Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

The Gülen Movement: an Islamic Opus Dei?

with 14 comments

Gramscianism of the Right.

Sometimes there are real gems of analytical  reporting on Radio Four.

There was one last night, by Edward Stourton.

It was about the Gülen movement.

“From Africa to Kazakhstan, a new Islamic network is attracting millions of followers – and billions of dollars. Inspired by a little-known Turkish Imam, the Gulen movement is linked to more than a thousand schools in 130 countries as well as think tanks, newspapers, TV and radio stations, universities – and even a bank. The movement’s critics claim its aim is to gain power and spread socially-conservative Islamic values around the globe. Its supporters say it’s just the expression of a modern, business-friendly Islam committed to human rights, democracy and providing education for some of the world’s poorest people.” 

Listen and information Here.

The leader of this movement  Fethullah Gülen claims to preach tolerance and interfaith dialogue. – site.

He has been  ‘voted’ “Top Intellectual”  in Prospect, but now faces investigation in the USA over his state-funded religious schooling network. – here.

Wikipedia reports, under ‘Critics’, this:

Several books have been published in Turkish since the 1990s criticizing Gülen and the Gülen movement. An increasing number of news articles address concerns about the expanding influence of the Gülen movement, both in Turkey and in other countries. Questions have arisen about the Gulen movement’s possible  involvement in the ongoing Ergenekon investigation.As Gareth H. Jenkins, Senior Fellow of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in April 2011:

From the outset, the pro-AKP media, particularly the newspapers and television channels run by the Gülen Movement such as Zaman, Today’s Zaman and Samanyolu TV, have vigorously supported the Ergenekon investigation. This has included the illegal publication of “evidence” collected by the investigators before it has been presented in court, misrepresentations and distortions of the content of the indictments and smear campaigns against both the accused and anyone who questions the conduct of the investigations.

There have long been allegations that not only the media coverage but also the Ergenekon investigation itself is being run by Gülen’s supporters. In August 2010, Hanefi Avcı, a right-wing police chief who had once been sympathetic to the Gülen Movement, published a book in which he alleged that a network of Gülen’s supporters in the police were manipulating judicial processes and fixing internal appointments and promotions. On September 28, 2010, two days before he was due to give a press conference to present documentary evidence to support his allegations, Avcı was arrested and charged with membership of an extremist leftist organization. He remains in jail. On March 14, 2011, Avcı was also formally charged with being a member of the alleged Ergenekon gang.

In March 2011, seven Turkish journalists were arrested, including Ahmet Sik, who was in the midst of writing a book, “Imamin Ordusu” (“The Imam’s Army”), which alleges that the Gulen movement has infiltrated the country’s security forces. As Sik was taken into police custody, he shouted, “Whoever touches it gets burned!” (referring to the Gulen movement). Upon his arrest, drafts of the book were confiscated and its possession was was banned. Sik has also been charged with being part of the Ergenekon plot.

I cannot but help be reminded of the way Opus Dei exerts its influence.

Or of the strategy the European Nouvelle Droite launched, called, a “Gramscianism of the Right”.

That is a slow process of struggle for cultural hegemony, political and financial power, within civil society and the state.

It also reminds me of the pretensions of the ‘post-Wahhabist” Jimas movement and its antennae in Ipswich. They claim to be creating a ‘community centre’ and are for ‘dialogue’ and ‘mutual understanding’.

All these groups have one thing in common: they want the power to mould people, and control over people’s lives.

Though doubtless their apologists would disagree – here.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

Posted in International, Islam, Islamism

Tagged with ,

14 Responses

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  1. in Germany during the 1980ies and early 1990ies, most groups of the Nurculuk tradition to which Gülen were generally interested in a close relationship to the SPD and were regarded as “moderates” (compared with the Süleymancılık and Milli Görüş) by the public, this changed in around 1992 when reports about cult-like structures of many Nurculuk associations in Germany became public


    May 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    • The impression of a cult-like structure was one I had got as well.

      Many people, particularly in public politics, want to think the best of any group that claims to be helping the community, and can organsie good works

      When it comes to Islam they are positively delighted to find someone calling for ‘dialogue’ ‘tolerance’ ‘peace’ and ‘understanding’.

      They are, it’s my impression, to hear what they want to hear.

      Cult-like groups, or indeed simply proselytising religious organisations, are all too aware of this and take full advantage.

      Unfortunately often these bodies have their own agendas, usually very right-wing ones.

      I am waiting for people in Ipswich to tumble on real religious views of the ‘post-Wahhabist’ Jimas in Ipswich.

      Mind you I’m not expecting speed.

      Suffolk can be slow: only a few years back the local Police co-operated with and backed an anti-drugs campaign launched by the Church of Scientology!

      Andrew Coates

      May 25, 2011 at 1:02 pm

  2. This is fascinating Andrew (and Ent). My dealings with the Gulenist movement in local politics in South London have been very positive, that they really practise what they preach in terms of interfaith dialogue and secularism in contrast to others, but that is based on quite a superficial encouter.

    I have read allegations from neoconservtive sources (e.g. the Michael Rubin article cited in the Wiki article) that they or their leader are antisemitic, but I have seen no evidence for this.

    They do seem to have cult-like features, but I am not sure whether any more than, say, the Bahais or Ahmadiyya. The danger they pose is mainly that they are a proselytising organisation rather than that they are politically pernicious. And, in fact, if they recruit other Sunni Muslims, and compete with Wahhabis, Deobandis and other reactionaries in this market, that’s probably more a good than a bad thing.

    The other factor that needs to be taken into account is the long ultra-nationalist secular period in Turkey, under which Gulen was repressed. This fostered some of the secretive practices they are associated with. It has also driven them to a strategic alliance with the AKP, because betweeen them they can shift the balance away from the ultra-nationalists.

    The association with the AKP is a legitimate source of mild concern from the secular left, and more serious is the apparent involvement of the Gulenists in the recent twist in the Ergenekon conspiracy theory (mentioned in your extract above – see also this interesting critical article http://www.tabletmag.com/news-and-politics/47950/veiled-threat/ )*. However, the notion that the alliance with the AKP is much more than a short-term strategic accomodation in the face of the common enemy on the ultra-nationalist right, is not supported by anything concrete I’ve seen. Gulen was, for example, critical of the Islamist IHH.

    In fact, the idea that the movement is close to the AKP is mainly promoted by right-wing ultra-nationalist sources, as well as some Turkish Jews who have a similar relationship to the ultra-nationalists as Gulen does to the AKP. That is why Zionist neoconservatives like Michael Rubin are happy to believe it, because it fits in with their panic about an anti-Israel AKP. (For an excessively positive view, see here: http://www.fethullah-gulen.org/op-ed/protocol-learned-elders.html )

    *Not that the Ergenekon conspiracy is completly a myth. It has been compared to Operation Gladio in Italy, and lots of Turkish leftists talk about it. The extracct you quote gives the impression that the Operation Cage Action Plan arrests have targeted the left, which I don’t think is true. The AKP has tried to link them to the PKK and the Revolutionary Headquarters, which are of course leftist, but I haven’t read anywhere that many leftists have been arrested – although I haven’t read that much so I may be completely wrong. More here: http://www.organizedrage.com/search?q=Ergenekon and http://tinyurl.com/Turkishleftdisoriented

    In other words, I think it is a little more complicated!


    May 25, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    • Just to add to the complications Bob and Sue, Trukey is not secularist in the French sense,

      “The mainstream Hanafite school of Sunni Islam is entirely organized by the state, through the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Religious Affairs Directorate), which supervises all mosques, educates the imams who work in them, and approves all content for religious services and prayers. It appoints imams, who are classified as civil servants.[12] This micromanagement of Sunni religious at times seems much more sectarian than secular as it violates the principle of state neutrality in religious practice. Groups that have expressed dissatisfaction with this situation include a variety of extra-governmental Sunni / Hanafi groups (such as the Nurci movement), whose interpretation of Islam tends to be more activist; and the non-Sunni Alevilik, whose members tend to resent supporting the Sunni establishment with their tax monies (the Turkish state does not subsidize Alevi religious activities).

      There is mandatory religious education for children deemed by the state to be Muslims – amount to de facto violations of secularism. ”

      The Alevis, a substantial 15 million minority of ‘heterodox’ belief, are not in this system and are effectively persecuted.

      The most famous Muslim anti-Alvei pogrom in modern times was the Sivas massacre (Turkish: Madımak Olayları or Sivas Katliamı) in 1993,

      “The attack took place not long after traditional Friday prayers, when the mob broke through police barricades to surround the Otel Madımak, where artists, writers and musicians had gathered to celebrate 16th century Alevi poet Pir Sultan Abdal. Reportedly angered by the presence of Aziz Nesin, a writer who had translated and published extracts from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the enraged fundamentalists surrounded the hotel, shouting “Death to the infidel!”[1] and threatening the assembled artists with lynching.[2] The hotel was set alight, and the fire claimed 35 lives, including those of musicians, poets, tourists and hotel staff, while assembled police did nothing to intervene.[3] Aziz Nesin was able to escape only because attackers initially failed to recognize him. According to reports, when rescuers eventually realized his identity, he was beaten by firemen while a city councilman from the Welfare Party shouted, “This is the devil we should have really killed.”


      Many Alevis are hard-line secularists, and many of those of Alevi background are leftists (including Kurds) who are agnostic or atheist.

      I know one, a Kurd: her eyes glistened when she told me the story of Siva.

      I don’t think Gulen, which is itself obviously indebted to pan-Turkic nationalism, stands with them.

      Andrew Coates

      May 26, 2011 at 10:55 am

  3. I just wonder what a ‘reformed’ Islam would look like and howd it would set about gaining support. i know nothing about teh Gulen apart from what I read on the BBC website, they are obviously pro-capitalist, but I just wonder how Islam will move on. If we had been around in the 15th century, what would we have thought of Martin Luther and the various religious factions active then?

    Sue R

    May 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm

  4. […] Comrade Coates has written another article on Islam here where he says “It also reminds me of the prententions of the ‘post-Wahhabist” Jimas […]

  5. Alevis were long time considered to be non-existing by the Turkish authorities, the state erected hundreds of Sunni mosques (with state-paid imams) in Alevi villages during the 70ies and 80ies, a period, when together with official Kemalism, the Turkish-Islamic synthesis was the 2nd, inofficial state ideology, also during this period, mainly due to state pressure, most of the remaining Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean christians and most Yezidis left Eastern Turkey/North-west Kurdistan (some have returned during the last years)

    for many Alevis, it is not a contradiction to be a Marxist and to participate in a Cem Ayini in the same time


    May 26, 2011 at 11:54 am

  6. Had not heard of this organisation until Radio 4 programme today. Checked out Gulen website and found an interesting article on how to combat fundamentalist conservative islamic terrorism in the uk – by promoting a tolerant enlightened islam (ie Gulen Sufism). Found it very measured and sensible so I rather believe the bona fides of this group unless there is hard evidence to suggest otherwise. If they are attracting hostility, it is perhaps because they are seen as a threat by those who advocate certain intolerant forms of secularism.


    May 31, 2011 at 1:40 am

  7. Secularism vs. Islamism:

    A range of the Worst to its dialectical opposite Worst. Atheist & Theist; Agnostic & Gnostic – all wrong, all lost.

    These dialectical thinkers are stuck in the old Pharisee-Sadducee mold: they are stuck on themselves. They cannot believe nor can they disbelieve; they cannot know nor can they doubt. Since the process of “doubt” is beyond them, they can’t separate the Certainty from the Uncertainty of their situation – they have no Rock to stand on.

    In their fruitless dialectical debates, they use each other as straw men to define themselves. Rising only to take bows for a polished argument, they sit inside a Closed Space counting seconds go by. They’re blind. They’re deaf. They’re Lost.

    Best Regards,

    Frank Hatch
    Initial Mass Displacements

    Frank Hatch

    June 2, 2011 at 12:58 am

  8. these “gulen” schools are a propaganda front for islam which is dangerous no matter how it is packaged. muslims do not assimilate into western society because islam is a theocracy and demands supremacy.

    the twin fogs of political correctness & ignorance must be dispersed before western society better understands this menace. even a brief review of islamic theology & history quickly exposes the deadly roots of this evil ideology.

    see the links in the pdf version below for more accurate info about islam

    islam is a horrible ideology for human rights

    5 key things about islam

    1. mythical beliefs – all religions have these (faith) because its part of being a religion: having beliefs without proof until after the believer dies. the problem is people will believe almost anything.

    2. totalitarianism – islam has no seperation of church and state: sharia law governs all. there is no free will in islam: only submission to the will of allah as conveniently determined by the imams who spew vapors to feather their own nests. there are no moderate muslims: they all support sharia law.

    3. violence – islam leads the pack of all religions in violent tenets for their ideology & history: having eternal canonical imperatives for supremacy at all costs and calling for violence & intimidation as basic tools to achieve these goals.

    4. dishonesty – only islam has dishonesty as a fundamental tenet: this stems from allah speaking to mohamhead & abrogation in the koran which is used to explain how mo’s peaceful early life was superseded by his warlord role later.

    5. misogyny – present day islam is still rooted in 8th century social ethics: treating females as property of men good only for children, severely limiting their activities, dressing them in shower curtains and worse.

    conclusions ??

    there really are NO redeeming qualities for this muddled pile of propaganda.

    islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

    graphics version

    1 page pdf version – do file/download 6kb viewer doesn’t show fonts well, has better fonts header footer links, great for emailing printing etc

    ecks why

    June 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm

  9. interesting article on the topic in German: http://kurdistan.blogsport.de/2012/02/21/islamischer-schulterschluss/

    despite tensions: AKP confirms alliance with Gülen


    February 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    • In English about this: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/17/us-turkey-kurds-idUSTRE81G0HT20120217

      “Reuters) – A prosecutor’s investigation of Turkey’s top spy has exposed a deep rift between police and the intelligence agency which could scupper efforts to end a Kurdish separatist insurgency and damage the government’s democratization efforts.

      The crisis, driven by police concern about the activities of National Intelligence Agency (MIT) spies uncovered by police operations against Kurdish militants, has also fed speculation, denied by both sides, of a row between the government and an influential Islamic movement.”

      Andrew Coates

      February 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm

  10. […] connus pour être farouchement opposés au mouvement Gülen (l’un d’eux l’a comparé à l’Opus dei) ont été arrêtés et accusés de terrorisme, dans le cadre des procès contre […]

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