Chicago organization welcomes new scrutiny amid fallout of failed Turkish military coup

Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen speaks to members of the media at his compound on July 17 in Saylorsburg, Pa. PHOTO: CHRIS POST/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen speaks to members of the media at his compound on July 17 in Saylorsburg, Pa. PHOTO: CHRIS POST/ASSOCIATED PRESS


Date posted: July 20, 2016

DAWN RHODES

Renewed attention to an exiled Turkish Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating a failed coup last week could mean a brighter light on a Chicago group that promotes his brand of social activism.

Fethullah Gulen is the honorary president of the Niagara Foundation, based in Chicago with branches in nine Midwestern states. The organization was founded in 2004 by a group of Turkish businessmen and educators in Mount Prospect to forge interfaith, inter-cultural collaborations and dialogues, in line with Gulen’s philosophies.

Niagara is part of what many call Hizmet, more popularly known as the Gulen Movement, which endorses tenets such as democracy, religious tolerance and free markets.

Once the coup attempt was subdued, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly focused his ire on Gulen, an ally-turned-enemy who now lives in a small town 90 miles north of Philadelphia. The U.S. has resisted calls from Turkish leaders to extradite Gulen to Turkey thus far, but Niagara Foundation leaders feel Erdogan and his administration are gearing up for a widescale censure of Gulen supporters.

“Erdogan has already won. There won’t be any meaningful opposition to his witch hunt against opposition groups from now on,” the group wrote on its website Monday. “Having attained complete loyalty from Turkish state and civil society structures, Erdogan’s next stop is likely to be the Turkish diaspora overseas.”

Board member Scott Alexander said groups like Niagara began emerging particularly after the Sept. 11 attacks when anti-Islam rhetoric was on the rise.

“Fethullah Gulen was teaching not only the value of education but that you have to be engaged in dialogue,” said Alexander, who teaches Islamic Studies at the Catholic Theological Union, a graduate school in Hyde Park. “The religion of Islam was being hijacked by these terrorists. Gulen was not a big fan of certain interpretations of Islam, even nonviolent, ultra-conservative interpretations. Gulen’s understanding was much broader than that.”

Eventually, Niagara began organizing events designed to bring together various faith leaders for discussions, Alexander said. The group also sponsored trips to Turkey. Niagara now coordinates smaller Hizmet movements in the Midwest. Other groups, including the Pacifica Institute and Peace Islands Institute, perform similar organizing roles for other regions throughout the country.

All of them converge under the umbrella group of the Alliance for Shared Values, based in New York. Members of that organization also have the most direct contact with the reclusive Gulen, who rarely does public appearances or interviews.

Among Niagara’s board of directors are Bulent Aydogan, a University of Chicago associate professor of radiation and cellular oncology, and Ozgur Berberoglu, a senior engineer at Caterpillar Inc. Niagara’s advisory board includes several leaders in local media and higher education, including from Northwestern, DePaul and Loyola universities and ABC 7 Chicago, WTTW and the Daily Herald.

Gulen’s sphere of influence has attracted renewed scrutiny as the fallout from the unsuccessful military takeover continues. Thousands of people have been arrested for trying to oust Erdogan, who has long been criticized for using autocratic tactics.

Erdogan’s administration alleged that Gulen helped plan the government overthrow and also accused the U.S. itself as being behind the military action. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Luxembourg that the U.S. would consider any extradition request if Turkish leaders presented conclusive evidence of Gulen’s involvement in any wrongdoing.

“(Secretary Kerry) made clear that the United States would be willing to provide assistance to Turkish authorities conducting this investigation, but that public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Gulen has denied being involved in the failed coup.

“Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” Gulen said in a statement issued through the Alliance for Shared Values. “As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt.”

“For more than 40 years, Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet participants have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, peace and democracy,” Alliance leaders said in a corresponding statement. “We have consistently denounced military interventions in domestic policies. These are core values of Hizmet participants. Comments by pro-Erdogan circles about the movement are highly irresponsible.”

Still, Alexander said there may be a silver lining to the most recent controversy surrounding Gulen and Hizmet.

“The Hizmet movement has nothing to hide,” Alexander said. “We’re hoping people can learn more about it. Since Gulen is being accused of this, there will be greater scrutiny of the Hizmet movement, and we invite that scrutiny.”

Source: Chicago Tribune , July 19, 2016


Related News

Young Peace Ambassadors Academy 2015 Graduation Ceremony

Peace Islands Institute launched the Young Peace Ambassadors Academy (YPAA), which is a peace education program for the middle and high school students in the New York City. The aim of this 6-weeks intense leadership program is to provide a space platform for the students, who are interested in the social science, to learn about the global issues and United Nations.

Gülen: The coup attempt was an outrageous scenario constructed by Erdoğan

“Last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey [was] nothing but a false flag orchestrated by Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan and his henchmen to create a pretext for [the] mass persecution of critics and opponents in a state of perpetual emergency,” SCF concluded.

Religious leaders in Philippines defend Turkish NGOs being linked to terrorism

De La Salle Philippines president Bro. Armin Luistro and leaders of religious groups on Tuesday expressed support to two non-government organizations being linked to terrorist organizations, noting the NGOs’ track records in peace-building.

Second Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Reception & Award Ceremony

Peace Islands Institute organizes a Law Enforcement Appreciation Reception & Award Ceremony in different cities along the east coast to express gratitude to law enforcement heroes for their service and protection of our communities.

Protests against likely closure of Pak-Turk schools in Pakistan

The Pak-Turk school network students and their parents’ protested against the likely closure of the educational set-up following the two-day state visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the federal government’s decision to deport teachers affiliated with Pak-Turk International Schools and Colleges.

Jews and Muslims Break Their Fasts Together

Romy Zipken On Tuesday night, in a large, floral wallpapered room on the second floor of Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope, about 200 people came together for the Tisha B’Av fast break and the Ramadan iftar. Tired, thirsty, and hungry, they could have just stayed home. But they didn’t. Some brought their families, and some came […]

Latest News

ECtHR rules Bulgaria violated rights of Turkish journalist who was deported despite seeking asylum

Fethullah Gülen’s Message of Condolences in the Wake of the Western European Floods

Pregnant woman kept in prison for 4 months over Gülen links despite regulations

Normalization of Abduction, Torture, and Death in Erdogan’s Turkey

Turkey’s Maarif Foundation illegally seized German-run school in Ethiopia, says manager

Failed 2016 coup was gov’t plot to purge Gülenists from state bodies, journalist claims

Grondahl: Turkish community strong in wake of threats from back home

Turkish-Kyrgyz educator’s abduction shows Ankara’s ruthless disregard for law: HRW

Kenya: Investigate Deportation of Turkish National

In Case You Missed It

Construction of Turkish hospital in Haiti begins

Kimse Yok Mu delivered aid to Arakan Muslims

American academic: Hizmet Movement serves for entire humanity

Students give International Turkish Olympiad a moving sendoff

Hüseyin Gülerce: I have to respond to Mr. Barlas

Fethullah Gulen writes in WSJ: Muslims Must Combat the Extremist Cancer

UN 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News