Date posted: August 22, 2016
Fethullah Gulen is a 77-year old Turkish Muslim scholar who has been living in self-exile in Pennsylvania for the past two decades. His ideas are the source of influence for hundreds of thousands of people who were inspired by him to make the world a better place through education, ending poverty, and uniting people through common universal values. Gulen’s ideas started becoming popular in Turkey in the 1970’s. Those that were influenced by him began to establish schools, hospitals, charity organizations and other social development institutions in different parts of Turkey.
By the 90’s, such people, by then called Gulen-followers, were moving to different countries around the world (mostly poor countries at first). Initially they were only opening schools but later other institutions as well such as hospitals, charity organizations, interfaith dialogue centers and many other types of establishments to contribute to society.
Throughout all of these decades, Gulen’s ideas and ideals have never changed in their essence or in the ways they were carried out. Some 170 countries around the world, which all contain different types of Gulen-inspired establishments, are a witness to this truth. Gulen, whose ideas have Sufi roots as well, has always called for peaceful and grassroots type methods to better society.
To point the finger at Gulen for being the mastermind behind the coup in Turkey could not be farther from the truth. Gulen understands the verse from the Quran “killing one person is like killing all of humanity*” as a straightforward verse with no gray areas to it. The individual cannot be sacrificed for the “greater good.” In his statement after 9/11, Gulen used an analogy saying that if a ship contains nine criminals and one innocent person, that ship cannot be sunk according to Islam for the sake of the one innocent person. How could such a man give command to an army (if he could even have such access) to march down on streets full of civilians with war tanks and helicopters? Such an action would not only go against everything he has done and preached his whole life, but it would also finish the global movement he has inspired.
Although there is no direct link between Gulen and the works of his followers, a coup in Turkey that is affiliated with Gulen, whether successful or not, would directly affect them and their works, eventually leading to the movement’s demise. It is also important to note that Gulen himself has lived through 4 coups in Turkey during his lifetime and was even imprisoned during one of them. Seeing the effects of coups firsthand, he has always been categorically against them and supported the rule of democracy.
In his interview with the prominent French newspaper Le Monde, Gulen has called the July 15 events in Turkey a “terror coup.” As a man who has always condemned terrorism and violence in any shape or form, to which his life’s work is evidence, it is hard to believe that Gulen could have had the slightest connection to the coup.
*The Qur’an, Al-Maide 5.32