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Re: TURKEY/ISRAEL - Gulen criticizes flotilla in WSJ interview

Released on 2012-03-12 16:00 GMT

Email-ID 1153672
Date 2010-06-04 21:00:04
From [email protected]
To [email protected]
List-Name [email protected]
It think this is going to take the turks by surprise. Kamran. Write to
ibrahim and get his reaction.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


From: Reva Bhalla <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2010 13:57:41 -0500 (CDT)
To: Analyst List<[email protected]>
Subject: Re: TURKEY/ISRAEL - Gulen criticizes flotilla in WSJ interview
NOte that he's very noticeably distancing his movment from the IHH
On Jun 4, 2010, at 1:51 PM, Kamran Bokhari wrote:

This should be repped.

From: [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]] On
Behalf Of Bayless Parsley
Sent: June-04-10 2:50 PM
To: Analyst List
Subject: TURKEY/ISRAEL - Gulen criticizes flotilla in WSJ interview

Reclusive Turkish Imam Criticizes Gaza Flotilla



SAYLORSBURG, Pa.*Imam Fethullah Gu:len, a controversial and reclusive
U.S. resident who is considered Turkey's most influential religious
leader, criticized a Turkish-led flotilla for trying to deliver aid
without Israel's consent.

Speaking in his first interview with a U.S. news organization, Mr.
Gu:len spoke of watching news coverage of Monday's deadly confrontation
between Israeli commandos and Turkish aid group members as its flotilla
approached Israel's sea blockade of Gaza. "What I saw was not pretty,"
he said. "It was ugly."

Mr. Gu:len said organizers' failure to seek accord with Israel before
attempting to deliver aid "is a sign of defying authority, and will not
lead to fruitful matters."

Mr. Gu:len's views and influence within Turkey are under growing
scrutiny now, as factions within the country battle to remold a
democracy that is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East. The struggle, as
many observers characterize it, pits the country's old-guard secularist
and military establishment against Islamist-leaning government workers
and ruling politicians who say they seek a more democratic and
religiously tolerant Turkey. Mr. Gu:len inspires a swath of the latter
camp, though the extent of his reach remains hotly disputed.

His words of restraint come as many in Turkey gave flotilla members a
hero's welcome after two days of detention in Israel. Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the ruling Justice and Development Party
condemned Israel's moves as "bullying" and a "historic mistake."

Mr. Gu:len said he had only recently heard of IHH, the Istanbul-based
Islamic charity active in more than 100 countries that was a lead
flotilla organizer. "It is not easy to say if they are politicized or
not," he said. He said that when a charity organization linked with his
movement wanted to help Gazans, he insisted they get Israel's
permission. He added that assigning blame in the matter is best left to
the United Nations.

Mr. Gu:len has long cut a baffling figure, as critics and adherents have
sparred over the nature of his influence in Turkey and the extent of his
reach. Leading a visitor on Wednesday past his front corridor*adorned
with a map of Turkey, a verse from the Quran and a photograph of a
Turkish F-16 jet over the Bosphorus*he portrayed himself an apolitical
teacher. "I do not consider myself someone who has followers," he said.

* Opinion: Turkey's Radical Drift
* New Aid Ship Heads to Gaza
* Israel Explores Easing Its Blockade of Gaza
* Turkish Group Sees Victory in Martyrdom
* Israel's Isolation Deepens
* In Israel and Abroad, Raid Spurs Criticism of Military's Judgment
* Aboard Marmara, Skirmish Turns Deadly
* Complete Coverage:

Born in eastern Turkey in 1941, Mr. Gu:len became a state-licensed imam
at 17, after three years of formal education and studies with Sufi
masters. In a Turkey largely under the sway of a military-secularist
establishment, he built a national organization of Islamic study and
boarding halls, gaining support of many wealthy Muslims but at times
running afoul of the law.

While in the U.S. in 1999 for medical treatment, he was charged in
Turkey with attempting to create an Islamic state* anathema under
Turkey's secularist constitution. He stayed in Pennsylvania, where he
now lives on a 25-acre estate in the Pocono Mountains. Over the years,
he said, he has left the estate twice.

Mr. Gu:len preaches nonviolence, dialogue between Western and Muslim
worlds, and an educational tradition that combines study of science and
Islam. His newspaper columns, weekly Internet sermons and other messages
have been collected into more than 60 books. His adherents number, by
various estimates, three million to eight million.

Followers have established hundreds of schools in more than 100
countries and run an insurance company and an Islamic bank, Asya, that
its 2008 annual report said had $5.2 billion in assets. They own
Turkey's largest daily newspaper, Zaman; the magazine Aktion; a wire
service; publishing companies; a radio station and the television
network STV, according to Helen Rose Ebaugh, a University of Houston
sociologist and author of "The Gu:len Movement." She says followers
donate up to one-third of their income to independent Gu:len-linked

Ms. Ebaugh said Mr. Gu:len doesn't sit on the boards of Asha bank nor
any foundation or editorial boards of Gu:len-sympathetic magazines,
newspapers or television stations. In the interview, the imam said he
had no financial interest in any holdings.

Mr. Gu:len's detractors see him as a cult-like leader whose empire aims
to train an Islamic elite who will one day rebuild the Turkish state.
Soner Cagaptay, a Gu:len critic who is a Turkey analyst at the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the Turkish police force
may be largely influenced by the imam through Gu:len sympathizers in key
positions*effectively creating a counterbalance to Turkey's powerful
military, a secularist bastion.

"I am not a leader of a faction or someone who would cause some state
officials to follow me despite their official duties," Mr. Gu:len said
in the interview.

The U.S. has "immense ambivalence" about Mr. Gu:len, said Graham Fuller,
an ex-Central Intelligence Agency officer who is a resident consultant
at the Rand Corp. in British Columbia.

"On the one hand they do perceive him as very moderate and doing many
positive things," Mr. Fuller said. But Washington has long thrown its
lot behind the secularist followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, he says,
viewing them "as the only narrative to what Turkish politics is all

The U.S. State Department declined to comment about Mr. Gu:len for this

In 2007, U.S. Homeland Security moved to deny Mr. Gu:len
permanent-resident status in the U.S., rejecting his claim of
exceptional ability as an educator. "The record contains overwhelming
evidence that plaintiff is primarily the leader of a large and
influential religious and political movement with immense commercial
holdings," the government wrote.

Mr. Gu:len won on appeal after getting 29 letters of support, including
one from Mr. Fuller.

The imam disputed Homeland Security's characterization. He goes only so
far as to provide guidance to those who ask, he said.

The 2002 election of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, opened a
new era for Mr. Gu:len and those he inspires, given their common foe in
the military-secularist establishment.

The AKP says it has no political ties to Mr. Gu:len. The imam says
critics have linked him, falsely, to Turkey's current and previous
leaders. "I do not have and have never had any relationship with a
movement that has political aspirations," he said. "I am just a Turkish

Last month, Mr. Gu:len's followers founded the Assembly of Turkic
American Federations in Washington, a lobbying and umbrella organization
for some 180 local non-profit foundations around the U.S. involved in
education and culture.

An English-language Turkish newspaper reported that Mr. Gu:len has told
his followers they couldn't visit him on his Poconos estate if they
didn't first donate to their local congressman. Mr. Gulen denies making
the remark.

Mr. Gu:len said that for Muslims, benefiting their community is both an
Islamic and humanitarian duty, and that he would be happy if those who
respect him support their lawmakers in the name of democracy and

"I hear that some people in the United States consider Turkey as sitting
at the epicenter of radicalism," Mr. Gu:len said. The new federation's
lobbying would aim "to reflect through sincere, pro-dialog and
open-minded people the true nature of Turkey's realities."

Write to Joe Lauria at [email protected]