What is the place of the “state” in Fethullah Gülen thought? How does he interpret the never-ending debate about the concepts of “nation of law” and the “deep state”?

Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen values the state, especially the state based on the rule of law, and sees it as the major component of life and peace in society:

The state based on rule of law is a state which holds the field of activity within the border of individual rights and freedoms, loyal to the principle of universality of laws and leaves open the juridical door in order for the individuals be protected against others and the state.

The most important attribute of the state based on rule of law, is to be bound by the general legal principles in all its activities, not bound only by the laws. Every ordinance of the state for sure is made by certain measures, and before its application everyone is informed. Everyone, including each administrator, is inspected and supervised by the institutions of courts of law. The bills introduced and adopted must be in line with the spirit of the constitution. If the spirit of the constitution recognizes to you this and that right as individuals, families or as a society, the laws to be adopted cannot be against it at all. Otherwise, there would be contradiction between the constitution and the laws. A total chaos would prevail in the society.[1]

Everyone must seek his rights within the legal system of the state of which he is a member; otherwise, when individuals or groups of individuals would like to take their rights on their own initiatives, there would be a total chaos and disorder in the country.[2]

At this stage of his analysis, Fethullah Gülen discusses the events leading up to the 1980 coup:

In Turkey, in the rather long period before 1980, some people started seeking their rights in their own way. As for the rights, they approached the matter with a Lenin-like, Mao-like, Fidel Castro-like means and said: “The rights are not given but they are taken,” and poured onto the streets. They said “freedom,” “proletarian dictatorship,” they screamed, destroyed, and tried to have their rights. Some others, as if it was their duty, stood in front of them, challenging them, in order to protect the country. In those days, people were tense and the tensions were very high and years passed in this atmosphere. The hearts had always beaten with a desire to shed blood. The youthful brains thought only about blood, they spoke blood, and every individual caught the collars of others as if they were bloody murderers. By shedding blood and killing the souls the process of taking the rights went on and on. Those who died could not understand why they died; those who murdered did not know why they murdered. Unfortunately we saw all these in different periods.

Those who try to handle some matter outside the law would push others to handle some other matters outside the law. Either the state or those who put themselves in the place of the state or seem to be on the side of the state, when they try to handle the matters by means other than what is allowed by law, would cause more serious problems and complications. Such an attitude triggers everywhere entities outside the law gushing forth everywhere. Underground world would come into being; the number of unsolved murders increases and everyone does something on top of their heads. Yes, as those who put themselves in the place of the state, cannot perform such illegalities, the state itself cannot either. Even if, in the matter of seeking justice everyone is at fault, the state should never take faulty steps; it must not come close to any illegal interference. If that is the case, then everything should be handled within the framework of the law. The solution to the problem should be sought in resorting to the institutions of legislative, judicial, and executive organs.[3]

This reasoning leads Fethullah Gülen to the conclusion that those who claim they are going to solve the Kurdish problem are making matters worse: The state can fight against the rebels; it can kill during the fighting those who fire at the security forces, since the war has a rule of its own. But if a person comes by his own accord and surrenders, the state can never carry out execution without trial. To kill a person surrendering would be against the spirit of a state based on rule of law. Furthermore that person would make acknowledgements; there would be things he would tell. There what is at issue is the interests of the state. With the clues to be extracted there, the further vices and mischief and corruption can be prevented. As the state of affairs is this, if someone feels regret and comes down from the mountain, and makes petitions somewhere to make confessions and says, “There are things I will tell you, I will give important, vital information relating to the center of the rebellion, the nest of the mischief,” and if you reply, “We do not accept you, your place is the mountain,” and if you refuse him, then certain convictions would enter my mind relating to the encouragement of the mountain, something that you are fabricating. Then I could not help but think: Maybe, I think, you are managing some tricks, something fishy there. I wonder if you are dealing drugs. Are you producing weapons or trading them? Do you have an interest in the continuation of fights going on for years? On what basis are you opposing something that is an open matter in a state of law? When people come and surrender, if needed, you can proceed with a trial. You could give them punishments, imprison them, evaluate their confessions, or reward them. You might arouse others’ envy and by this way you can succeed in bringing many people to come down from the mountain. If you are opposed to the solution, it is beyond any doubt that you have some plans, opposing the basic principles of the state. Now, this could not be reconciled with the spirit of a state, based on the rule of law.[4]

Fethullah Gülen draws our attention to the fact that when official personnel and some state institutions, under the pretext of national security, violate the law, the state’s legitimacy is destroyed and disgraced and social instability prevails.

In a state of law, it is not possible to talk about state in state or deep state. But unfortunately, some people came out in our country and said: “I have murdered people. I am asked to murder for the purpose of establishing law and order to maintain public order and public security.” There were those who said: “My state said to me ‘Shoot,’ and I shot.” They could have been told: “If the state says ‘Fornicate’, will you fornicate! Are you going to steal, if it says ‘Steal’?” Any state encouraging thievery, is a state which lost its honor; the state encouraging fornication, has lost the character as a state.

Even if it stands as a virtual state, like a statue, in reality it is without a soul. Likewise, it is not possible to talk about honor and dignity of a state which says, “Kill the man.” If that is the case, then leave that official job; be on your own, but do not murder. Even if the state orders you, you cannot carry out actions in opposition to the universal legal values and the system of law in Turkey.

There are many unsolved murders. Still it is not known who were behind these murders. Since it is not known, without any delay, new murders take place the same way, similar scenarios are played out. Yes, the state cannot murder even if it is for the state. State punishes, but it punishes after a due process of law. But it cannot execute without a trial at all. As the state cannot do it, likewise those who put themselves in the place of the state or those who claim they love their state cannot do it either.

In order to punish some rebels, the existence in the body of the state some secret services can never be accepted. As a matter of fact, was he or was he not, I cannot know, but sometime there was this Yeşil [the code name of a shady hit man] who claimed to work on behalf of the state. If the state is using such people, as it used Yeşil [Green] yesterday, if it uses a “Red” for the illegal things today, and if it is going to ask the “Purple” tomorrow to do some dark businesses, with such ugly things it is impossible to reconcile the honor of a state and being a state based on the rule of law.

Again one of the prominent figures had said sometime in the past: “What you call Hizbullah in fact consists of the people who give service to their government.” He had said that the state was using them against the PKK [the Kurdish Workers Party, a terrorist organization]. This matter has become today a topic of conversations and discussions and still continuing to be a matter of speculations. If you use the rebel against a rebel, then you are going to have to find another rebel against the latter. In the end against any rebel, you will have to find another rebel and without being aware of it you would go into a vicious circle. The criminal who thinks he has stepped down on the ground, would break unilaterally the agreement and would no longer listen to you, he would not want to be your stooge. He would think, “Since I have my foot firm on the ground, I can do something on my own.” Now this time you would have to find another group of rebels. Hizbullah is followed by “Mizbullah” and that is followed by “Tizbullah,” this matter goes on and on. These are shameful things for a state based on rule of law. To give permission to these and to pioneer as an instigator is an historical disgrace. Those who generate these groups using them as puppets making them headaches for both themselves as well as for the state … they will be tried in the court of history and will go into history as a black spot. And of course, before God, they will account for these crimes.[5]

In this analysis, Fethullah Gülen points out that many retired generals have acknowledged that “We made a mistake,” and that the politics of security, which has far exceeded the legal parameters, has produced an unstable, not secure society. He also emphasizes the age old mistake: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This mistake is costly to the country, as much as the legitimacy of those who practice it is over shadowed by it. When the states uses one armed group against another, it has entrusted its security to these illegal groups and swept the state itself into illegality, thereby damaging its legitimacy. The fact is that the enemy of my enemy is his enemy, but not my friend. Most likely, the enemy of my enemy will soon become my enemy too after a short lived partnership. This is because as long as illegal and blood-shedding methods are condoned, its tactics will continue, even if the aims are changed.

Fethullah Gülen also calls our attention to the critical role that public opinion plays in the decision-making process. He advises us to avoid bringing frictions to the level of confrontation:

For the sake of circulation and ratings, we should not be duped to blacken the future of Turkey. Under the pretext of struggle against terrorism, we should not cause the infringement of rights and freedoms, the cessation of the effort for democratization.[6]

As if he has seen today’s events years ago, he warns against repeating the mistake of creating a Turkish-Kurdish (Turk-Kurd) opposition:

It would not be right to make a judgment in general by saying, “Among so and so there are some rebels.” Some time past now; weren’t there some among those who said, “I am a Turk,” but screamed everywhere “Mao, Mao”? Is it not the case that some of those who state that they are Ulusalcılar [literally, “those who are for the nation state” as opposed to “nationalists,” a new term adopted by themselves to designate a particular ideological stand] were among those in the past to run after Lenin or Stalin? Just like from among us some people who are crooked emerge [outside the rules]; of course among others some spoilers might arise. The security forces should find them, surrender them to justice, and if they have something deserving punishment, the law should punish them. But one has to absolutely stay away from using a language by bringing this or that interpretations to this matter, causing different fronts to come about to confront each other.[7]

Fethullah Gülen expresses a stand expected from anyone with a common sense: We should not blame the whole community because some so-called “bad apples” cause animosities among larger groups or communities. If we do so, it will not be possible for us to solve our social problems and disagreements, and these problems will only increase to a point where our country becomes instable.

[1] Fethullah Gülen 2010d, 195.
[2] Ibid. ,196.
[3] Ibid., 197.
[4] Ibid., 198.
[5] Ibid., 200.
[6] Ibid., 204.
[7] Ibid.