Strategic defamation of Fethullah Gülen: English vs. Turkish

Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz


Date posted: December 13, 2013

İHSAN YILMAZ

In my last piece, I elaborated on how a Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy took part in a psychological war campaign in Turkey to present the Hizmet movement to the Turkish people as something that is dirty and that has dubious relations with Jews, Israel and the US at the expense of Turkey, Iran and the Kurds.

Today, I will refer to quantitative research done my Dr. Doğan Koç of the University of Houston. I must confess that I copied and pasted the title of his academic paper that was published in the European Journal of Economic and Political Studies verbatim — “Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gülen: English vs. Turkish.” I will continue to do this copy and paste business and will try to summarize his paper below.

Dr. Koç’s literature review shows that in English articles Gülen is portrayed as a danger to the Western world who is trying to establish an Islamic caliphate by using religiously sanctioned dissimulation (taqiyya) as his main strategy, although there are exceptions. According to these articles, Gülen is anti-Western and anti-Semitic. Most of these articles argue that while Gülen is promoting tolerance, understanding and interfaith dialogue, in reality, he is secretly establishing his caliphate. There are several themes and vehicles that are systematically described over and over in these defamatory English articles, including the Trojan Horse; the guise of moderate Islam and interfaith dialogue; the similarity to Khomeini; overthrowing the Turkish secular government and establishing an Islamic state; the resurrection of a New Ottoman Empire and universal caliphate; infiltration into the United States; and, recently, training Islamist militia in the US. While most of these defamatory articles cover almost identical themes, and often refer to each other, one or more are selected and underlined in each article.

Unlike the English versions, in the Turkish versions of these articles, Gülen is portrayed as an American/Zionist puppet who is being used by Westerners to destroy Turkey and Islam and to exploit Muslim populations. Some of these articles even argue that Gülen is not Muslim and that he works for the papacy. Though there are articles that claim Gülen is trying to establish an Islamic state in the secular Turkish Republic, especially earlier ones, the majority of the writings run in the opposite direction.

In addition to his qualitative analysis, Dr. Koç also does a quantitative analysis. His dataset includes 436 cases in both English and Turkish. These cases include books, journals, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs and website postings. Dr. Koç has formulated two operational variables and coded the texts accordingly. Gülen1: American/Zionist/Vatican agent and Gülen2: Islamist/Khomeini/New Ottoman/Caliphate. He then ran a statistical calculation on the dataset, which shows that in 98 percent of the Turkish articles Gülen is portrayed as an American/Zionist/Vatican agent (Gülen1). In only 2 percent of the Turkish articles is Gülen shown as an Islamist/Khomeini/New Ottoman/Caliphate advocate (Gülen2). But in the English articles, the case is the opposite. While Gülen is portrayed as Gülen1 in 11 percent of the English articles, he is presented as Gülen2 (Islamist/Khomeini/New Ottoman/Caliphate advocate) in 89 percent of the English articles.

Dr. Koç’s review and statistical analyses show very clearly that the defamation of Gülen and the Hizmet movement is being strategically operated. Gülen is simultaneously portrayed as an Islamic danger who is secretly trying to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and caliphate (in English) and as an American and Zionist puppet who is destroying Turkey and Islam with his “moderate Islam” (in Turkish). It appears that these strategies have been developed over time in order to convince specific and different audiences. While the depiction of an Islamic danger who is secretly trying to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and caliphate is more alarming for English-language readers, the depiction of an American and Zionist puppet who is destroying Turkey and Islam with his moderate Islam is likely aimed at manipulating Turkish-language readers.

Source: Today's Zaman , December 13, 2013


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