Gulen Schools Worldwide

Gulen Schools Worldwide
Restore the Ottoman Caliphate. Disclaimer: if some videos are down this is the result of Gulen censorship which filed a fake copyright infringement to UTUBE.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gulen Movement by Carnegie Endowment, from social activism and politics

Since its election in 2002, the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has transformed Turkey. The reforms initiated by this conservative government with Islamic roots have amounted to a passive revolution—they have profoundly altered Turkish society, modernized its institutions, and strengthened its economy, which is now the sixteenth-largest in the world in terms of GDP.


Yet it would be a mistake to attribute the many successes that have enhanced Turkey’s role as a major regional and international player to AKP leadership alone. Erdoğan’s government has enjoyed support from a number of political organizations as well as from influential religious and social forces within Turkey. The most invaluable, but also the hardest to assess, is a movement that plays a fundamental role in Turkey’s social and religious life: the Gülen movement of Fethullah Gülen, referred to by the terms cemaat or hizmet.

The AKP and the Gülen movement established an alliance in 2002 based on a common desire to push back the central role of the military in the country and create a new, more conservative, and more Muslim Turkey. Each brought different skills to the task—Erdoğan and his AKP colleagues were experienced in political activism and electoral politics, while the Gülen movement used education and social activism to promote its objectives. This alliance was not without disagreements, but until recently common interests outweighed differences.

During the past few months, however, tensions have deepened between Erdoğan and the Gülenists in the realms of both domestic and foreign policy, causing speculation that the alliance is headed for a fundamental break. There can be no doubt that rifts have emerged over a variety of issues, from the rising power of the Gülen movement to the increasingly authoritarian actions of the prime minister. But talk of a complete break may well be premature.

The Gülen Movement

Fethullah Gülen emerged as a religious authority in Turkey in the 1970s, and little by little he became the spiritual leader of a vast community that now boasts an estimated 3 million sympathizers. Gülen, who moved to the United States in 1999, encourages his disciples to become modern, moderate Muslims. An adherent of free markets, he champions the Islamic faith and the spirit of capitalism. He is also a nationalist, seeking to boost Turkey’s influence and prestige abroad.

Gülen relies heavily on education to transmit his ideas, and he has formed a network of hundreds of schools and businesses worldwide. This network is active on every continent, including in the United States, where his sympathizers run approximately 130 charter schools, mainly in Texas.

He focuses his efforts on educating new generations and promoting the emergence of elites who are simultaneously pious, modern, patriotic, committed to globalization, and comfortable with economic success. Like the Jesuits and other missionaries who trained Turkey’s republican, Kemalist elites to value secularism and follow a Western path through the schools they founded at the end of the Ottoman Empire, Gülen aspires to use education to help forge new generation of Anatolian, conservative elites (or counterelites) that might play a key role in creating a modern, more openly Islamic Turkey.

For this reason, Gülenists have always given great importance to the training of elites. As far back as 1998, a study on relations between Turkey and the Turkic republics of Central Asia, where Gülen’s schools represented the best of Turkish policy in the region, showed that Central Asian students who were trained at Turkish police academies returned to Central Asia very familiar with Gülen’s religious and social ideas.

After emerging from Gülen’s schools, many of these elites have assumed key positions within the Turkish administration. Gülen’s disciples are influential in key institutional bureaucracies and the media. Many hold important positions in the state apparatus, the judiciary, the educational system, and key sectors of the Turkish economy. While the movement’s representatives do not deny the presence of sympathizers within state structures, they insist that this is not the result of any strategy to infiltrate the state apparatus and instead point to the fact that these educated individuals have reached high ranks in the civil service thanks to their work ethic and perseverance.

Political Influence

Indeed, the Gülen movement is quick to emphasize that it is essentially religious and social, not political. In practice, however, Gülen’s community is interested in politics. But it must refrain from coming across as partisan, which could divide its members, many of whom are attracted to Gülen’s religious discourse rather than to his ideas and political initiatives.

Still, over time the presence of Gülen’s disciples in the state apparatus has given the movement a significant amount of political influence, a development that may have contributed to the AKP’s desire to form an alliance. After coming to power, the AKP offered Gülen’s community its political and, especially, its symbolic backing, publicly supporting his educational initiatives in Turkey and abroad. In exchange, the AKP benefited from the social connectedness of Gülen’s movement and from the support of the media outlets with which the movement enjoys a close relationship.

And the alliance was based on more than just pragmatic concerns. The AKP and the Gülen movement also share the same social base—the rising Anatolian middle classes, which are morally conservative, economically market-oriented, and open to globalization. In addition, the religious conservatism of the AKP and the Gülen movement is directed against a common enemy: the Turkish army and the bureaucracy, which are dominated by the Kemalist intelligentsia. This has created an unwritten pact between the two groups, bolstering their complementarity.

Gülenists have been uncharacteristically active in the public debate on a new Turkish constitution, advocating for a political system that is more parliamentarian than presidential. The movement has also organized conferences and discussions in Turkey and abroad through its prestigious Abant Platform, which aims to strengthen democracy through dialogue.

Growing Tensions

For nearly ten years, the alliance between the AKP and the Gülen movement—natural and spontaneous, for the most part—has functioned well, but it is now showing increasing fragility, exacerbated by changes in the conditions and the sociopolitical context that initially gave rise to it. Indeed, the raison d’être for this alliance—the vital need for both groups to protect themselves against the Kemalist apparatus, embodied in particular by the army—is gradually disappearing. With support from the Gülenists, the ruling AKP has considerably reduced the role and power of the army, which no longer enjoys the political prerogatives that made it even recently the true power in the country. A host of other factors have also contributed to growing tensions, and the diametrically opposed temperaments of the two leaders—Erdoğan is impetuous and hot-tempered, and Gülen is prophetically calm—do not facilitate dialogue.

The first rift between the AKP and the Gülen movement was in the foreign policy arena. As prime minister, Erdoğan has cooled relations between Turkey and Israel for political, strategic, and ideological reasons. A crisis broke out between the two countries in May 2010 when a Turkish relief organization attempted to send a flotilla of humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of the Israeli government’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli navy boarded several ships of the flotilla, including the Turkish MV Mavi Marmara, and faced resistance from the activists aboard. Nine activists, including eight Turkish nationals, were killed.

Gülen publicly disapproved of the Turkish NGO’s initiative to break the Israeli blockade. He criticized the Turkish government for supporting it and distanced himself from the prime minister’s anti-Israel rhetoric. Indeed, Gülen’s community has always refrained from strongly criticizing Israel, in part because doing so would run counter to the ecumenical, interreligious discourse that has contributed to the movement’s global success. This stance also reflects the fact that the Gülen movement has a strong presence in the United States, where it enjoys backing from many friends of Israel, and this powerful American support reinforces its influence.

Gülen’s disapproval may also reflect the fact that the NGO that organized the flotilla, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, was close to the AKP and to some extent in competition with the Gülen movement’s own activities in the social sector.

On the domestic front, the two organizations have begun to clash with more frequency. The Turkish media report that the AKP government is increasingly annoyed and concerned that its decisionmaking power and sovereignty are being challenged by the growing influence of Gülen’s community on all government structures as well as on the police, judiciary, and public education system. But unlike the secular opposition, which responds vehemently to what the media call the infiltration of state structures by Gülen’s disciples, the AKP has reacted with restraint to avoid publicizing the emerging rivalry at the heart of the state.



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