Gulen's False Choice: Silence or Violence
When the enigmatic Turkish Islamist leader, M. Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the U.S., published, in the September 27 London Financial Times, an op-ed column with a clumsy turn from benevolent moderation to hard Islamist ambitions, he revealed his authentic character.
The topic was, probably predictably, the latest outburst of terrorism in Muslim countries, along with the pretext of indignation against a crude video made in the U.S. and which insulted Muhammad. The op-ed, entitled, "Violence is not in the tradition of the Prophet," emphasized, in the first seven (out of nine) paragraphs, that Muslims should not react to insults against Muhammad by destructive protests: "The violent response," he wrote, "was wrong… Muslims …must speak out [against] violence… The question we should ask ourselves as Muslims is whether we have introduced Islam and its Prophet properly to the world. Have we followed his example in such a way as to instill admiration?... [A Muslim] should respect the sacred values of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and others as he expects his own religion and values to be respected." So far, so good.
The true outlook of Fethullah Gulen, however, was revealed in his last two paragraphs: "Hate speech designed to incite violence is an abuse of the freedom of expression... [W]e should appeal to the relevant international institutions, such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] or the UN, to intervene, expose and condemn instances of hate speech. We can do whatever it takes within the law to prevent any disrespect to all revered religious figure, not only to the Prophet Muhammad. The attacks on the Prophet we have repeatedly experienced are to be condemned, but the correct response is not violence. Instead, we must pursue a relentless campaign to promote respect for the sacred values of all religions," Gulen proclaimed.
Gulen proposes, in so many words, adoption of international laws against blasphemy as an alternative to homicidal outbursts. And what would a "relentless campaign" involve other than disrespect for free speech? Presenting terrorist mobs and blasphemy codes as the principal alternatives for redress of offended Muslims' grievances is hardly reasonable, and conflicts with the reputation Gulen has sought to construct for himself and his followers as dedicated adherents to interfaith dialogue and tolerance of religious differences.
Gulen leads a massive, worldwide religious, journalistic, and educational network, known as Hizmet (Service). His movement is associated with the Istanbul daily newspaper Zaman (Time), which claims to be Turkey's largest in circulation. Zaman produces an English online edition, Today's Zaman, as well as media aimed at the overseas Turkish communities in Germany and Australia. Zaman also appears in locally-edited versions in countries, from the Balkans to Kyrgyzia, which possess either Turkish minorities, or are viewed as part of a pan-Turkish cultural sphere. Zaman has no problem with restrictive press rules under notorious dictatorships, such as, for example, that of the former Soviet Muslim republic of Turkmenistan, under the eccentric, coercive, and energy-rich regime established by its post-Communist autocrat, Suparmarat Niyazov (1940-2006). Zaman Turkmenistan, following the prevailing rules, has refrained from reporting news unfavorable to Niyazov's regime and its successors.
Gulen is doubtless best known outside Turkey for a system of science-oriented primary, secondary, and higher education institutions across the globe, including many operated as "charter schools," with local public financing, in the U.S. The Gulen school system in America – 120 establishments in 2012, according to The New York Times – has been questioned for its odd characteristics. (continue reading...)