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Why are official circles so concerned with the Gülen Movement’s outside connections?

by Doğu Ergil on . Posted in Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Movement in 100 questions

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Fethullah Gülen

If no material contribution is accepted from outside of the movement, why are official circles so concerned with the Gülen Movement’s outside connections, especially since between 1980 and 1985, Turkish men of religion who were supposed to be paid by the Turkish government, actually received their salaries from an organization headquartered in Saudi Arabia?

After stating that he is not the addressee of this question, Fethullah Gülen remarks:

I can say this much: Because they cannot comprehend the understanding of sacrifice of this nation, they do not see it possible, for this activity which is carried on in such a large area and which would require large amount of resources, to be accomplished just through the sacrifices, they find it mind boggling and are looking for a calf under an oxen [a Turkish idiom meaning to bark up the wrong tree]. Thus, they are trying to generate ambiguity and confusion in the public opinion. In no period of our lives, we have entered into such a thing which would blacken our face later. God willing, we shall not in the future.[1]

In 1980s when the Turkish economy was in crisis, Turkish imams working for the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Europe and especially in Germany, received their salaries from a Saudi organization. When the media reported this, the then current President Kenan Evren held a press conference with the leading journalists, defending the policy.

In those days, most Turkish felt ashamed. The media and the educated sectors, which always claimed to be Atatürkist and secular but giving allegiance to the government, which did not care about Atatürk’s principle of “absolute independence.” They have always stated doubts and criticized the possible outside connection of the Gülen Movement, without any concrete shred of evidence. This contradiction has always dismayed Fethullah Gülen and his followers. He states:

Like every other believer, for the duration of my lifespan, I have searched the ways of becoming a beneficial human being, and as a consequence earn the pleasure of God. I have always lived with the ardent desire, love and passion, to be useful for others, share their grief, and search for remedies for their problems.

I have made efforts to find the cures for the diseases of poverty, ignorance, and disunity which prevent our nation to improve. But I have never had material means to go to the help of the poor and the needy, the capital to construct the school buildings to be left at the disposal of the Ministry of Education.

When that was the case, at every opportunity I got, as much as I could articulate, and my heart desired, I have explained the importance of education, the tasks which can be assigned to every individual in the economic development, to be friends and remain as friends, and indispensability of living open to tolerance and dialog.

I have encouraged everyone in my speeches as well as in my writings to contribute to the educational activities. ... But unfortunately, the outside circles who are displeased to see this picture of friendships and their peons among us, have caused the individuals in society to lose trust in each other; they sow the seeds of worry and doubt in different segments of the society.

Later, they produced and fabricated unthinkable slanders, about the representatives of education activities and tolerance, they turned upside down, even their most sincere conducts, and tried to connect them to some goals and aims, and they so to speak sabotaged all the beneficial activities. They raised doubts about the most positive deeds; they tried to find other intentions and goals in the dialog activities our friends offered to others. They displayed the most shameful illustrations of destruction.

Now, these satanic efforts though might not be effective on the majority of the nation, nevertheless sufficient enough to confuse and make quarrelsome and noisy a marginal segment, since the time of its inception. They rebelled and almost declared a war against the concepts like “tolerance,” “dialog,” “love,” “to accept everyone as he/she is,” and “a world without fight.”

They shook the hopes in hearts, destroyed the trust people had for each other, destroyed the major bonds tying together different segments with each other?[2]

They accused me of trying to take over Turkey. I have no desire for anything of this world. Even if they propose the sultanate of the world, I would not turn my eyes to that direction and look. They are accusing me of things I have never even dreamed of, the things which did not even enter into my imagination!

But in actual fact, behind these accusations lies the enmity for Islam, and also they do not want a Turkey which is purified of its corruptions, has handled its problems satisfactorily, and has taken its deserving place in the balance of powers of the world. For them it is more desirable and appropriate, to have a Turkey where it is now, in order to accomplish their own goals.[3]

[1] 291 Doğu Ergil’s interview with Fethullah Gülen.
[2] Fethullah Gülen 2009a, 93–94.
[3] Ibid., 96.