In a stunning move, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called for Fethullah Gülen, the reclusive imam of arguably the most powerful Islamist movement in the world, to return home to Turkey from his self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania.
Erdoğan’s appeal to Gülen came after he received an award during the closing ceremony of the Turkish Olympics.
“We want this yearning to come to an end,” the prime minister said. “We want to see those who are abroad and longing for the homeland to be among us. … Absence from home is loneliness. We have no tolerance for loneliness. We are saying that this absence from home [of Gülen] should end. To be honest, I understand that this is also what you all expect. So, let’s say the absence should be ended. As the child of an ancient civilization, I am extending my thanks to the ones who call on us and the entire world tonight in Turkish, the language of a rich culture. This is what I am saying, let’s put absence from home and longing for the homeland to one side.”
Although Erdoğan did not use Gülen’s name, his comments were widely understood by the Turkish audience and media to refer to Fethullah Gülen. This invitation represents the first time that Erdoğan has ever publicly reached out to the man that many consider to be Erdoğan’s spiritual mentor and the most dangerous Islamist in the world.
But according to the Turkish media, Erdoğan’s comments “received a lengthy standing ovation from the huge crowd that had jam-packed the over 50,000-seat Türk Telekom Arena.”
Others prominent Turkish leader’s joined in Erdoğan’s calls.
Bülent Arınç, a deputy prime minister, said, “I am one of the many people in Turkey who know that Gülen misses his country. I hope it is finally time for him to return. … At least Gülen may visit Turkey from some time to time. We want him to return to his country after over 10 years and reunite with people who love him. I hope our prime minister’s wish [for Gülen to return to Turkey] will come true soon. We will be happy to see Gülen in Turkey.”
Gülen’s response was almost immediate. With tear-filled eyes, Gülen praised both the rise of Islamism and the vibrant economy of Turkey, while indicating that for now, he may prefer to stay in the U.S.
“If [my return] halts positive developments in Turkey, [I prefer] staying here, if my lifespan allows, and I will not return not to damage my country, my nation and those [positive] things in my country,” Gülen said.
Gülen also added that he wishes to be buried in Turkey near his mother, a sign that he may not plan on staying in the U.S. indefinitely.
Fethullah Gülen is the highly controversial leader of a global Islamist movement, which oversees a vast network of over 1,000 schools in over 140 countries, with nearly 150 in the United States alone. While the schools’ official claims are that their goals are to merely help youth in poorer countries, a mountain of evidence has accrued over the years suggesting that their underlying secret agenda is the spread of Gülen’s unique brand of Turkish Islamism.
According to analysts, unlike the Islamism of al-Qaeda, the Turkish Islamism of Gülen, as well as his Islamist predecessor, Said Al-Nursi, uses a veneer of moderation along with the Western concepts of democracy, interfaith dialogue and tolerance as a cover while it works to achieve its goals of Turkish Islamic dominance and a return to the glories of the Ottoman Empire.
After fleeing to the United States in March of 1999, Gülen was put on trial and prosecuted in absentia for attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and Constitution. Turkish television broadcast footage of Gülen telling his followers to spread his Islamist ideas secretly in order to conquer the Turkish secular state from within. The footage was eminently damning.
Yet in 2008, after receiving 29 letters of support from prominent American political and educational figures, including Graham E. Fuller, the former Station Chief for the CIA in Afghanistan, former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and former Ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz, Gülen won on appeal and was acquitted of all charges by the ruling Islamist AK party of Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Since that time, Gülen has remained in Pennsylvania, accruing numerous awards and endless accolades from American and other Western educational and religious entities.
Imam Gülen and his movement are also reported to be wildly wealthy. According to the testimony of Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator, the Gülen movement receives much of its funding directly from the CIA. According to Edmonds, for years, the U.S. has allowed the free-flow of money from the Afghanistan opium and heroin trade to reach the Gülenists. According to some accounts, Gülen is worth more than $25 billion.
According to investigative journalist Paul Williams, “This scenario serves to explain why U.S.-led coalition troops in Afghanistan are forbidden to firebomb the fields or fumigate the poppies with a chemical herbicide, such as glyphosate.”
Gülen and his movement also own the Today’s Zaman, one of Turkey’s largest newspapers, as well as numerous television networks, banks, universities, construction and manufacturing companies throughout the country.
The Gülen movement has allegedly even used its vast fortunes and influence to virtually create the ruling Islamist AK Party and protect its continued successes in Turkey.
But despite the fact that Gülen has been filmed encouraging the spread of Islamism through deception, numerous American politicians, educators and universities vehemently defend him as a paragon of virtue, a modernist scholar dedicated only to peace, charity and tolerance.
According to Mustafa Yesil, a leading figure within the Gulen movement and chairman of the Journalists and Writers Foundation in Istanbul, the movement is “faith-based, pacifist, pluralist, colorful and pro-democratic.”
Gülen was most recently honored with the EastWest Institute’s 2011 EWI Peace Building Award for his contribution to world peace. Such superlative awards and accolades are not uncommon for Gülen.
Critics of Gülen and his movement however, including Ahmet Sik, the Turkish author of the book “The Imam’s Army” (“Imamin Ordusu”), claim that the group has thoroughly infiltrated every arena of Turkish government, including the police force. Sik’s book was banned by Turkish prosecutors, and Sik was arrested and charged with involvement in a secret coup plot. After 13 months in jail, Sik was only recently released, with a trial still pending.
Sik’s case is far from unique. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, despite its claims to represent an open, free and democratic nation, Turkey now leads the world in the number of journalists in prison. While China has 27 journalists in prison, Iran has 42 and Turkey presently has 94.
For years, many secular Turks have claimed the Gülen movement has so infiltrated Turkish government that it effectively now represents a type of Islamist shadow government, whose spidery fingers reach into every arena of Turkish government. The present imprisonment of so many journalists opposed to the Gülen movement is but one example of the movement’s power.
There is also a mountain of evidence that the ruling Turkish government shares the Turkish nationalism and expansionist goals of Imam Gülen. Only a few weeks ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made the following grandiose statement:
We will manage the wave of change in the Middle East. Just as the ideal we have in our minds about Turkey, we have an ideal of a new Middle East. We will be the leader and the spokesperson of a new peaceful order, no matter what they say.
But despite the clear and present danger represented by Turkey’s ruling Islamist party, the Obama administration has openly pursued a partnership with Prime Minister Erdoğan.
At a fund raising event for the Obama reelection campaign, Vice President Joe Biden recently addressed a group of roughly 200 influential members of the Turkish-American community.
In speaking of the Obama administration’s view of Turkey’s reassertion of power in the region, Biden said, “We’re looking for Turkish leadership in the rest of that entire region.”
Biden continued to speak of what a wonderful “model” Turkey is for other Islamic nations: “It’s a model as to how you can have an Islamic population, an Islamic state and a democracy, something the rest of the region is groping to figure out how to do.”
And speaking of American cooperation with Turkey in the region, Biden said, “There’s nothing we do that we don’t coordinate.”