Regardless of how you call it, people say it is an invasion. If you ask my opinion, you should establish such a democracy in Iraq that it would be in line with Turkey. Let them envy Turkey. You should be tolerant to Muslims so that they will not envy Iran instead." I think, that [the two gentlemen] took that thought to their superiors as well. I thought they were sincere. It is not that they did not want to learn anything from me, but rather they wanted to know who I am, what I am doing, how I think, what are my considerations? I am a Middle Easterner and I am a Turk. They wanted to learn about my thoughts based upon these considerations. But, I saw a different kind of tolerance than what we show. I saw softness. I saw respect for human values. I saw respect to my field. I saw respect for my beliefs. Despite all, I prefer my own people.

You are both pleased with this and also saddened when you do not see the same in Turkey

I experienced this at the hospitals and in similar kinds of situations. Why is it not so in our country? There is a neighbor here; his name is Richard. He is in the steel construction business. One time we had a meal together and I said, "America is a big state, it controls the world." He said to me: "My hodja what are you saying? Yours is a 3,000 year old nation." When I see these attitudes at the hospitals and courthouse, I say, "For such a long time, my nation has lived a modern life, why doesn't my nation show these, why can't I see these within my nation?" There are people who build all their calculations on hatred and grudge. Unfortunately, they always act in a vulgar manner. There are some who act like that now. There are some who follow certain plans.

Soil from 50 different parts of Turkey

Fethullah Gülen's room is very plainly decorated. There are several rugs and carpets. Gülen is not comfortable with them. He says, "A reed mat is enough for me." The most meaningful things in the room are the soil samples from 50 different regions of Turkey; some are in little jars and some in nylon bags. Having lived abroad for five years, Gülen stops the yearning for his homeland with these soil samples. About living abroad Gülen says, "It is kind of pushing me closer to death."

In a report on the February 28 process, Allah and The Prophet were slandered

The ill-tempered days of February 28 have passed. After the elections, a little bit more stability came. Do you still see the atmosphere as being foggy?

Steps have been taken in some directions, I do not say this. I hear about Turkey from radio and our television. Recently, I happened to listen to the TUSIAD [Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen Association]. I listened to [Rahmi] Koc and [Sakip] Sabanci. They all talked about the ever increasing inflation, the increase in foreign reserves and growth. "Turkey is doing well," they said. If the business circle says that it is doing well that means it is doing well. All these people come together and agree on a lie. While the business does well on one side, there is a segment called "the others".

Their ill-temper increases gradually day by day. Perhaps, their intentions do not change, but, changes could be made in terms of their strategies. There could be other different controversies. The ones who want to put these in motion would be involved. Turkey experienced these sorts of things many times, and it could relive them. Is this the reason you have said foggy? The color of fog changes, its design changes. As things become foggier, power increases more, disrespect increases more. As it was the case in different periods, all of them did not create controversy. They do not attack power; they talk about its good sides. From time to time, they mention the religious reactionary. There are some circles where mercilessness continues to increase. There were a few times when I have been on the receiving end of what they say and do. Forgive me for saying this, but I judge them to be living in a state of delirium, a state of serious paranoia.

What is the reason behind all this? Considering that there is economic and political stability...

I would like to present a few things in this regard by going back.

During the course of the February 28 process a report came out. I was able to learn more or less who had prepared and handed out this report. The report was mostly related to me. There were things that were included in the indictment. A group from Security had prepared this. However, two pages were added at the end of the report. There was an attack on Allah. There was an insult to our Prophet. Even more so, when I saw the insult to Allah and the Prophet, I was relaxed and comforted about all the things that had been said about me. I said that: "My Allah, if these people who have such thoughts about my Prophet are also judging me, then it is better for me to re-evaluate my position before Allah. People who swear at my Allah and Prophet will naturally attack me as well.

Pardon me, I don't remember this report. Who had given it to whom?

A group in Security prepared this [report]. Some other officials had written a 2-page conclusion to it. Our people know who did this. I leave that report to history. It is saved someplace as a reflection of the people of a certain period, as the intentions of the people who govern the fate of Turkish nation.

I have never acted disrespectfully. However, it is necessary to clarify our side when Allah and the Prophet are the subject at hand. Now, it is necessary to keep in mind that people who think such things will never think kindly about you. People who form judgments as such will always think as such. As their numbers decrease, they will act with ill-temper. The more they decrease, the more bad tempered they get; as they decline they will become more delirious. They will concoct brand new scenarios. Thus, to me, people who are in my position will always be subjected to the same things in Turkey. There are people who are waiting for me to die and who are even trying to calculate the moment of my demise. I have not seen people in the world who are so vicious except in Turkey. [In the U.S.], they say, "Let's nominate him for the Nobel, let's give him a plaque." They said, "Tolerance". They include me in the list of volunteers of peace at the conferences held here. They too have eyes and ears, certain criteria. They are more delicate, more sensitive. In Turkey, there are still people who have enmity for Allah and the Prophet and who are influential in different places.

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