Date posted: February 22, 2019
ROSS TWP., Pa. – A prayer room capped by an ornate domed ceiling is where Islam followers from across the world receive first hand teachings from their religious leader in Monroe County.
“If Mr. Gulen’s health is fine they get a chance to connect with him, visit with him, and watch him,” Alp Aslandogan said outside the campus’s main building.
The man is Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish religious leader who for the past 20 years has lived in self-imposed exile at the 26-acre former Turkish summer youth camp in Ross Township.
“It was a natural choice both quiet and tranquil. At the same time not too far away from the major metropolitan areas,” Aslandogan said.
Alp Aslandogan is the head of Alliance for Shared Values, a loose umbrella for 6 regional organizations started by Gulen sympathizers and Mr. Gulen’s top aide.
When asked about his thoughts on why he does not like the term “compound” he said “it brings to mind connotations that don’t match life here.”
Aslandogan said the religious retreat receives around 2,000 visitors per year. Some live on the property, some stay for a few days, while 69 News’ Bo Koltnow met several from Kyrgyzstan while touring the facility.
Inside the main building a digital prayer monitor shows the daily prayer schedule.
“He is encouraging all Muslims to have more dialogue, more engagement with fellow non-Muslims citizens so to have a common human experience,” Aslandogan said.
Aslandogan said Gulen is vehemently against radical Islam and opened his compound to Koltnow to change perceptions people may have of his life. Security cameras covered the property.
“The security cameras are installed especially after Turkish President began threatening Mr. Gulen and his sympathizers,” he said.
Security monitors extend to Mr. Gulen’s bedroom and visitors must pass through a manned gate to enter the property.
Turkish President Erdogan has accused Gulen of directing a failed coup in 2016 and other efforts to destabilize his regime. Gulen denies this.
Erdogan wants Gulen extradited but so far the U.S. hasn’t budged. Aslandogan said a team of lawyers are at Mr. Gulen’s disposal if the U.S. tried to force him back to Turkey.
Religious mementos surround Gulen’s inner sanctum where he writes his teachings and speeches. Next to those prized artifacts sits Gulen’s current reality, medication. He first came to the U.S. for health reasons. Aslandogan says the 80 year old’s health kept him from meeting with Koltnow.
Worldwide, Gulen has nearly a million followers, with about 50,000 in the U.S.
Around 150 U.S. charter schools have been started by his sympathizers.
He said criticism of Gulen and his work is mainly orchestrated by the Turkish government.
“Always supported the rule of law, always supported fundamental human rights and freedoms,” he said.
Click below link to watch the video.
Source: WFMZ-TV 69 News , January 25, 2019