Turkey to seek cleric Fethullah Gulen’s extradition

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Fethullah Gulen were once close allies

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Fethullah Gulen were once close allies

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Turkey is to start extradition proceedings against US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Mr Gulen, a former ally of the prime minister, has been accused by Mr Erdogan of using his supporters to try to topple him.

The cleric denies mounting a campaign against him.

Turkey’s government has faced a string of corruption scandals and rights groups accuse it of authoritarianism.

Speaking at parliament after meeting with deputies from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) party on Tuesday, Mr Erdogan confirmed the extradition process “will begin”, reports say.

The Turkish PM was speaking hours after an interview with US broadcaster PBS, in which he said he hoped the US would deport Mr Gulen and send him back to Turkey.

It was his first interview with foreign media since his party claimed victory in local elections last month.

Hizmet movement

  • Hizmet (“service”) is the Turkish name of what is commonly known as the Gulen movement
  • The movement is inspired by the teachings of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the US
  • Gulen is a mainstream Sunni Hanafi Muslim scholar, influenced by Anatolian Sufism
  • There is no formal structure but Hizmet followers are numbered in the millions, spread across more than 150 countries
  • First expanded into Central Asia after the USSR’s demise in 1991

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2 replies

  1. Good governance is a necessity of each country. The leaders have to be just and fair and open minded and at the same time have good and long term strategy for national security issues.

  2. On the issue of Fetullah Gulen’s Extradition, many in Turkey and even in the West believe that the Turkish government is desperately attempting to shift the public debate away from the big corruption scandal against the Government. Erdoğan is resorting to all kind of political tactics to move the public discussion away from graft investigations that involve Erdogan, his son Bilal and his ministers.

    Legal experts in Turkey have said that there is no criminal investigation, pending prosecution or any other judicial process ongoing in Turkey related to Gulen, refuting claims raised once again by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about Gülen’s possible extradition from the US, where he now lives in Pennsylvania.

    Many in Turkey also questioned the timing of the move targeting Gülen, asking why the government has waited until now if there are serious allegations incriminating the Islamic scholar. No one wants to believe Erdoğan after Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 of last year, when two corruption investigations were made public.

    The following are my own comments on the current & unfortunate crisis in Turkey:

    I have keenly watched over the past many months, the Muslim world media, Western media coverage and world-wide comments on the recent crisis in Turkey including Erdogan’s actions and reactions, discussions on Hizmet global social movement and Fetullah Gulen’s recent interviews. I wanted to explore further the current situation in Turkey. Prior to all this I have had access to and reviewed the writings of many Muslim-world intellectuals and writers. I also have attended Hizmet international conferences and debates over the past 10 years and exchanged ideas with many Muslim-world and Turkish intellectuals/scholars most of whom are living in the US or periodically visit US.

    I found myself on the same page with most scholars/intellectuals, and my differences of opinion with them were rare or small. My opinions are lately and increasing different from Erdogan’s even if I have admired and appreciated his reforms in Turkey during his first two terms. All this present turmoil in Turkey in my view is not really the issue of Gulen versus Erdogan .It is indeed an issue of two Islams prevalent in the Muslim World and increasingly being discussed by Muslim and Non-Muslim intellectuals around the world. It is civic (moderate and true) Islam versus cancerous political Islam, a single party-state in Turkey today versus transformed Turkish civil society, and democracy versus authoritarianism.

    The recent local elections and victory of AKP local leaders was made to look like Erdogan’s personal victory which it was not as the future should reveal sooner or later. Many local leaders who were victorious in recent local elections, even if apparently from AKP, were still respecting of Hizmet as a non-political civil society movement not only for Turkey and Muslim world but also for the rest of the evolving and globalizing world.
    Political parties and politicians are supposed to be responsible and accountable to the civil society and its people. Civil society has no reason to set up a parallel government as the government and the politicians work for the people and the civil society.

    Turkey’s political image over the last decade (first two terms) had been built on the promised mission of servant political leadership, AKP claiming to be new and a clean political party (founded in 2001) and backed by transformational Hizmet civil society movement since 1960s that was initially inspired by Bedi-uz-Zaman Nursi (1877-1960) a legendary non-political civic leader and also one of the greatest Turkish Public Muslim scholars and intellectuals who to begin with and actually inspired Hoja Effendi Fetullah Gulen himself .

    The comparison of Erdogan’s own leadership and his party’s first two terms with the present third term is made by focusing on his rising as a star of democratic reforms made by him over the decade and his being a role model for the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and the Muslim world. As proclaimed at the founding of AKP, Erdogan and his colleagues had combined hizmet inspired civic and public Islam and democracy with successful economy. Closure of previous Islamist political parties occurred and ban of Islamist politicians from political life in Turkey had played a major role in redirecting their movements and framing their agendas correctly in terms of democracy, pluralism, civic Islam and human rights. Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had rejected defining the AKP in religious terms and called the party agenda “conservative democracy”. A definite shift from “political Islam” to “conservative democracy” in the AKP had seemingly been realized as a result of this evolution of Turkey’s economy, which furthered an entrepreneurial Muslim bourgeoisie in Anatolia (called Anatolian Tigers) initiated earlier under the admirable leadership of Turgut Özal in the 1980s.

    Over the last two years political regression in Turkey unfortunately began. It has, amongst multiple other issues, also faced the biggest “corruption scandal” of the country’s history on December 17, 2013. The investigation on corruption has deeply damaged the image of the AKP and Erdogan not only in Turkey but also in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) CACS (Central Asia and Caucasus States) and the rest of Muslim World where Turkey was beginning to be seen as a source of inspiration. Furthermore, the actions and reactions of Prime Minister are giving the impression that he is backtracking on each and every reform step achieved by him and his party presently is just trying to cover up the corruption scandal.

    Erdogan’s third term has indeed been sadly and increasingly authoritarian, with radical Islamist tendencies, multiple anti-governmental civil protests and chaos. Finally, the misinterpreted “power struggle “ idea between the Hizmet civil society movement and Erdogan is unfortunate as being presented to evaluate negative repercussions of these developments not only on the domestic and regional policies but also on the image of Turkey as a “Role Model” in the MENA, Muslim world and developing nations around the globe.

    Turkey as a democratic country was most certainly helping to reconcile civic and public Muslims with confidence, autonomy, pluralism and success. Every one praised Turkey as a role model, which would have been eventually followed by Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and other Arab countries in the post-Arab spring era. Yet, Turkey’s “role model” in the MENA, CACS and other Muslim nations is becoming questionable to many owing to the emerging and chaotic environment.

    Deterioration of Turkey’s relations with some countries of the MENA and disappearance of mediator role that was being played, the corruption scandal, mismanagement of the process which is now harming previous democratization efforts, destabilizing effects of these political developments on its economy is now lessening the attractiveness of Turkey as a role model for the countries of the Muslim world which have already suffered from deprivation of human rights, bad governance and instability for a long time.

    It is obvious to say that economic stability cannot be secured or maintained without democracy and good governance. Challenging days ahead are thus still waiting for Turkey. If the AKP continues to deviate from its original promise of democratization and Civil Societal path as a result of these events, it will fail what it has achieved not only on the way to democratization, economic success and its good image and reputation as a role model for the Muslim world but also its advantage with better possibilities that could have come on the way to its success needed to achieve EU membership. Turkey, during Erdogan’s first two terms in the office as a prime minister remained an example of the compatibility of civic Islam and democracy. However, Events since June 2011 (start of Erdogan’s third term) began slowly but surely to tarnish Turkey’s democratic credentials.

    The relationship between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen (actually the Turkish state and civil society)has been a focus of Muslim world Media and much of the recent US and Western media coverage of the events in Turkey. However, the media coverage worldwide has by and large neglected to explore the deep philosophical differences between (the one-party state and civil society) personalizing to these two men and their narratives ( radical VS civic) that they represented. These visions need to be correctly and importantly understood in the Muslim world and also in the West.

    Gulen movement is absolutely non-political most appropriately called Hizmet movement , not unlike Bedi-uz- Zaman’s Nurcu movement, is rooted in the Prophetic and mystical tradition of Islam with a focus on education, individual and collective human transformation, civil society and cultural projects while Erdogan (as it turns out after two terms) still remains an advocate for political Islam and its desire for political power eventually leading to an “Islamic State”. This is not unlike numerous Islamist political parties in the present day Muslim World with hidden agendas like Mohamed Morse of Egypt. The military coups and dictatorships are not certainly the solution to Political Islamism.

    Erdogan had indeed been associated with political Islam in Turkey since the 1970s, and came to power in 2002 with the promise of pluralism, full democracy and the rule of law. His Justice and Development Party (the AKP), having a core leadership associated with the tradition of political Islam in Turkey, campaigned on a platform that on moral and practical grounds they had given up much of that tradition and attracting a wider following within the soft secular Turkish society. Erdogan himself made it known that he was permanently leaving behind the robe of political Islam. In the decade that followed, this promise slowly began to fade. Despite the current corruption charges against Erdogan and some of his leading ministers, today, Erdogan again holds the very mantle of political Islam in Turkey and seems to have lost his tolerance for any criticism or opposition. Erdogan’s personal attacks against Fetullah Gulen who remains an advocate for an unwavering moderate and civic Islam, show that the AKP government has become similar to that which it originally sought to overthrow: the authoritarian laicism (radical top-down secularism) controlling the Turkish state.

    Erdogan was an early follower of the founder of Turkish political Islam and cut his political teeth as head of the youth student organization of a party espousing political Islam. Turkish political Islam still views Europe in general, and the European Union specifically, as inherently anti-Islamic and thus not a union for Turkey to join. This view is not shared by Fetullah Gulen, who finds that the essence of Islam necessitates internal Muslim unity and dialogue with Christians, Jews and others seeing Turkey’s entrance into the European Union as a practical step towards dialogue and reconciliation with the West. Gulen sees cooperation with the West as necessary for Turkey’s and Muslim world’s harmonious future. Political Islamists in Turkey continuously attack Gulen for his dialogue with Christians and Jews.

    For Turkish political Islam, politics is the main goal and people in this tradition still believe that through politics they can bring about an “Islamic state”. Further, the state is infused with holiness and is the true and only defender of Islam — hence, for the sake of the state, some injustices can be justified and individual rights can be sacrificed. In the prophetic and mystical tradition of Islam, the establishment of an Islamic state is not a mandatory goal or a requirement in the modern age of twenty first century. The adherents of civic Islam believe every human is a universe and as such deserves freedom of conscious and utmost respect. What is most important in the prophetic tradition and model is service and increasing social harmony among Muslims and throughout the world including all of humanity.

    The idea of an Islamic State to begin with was derived from the unique position that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself held in Madina, where he concurrently exercised political, military and religious leadership. But total mixing of religion and the state is untenable in this day and age because none of us can be a prophet or even a caliph in the likes of Rashidun. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) being the Prophet (in the 7th century) was privileged to holding all of that authority at once, and Muslims today do not expect or even accept the possibility of another Prophet in this age or in the future. However, the compact of Medina (one of first written constitutions in the world) gave equal citizenship to all believers and non-believers in the 7th century. The non-believers were also equal signatories to the Madina constitution (Meesaq-e-Madina) with equal political rights. Thus Madani civil society (ummah) to begin with was inclusive of all faiths and even no faith. The concept of ummah was and is supposed to be a democratic community of communities (ummah of democracy combining ummah Islamiya and ummah Insaniya) exemplified by the prophet (pbuh) himself. Quranic verse 2:213 “ Kanun Naso ummatan Wahdatun” absolutely confirms this.

    The Prophet (pbuh) himself had indeed laid the groundwork for an all inclusive “universal community” or ummah that was subsequently corrupted by the political imperatives to subdue people of other faiths and by a misreading of traditional sources lost sight of their original pluralistic intent over the centuries. 

By reclaiming the truly moderate and civic Islamic belief system today that all human beings are “equals in creation,” the Muslim communities have the potential to serve as a faith-based model that calls for justice, fairness and peaceful co-existence around the world through the creation of pluralistic, and democratic global institutions.

    The recent blunders of Erdogan and of some amongst the leadership of AKP seem to be sending mixed signals to the world besides the internal political feud. On the one hand, Erdogan recently visited Brussels and talked in the Western media like someone who is sincere about Turkey wanting to join the European Union in the near future. On the other hand, in Turkey, Erdogan continues to crack down on any threat to his personal party rule and has slowed down and even blocked many democratic and civil society institutions.

    The current disagreement between Erdogan and Gulen should make it clear that these two men do not share a similar philosophical understanding of Islam. Such philosophical differences are not uncommon in rest of the Muslim world. Hence to simply paint them as two sides of the same coin is a gross misreading of these two men and the narratives they represent. The non-political nature of the Hizmet Gulen movemant compared to the current re-awakening of Erdogan’s political Islamic thought in Turkey marks a crucial and serious divergence between these two Islamic narratives. To this day, the Hizmet saw its mission as a societal one considering it to be a grassroots-oriented civil society movement. Its long-term agenda had been to create a pious (golden) generation of Muslims. Education, the media, private sector entrepreneurialism and civil society were supposed to be the major areas of Hizmet activism, not the state or politics. Yet the Gülen movement has been more and more dragged into politics in the last several years, partly previously as a result of the polarization of Turkish politics between Laicism and earlier Islamism and presently and directly between Civic Islam and cancerous radical political Islam.

    Radical Political Islam is a real danger and threat to the individual Muslim nations, the Muslim world and the rest of the world as a result of chaos it creates as a result of internal & external medalling . An Islamic world united from within will ensure internal and world peace preventing radicals from moving toward a clash of civilizations based upon their ideologies of self-interest and conflict.

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