A Frolic with Fethullah Gülen

 

1420635133955My fellow editors asked me if I’d care to comment on Fethullah Gülen’s op-ed in The New York Times. I was uncertain whether I could do it without violating our Code of Conduct. I considered whether I might be able to get away with a few choice words in Turkish, but thought, “No, the Code of Conduct is sacred in every language.” I decided words like the ones I reckoned this inspired in Turkey really were too trashy. No need for that. So I offer just simple a rejoinder, seeing as the Times didn’t see fit to publish a rebuttal side-by-side–or even a clue who this writer is. Had they done so, I would have considered it perfectly acceptable. As it stands, I can interpret it only one of two ways: Charitably, they’re so stupid they don’t even read their own reporting. Less charitably, they’ve fallen in line with Our Thug, but for reasons so cynical–and stupidly cynical–they don’t even rise to the intellectual respectability of the word Realpolitik.

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. — It is deeply disappointing to see what has become of Turkey in the last few years.

Yes, it is. I lived there during that time, unlike you.

Not long ago, it was the envy of Muslim-majority countries…

No, it was not.

…a viable candidate for the European Union

No, it was not.

…on its path to becoming a functioning democracy

No, it was not.

…that upholds universal human rights,

No, it was not.

….gender equality,

No, it was not.

…the rule of law

No, it was not.

…and the rights of Kurdish and non-Muslim citizens.

No, it was not.

This historic opportunity now appears to have been squandered as Turkey’s ruling party, known as the A.K.P., reverses that progress and clamps down on civil society, media, the judiciary and free enterprise.

You found all of this very exciting and pleasing until they came for you, didn’t you? Yes, you did.

Turkey’s current leaders seem to claim an absolute mandate by virtue of winning elections.

Yes, they do. You once found that a very satisfactory argument.

But victory doesn’t grant them permission to ignore the Constitution or suppress dissent,

No, it does not. But you sure thought it did, pretty recently.

…especially when election victories are built on crony capitalism and media subservience.

Yes, as you know, because you did that quite well, until they came for you.

The A.K.P.’s leaders now depict every democratic criticism of them as an attack on the state.

Wonder where they learned to do that? Oh yes, from you, and you both learned it from your elders. That’s what people in power in Turkey tend to do, you know. That’s why it wasn’t such a great idea to encourage anything that concentrated power in their hands. But you were fine with that until it had the predictable consequences. I reckon no one at the New York Times is wondering about the predictable consequences of getting behind you now, either, but I can tell them. They’re not good.

By viewing every critical voice as an enemy — or worse, a traitor — they are leading the country toward totalitarianism.

You’d be much more convincing on this score if you hadn’t been for this until they came for you.

The latest victims of the clampdown are the staff, executives and editors of independent media organizations who were detained and are now facing charges made possible by recent changes to the laws and the court system.

Your guys, in other words. So it’s different this time, I guess.

The director of one of the most popular TV channels, arrested in December, is still behind bars.

Shocking, that it happened to one of your guys. I guess that possibility never occurred to you.

Public officials investigating corruption charges have also been purged and jailed for simply doing their jobs.

Imagine that—public officials jailed and purged for doing their jobs. That’s really new, isn’t it? Some people thought it was wrong the last time that happened, too. But you were really in favor of that. Why the change of heart?

An independent judiciary, a functioning civil society and media are checks and balances against government transgressions.

I would have said so. But somehow, you’re still in America, despite our having these things.

Such harassment sends the message that whoever stands in the way of the ruling party’s agenda will be targeted by slander, sanctions and even trumped-up charges.

Guess you’d be the expert on that.

Turkey’s rulers have not only alienated the West,

Unfortunately, you’re too smart for that. And we’re so dumb we’re falling for it.

…they are also now losing credibility in the Middle East.

Well, so’s America, because we’re dumb enough to publish things like your op-eds, so we’re in good company, I guess.

Turkey’s ability to assert positive influence in the region depends not only on its economy but also on the health of its own democracy.

Keep selling that idea. It’s a proven sales winner.

The core tenets of a functioning democracy — the rule of law, respect for individual freedoms — are also the most basic of Islamic values bestowed upon us by God.

Doesn’t matter who you really are: In America, that line will endear you to the New York Times, every single time.

No political or religious leader has the authority to take them away.

Well, you once thought you did, but I’m glad this change in your fortunes has given you pause.

It is disheartening to see religious scholars provide theological justification for the ruling party’s oppression and corruption or simply stay silent.

It was disheartening to me when you did it, too. I understand that feeling.

Those who use the language and symbols of religious observance but violate the core principles of their religion do not deserve such loyalty from religious scholars.

Forget that, why do you have The New York Times’ loyalty? You don’t deserve that. Why are you even in the United States? Why are we getting lectures on loyalty from religious scholars from Fethullah Gülen in The New York Times? Are they out of their minds? Do they even read their own reporting?

Speaking against oppression is a democratic right, a civic duty and for believers, a religious obligation.

That’s nice. That’s what I think, too. I’m glad you came around to this point of view when it was convenient.

The Quran makes clear that people should not remain silent in the face of injustice: “O you who believe! Be upholders and standard-bearers of justice, bearing witness to the truth for God’s sake, even though it be against your own selves, or parents or kindred.”

Why do we care, precisely? If you want to get into a Quran-recitation challenge, you know you’ll lose to Erdoğan, so to whom are you making this point? Are we now having a serious debate about the Quran in the New York Times? I do not think so.

For the past 50 years, I have been fortunate to take part in

“Take part in?” Come on.

…a civil society movement, sometimes referred to as Hizmet,

And sometimes referred to as the thing you don’t even talk about in Turkey for fear they’ll lock you up. The cemaat. Or many other words people in Turkey really know. So they’re looking at this and thinking, “This guy is in The New York Times, now. Either Americans are stupid beyond belief, or supporting him.” Damn. I wonder why we’re not ultra-popular in Turkey.

whose participants and supporters include millions of Turkish citizens. These citizens have committed themselves to interfaith dialogue, community service, relief efforts and making life-changing education accessible.

I like the ones who have done a lot of those things. But the ones at the top, like you, are just rotten to the core.

They have established more than 1,000 modern secular schools,

Why is the word “secular school” a magic password, here? Hold on, Turks who like “secular schools” have a very different view of this. Wouldn’t it be nice if the New York Times had given them as much space to explain this?

…tutoring centers, colleges, hospitals

I’m pro-hospital, and think it’s great that your guys have indeed built these. That’s genuinely good work. Nothing against that.

…and relief organizations in over 150 countries. They are teachers, journalists, businessmen and ordinary citizens.

Some of them are. But you are not, are you.

The rhetoric used by the ruling party repeatedly to crack down on Hizmet participants is nothing but a pretext to justify their own authoritarianism.

It’s exactly the rhetoric you’d have used if you had won this one. We know that, don’t we?

Hizmet participants have never formed a political party

True

…nor have they pursued political ambitions.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Their participation in the movement is driven by intrinsic rewards, not extrinsic ones.

At least that’s too meaningless to be falsified.

I have spent over 50 years preaching

You sure have.

…and teaching the values of peace, mutual respect and altruism.

No you have not.

I’ve advocated for education, community service and interfaith dialogue.

Yes you have. Fortunately, those continue to be magic words, don’t they? No facts required after you utter them. It’s just like a spell.

I have always believed in seeking happiness in the happiness of others

Really? Make me happy. Stop publishing this nonsense. It would make me so happy. I wouldn’t have to waste time marvelling at this being in the New York Times. I have better things to do. I could build a hospital in the time I’ve wasted learning enough to want to throw up when I see this.

…and the virtue of seeking God’s pleasure in helping His people. Whatever influence is attributed to me,

A lot, but not as much as you’d hoped, it seems.

I have used it as a means to promote educational and social projects that help nurture virtuous individuals.

Really depends on your idea of virtue, there.

I have no interest in political power.

Strange change of heart, but I’m quite interested in it, and thus wondering why you have enough to be in The New York Times.

Many Hizmet participants, including me, once supported the ruling party’s agenda,

You sure did.

…including the 2005 opening of accession negotiations with the European Union.

Let’s hear your theory about this amazing triumph for the EU, which we all know decided, “To hell with whatever’s really going on there. Turkey would be an important model of a country with a majority Muslim population adhering to such fundamental principles as liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.” So really, the details didn’t matter. But it was excellent business, wasn’t it? Oh, and by the way, pre-emptively, to hell with anyone who tells me Muslims can’t be liberal democrats. They can be, but they’re really on their own when the New York Times gets behind Gülen — in the year 2015. They’re really caught between the people who keep insisting they don’t exist and the people who think he’s a liberal democrat.

Our support then was based on principle, as is our criticism today.

I’m really not convinced you have principles, yet.

It is our right and duty to speak out about government policies that have a deep impact on society.

Mine too. Whatever policy resulted in you being in the US and in The New York Times was catastrophic.

Unfortunately, our democratic expression against public corruption and authoritarianism has made us victims of a witch-hunt;

No, your enthusiasm for witch-hunting made it inevitable that no one would care when you were the next witches to be burnt.

…both the Hizmet movement and I are being targeted with hate speech, media smear campaigns and legal harassment.

Wow, man. That’s some nerve.

Like all segments of Turkish society, Hizmet participants have a presence in government organizations and in the private sector.

No argument from me.

These citizens cannot be denied their constitutional rights or be subjected to discrimination for their sympathy to Hizmet’s ideals, as long as they abide by the laws of the country, the rules of their institutions and basic ethical principles. Profiling any segment of society and viewing them as a threat is a sign of intolerance.

All you have to do is use the magic word “intolerance,” I guess. None of the other details matter.

We are not the only victims of the A.K.P.’s crackdown.

No, just the only ones you cared about.

Peaceful environmental protesters, Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslim citizens and some Sunni Muslim groups not aligned with the ruling party have suffered, too.

Now you notice?

Without checks and balances, no individual or group is safe from the ruling party’s wrath.

I sure agree. Odd that this didn’t occur to you sooner, though.

Regardless of their religious observance, citizens can and should unite around universal human rights and freedoms, and democratically oppose those who violate them.

I therefore, regardless of my religious observance, unite around universal human rights and freedoms and democratically oppose you and the idiots who put you on the op-ed page.

Turkey has now reached a point where democracy and human rights have almost been shelved.

How did it get there, I wonder?

I hope and pray that those in power reverse their current domineering path.

Me too, but that’s about the only thing we can do, now, isn’t it? Might have been more helpful if you hadn’t helped them acquire an amount of power that predictably corrupts. Might have been nice if the word “Muslim” didn’t have some talismanic power in the West that makes people lose their minds and throw money at hucksters who loudly say, “I’m a tolerant one.” They do actually exist, but they aren’t helped by anyone who confuses the words, “I am a tolerant Muslim” with “He’s our thug.”

In the past the Turkish people have rejected elected leaders who strayed from a democratic path.

One way of putting it.

I hope they will exercise their legal and democratic rights again to reclaim the future of their country.

Me too, and in the meantime, I hope ours will, too.

Fethullah Gülen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate.

And a lot more than that. And The New York Times knows this, so what the hell? It’s too much to hope, but I comfort myself with the thought that they might even believe what he wrote. And if so, I surely do hope they put their money where their mouths are, and just took a bath on BankAsya.

There are 22 comments.

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  1. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    Nicely done.

    • #1
  2. Statistician1 Inactive
    Statistician1
    @Statistician1

    Bravo, Claire. Bravo.

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Claire,

    I aspire to share a drink with you someday. Well done.

    • #3
  4. user_235504 Inactive
    user_235504
    @GabyCharing

    Nice one, Claire!

    • #4
  5. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    For a minute there, I thought you were writing about Turkey again.

    • #5
  6. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Claire Berlinski:

    Turkey’s current leaders seem to claim an absolute mandate by virtue of winning elections.

    Yes, they do. You once found that a very satisfactory argument.

    But victory doesn’t grant them permission to ignore the Constitution or suppress dissent,

    No, it does not. But you sure thought it did, pretty recently.

    …especially when election victories are built on crony capitalism and media subservience.

    Yes, as you know, because you did that quite well, until they came for you

    Should we be seeing parallels to any other country here, or are we just talking about Turkey?

    • #6
  7. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    “Last night I read about Fethulleh Gulen in some smart-assed New York Times Op-Ed purview.

    The Times laughed with Fethulleh and the Editors laughed with Fethulleh too.

    Well he may be a thug but he’s our thug. If they think there’s more to the story they’re wrong.

    So I went to the park, took my i-pad along, and that’s where I wrote down this song.

    They think real funny at the Times. The nations’s newspaper of record is out of its mind.

    We are bringing the thugs along. We are bringing the thugs along….”

    -with no apologies whatsoever to Randy Newman.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
  8. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Gulen…A man more sinned against than sinning?

    • #8
  9. user_32335 Member
    user_32335
    @BillWalsh

    Yalancının evi yanmış da kimse inanmamış.

    • #9
  10. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Bill Walsh:Yalancının evi yanmış da kimse inanmamış.

    Rüzgar eken, fırtına biçer. (We must stay CoC compliant. The gentleman may not, on the pages of Ricochet, be inserted into the lady parts of any kind of barnyard animal or the anatomically improbable orifices of a tulip, and no one is going to be playing football in anyone’s orifices here on Ricochet–no matter what they really say about him. And of course we’re not going to curse in any blasphemous way, even if that’s exactly what everyone does when his name comes up in the real world. Allah kavuştursun, NYT & Fetoş!)

    • #10
  11. J. D. Fitzpatrick Inactive
    J. D. Fitzpatrick
    @JDFitzpatrick

    Nicely done.

    (I think there’s a formatting problem in what should be your 5th response from the bottom, which leads his remarks to be blurred into your comments.)

    • #11
  12. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    J. D. Fitzpatrick:Nicely done.

    (I think there’s a formatting problem in what should be your 5th response from the bottom, which leads his remarks to be blurred into your comments.)

    Which comment, exactly? And what device are you using to look at it? This probably, alas, needs to be filed under “bug report.” (Which could work as the headline, too.)

    • #12
  13. J. D. Fitzpatrick Inactive
    J. D. Fitzpatrick
    @JDFitzpatrick

     I therefore, regardless of my religious observance, unite around universal human rights and freedoms and democratically oppose you and the idiots who put you on the op-ed page. Turkey has now reached a point where democracy and human rights have almost been shelved.

    These words are yours, right? The format makes them look like his.

    • #13
  14. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    J. D. Fitzpatrick:These words are yours, right? The format makes them look like his.

    Better? Now, here’s the punchline: On the same day, the Gülen movement’s flagship paper announced its new partnership with the New York Times.

    Is there any US politician who might have the common sense to notice that this is his known MO, and that the next step–after the press and the educational system–is filming them with their mistresses and blackmailing them?

    If we really think “He’s our thug,” we will learn the hard way why “paying attention to these little details” really matters.

    • #14
  15. user_8182 Coolidge
    user_8182
    @UndergroundConservative

    This guy has Boris Berezovsky Syndrome.

    • #15
  16. user_92524 Member
    user_92524
    @TonyMartyr

    Bravo, Claire – as well as being right, it’s the best Fisking I’ve seen in years (a sadly neglected blogging artform, in my view).

    • #16
  17. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Vance Richards:Should we be seeing parallels to any other country here, or are we just talking about Turkey?

    We’re not just talking about Turkey. This guy is in the Poconos, and officially an American problem. Anyone who thinks “This is just some weird Turkey problem” is going to discover the odd irony here: a really close study of Turkey’s history can be used very well to predict what this guy will do next. “Buying up the press and focusing on the schools” is a pattern, and the next step is blackmailing the politicians. And you just wait–he’ll be smart enough to assure everyone in America that he’s on the side of Turkey’s beleaguered minorities–as opposed to someone who’s in the Poconos and lost this game long ago in Turkey.

    And anyone who thinks the only issue in Turkey they need to care about is Heybeliada is going to find him the most comforting voice they’ve ever heard. So predictable I can really set the clock by it, but alas, people will keep asking me, “Why should I care about Turkey?” In fact, I’ve already got people on Twitter saying to me, “But Heybeliada, he wants to open it, right?” And I don’t have time to rewrite everything I’ve written about Turkey again, so all I can do is hope that one day, someone actually reads it, and realizes that what he is now is an American problem. And way, way more of one than Erdoğan, because Erdoğan is too stupid to sound good even to the New York Times. This guy knows how, and he’s in the US. He understands how to sound good to you, too, whoever you are and whatever’s most important to you–unless you take the time to learn who he is. Then you’ll realize that he’s smart enough to hire good PR people who are busy figuring out how to please you. Actually, he doesn’t even hire good people. He doesn’t need to. It’s just so easy to tell people what they want to hear.

    • #17
  18. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Claire, I appreciate your passion, and I get that you really loathe this guy, but I have to admit – I don’t entirely get why.  I see that you are condemning him for saying the right things only after it became convenient.  But isn’t it a natural human tendency to be more sympathetic to oppressed minorities when you are among the oppressed?

    Beyond that, doesn’t the American Right make daily calls for “moderate Muslims” to come out in condemnation of Islamic fundamentalists?  Don’t we want Imams to speak out for freedom, even if that means flip-flopping on their historical support for traditional Islam?

    And even if Gulen doesn’t believe what he is saying, even if he is only “our thug,” haven’t we learned yet that a thug who supports us is about the best we can hope for in that part of the world, while a thug who supports the jihadists is much worse?

    I don’t know Turkey like you do.  But from a distance, it looks to me like Erdogan is a monster, who has transformed Turkey from an ally of the United States and Israel into a sub rosa ally of ISIS.  And if the New York Times will actually publish a condemnation of Erdogan, any condemnation of Erdogan from any source (no matter how hypocritical), I’m just not sure why I should get worked up about it.

    • #18
  19. Ross C Member
    Ross C
    @RossC

    Dang Claire, if you are not the fisking champion at this point you are at least top 3.  How do you really feel?

    • #19
  20. user_1008534 Member
    user_1008534
    @Ekosj

    Hi Claire.

    I admit that my knowledge of Gulen is limited to what I’ve read from yourself and from David Goldman at PJ Media and Asia Times. So please pardon a basic question.

    King Lear, in his exile, has the decency to recognize his errors before he dies. Gulen, apparently, not so much. But he is old.

    It would seem that there are two types of messages put out by his organization. A benign public message and another, private message available to a select few which may be not so benign. The vast majority of the Gulen adherents will be adherents to the public message. That public message seems likely to survive Gulen’s eventual passing. But what about the private message? Does that die with him? Or is there a cadre near the apex that can continue on with that without him … Whatever ‘that’ is?

    • #20
  21. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Larry3435:Claire, I appreciate your passion, and I get that you really loathe this guy, but I have to admit – I don’t entirely get why. I see that you are condemning him for saying the right things only after it became convenient. But isn’t it a natural human tendency to be more sympathetic to oppressed minorities when you are among the oppressed?

    Larry, I assume you read the links but still didn’t find the original articles compelling. I thought they spoke for themselves. But let me offer a few more to give you a sense of his MO:  getting in bed with the local media, keeping close tabs on the kids in their schools to groom as “allies, filming journalists and politicians in compromising positions–for use when needed, and then using them as needed. He’s a gangster. This is an organized crime group. I see no reason to think he’ll behave differently in the US.

    First, this: http://balyozdavasivegercekler.com/2012/11/05/fethullah-gulen-the-jews-and-hypocrisy/ He’s never apologized for this or changed his mind at all.

    Next watch these videos, the third, especially. Understand that for many years I spoke with people like her—his victims. I have friends there with whom I can speak only in code: His guys are in the security services. They are afraid of him, and right to be.

    http://ricochet.com/archives/sledgehammer-more-arrests-and-a-human-face-for-you-to-consider/

    Some more reading:

    http://www.city-journal.org/2011/eon0415cb.html

    http://www.berlinski.com/node/92

    http://ricochet.com/archives/the-view-from-silivri-prison/

    http://www.city-journal.org/2012/eon0103cb.html

    http://ricochet.com/archives/today-in-ergenekon-no-comment/

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/03/028695.php

    http://ricochet.com/archives/we-have-ahmet-siks-book/

    http://ricochet.com/archives/ahmet-siks-defense/

    But above all, ask Turks. Ask any Turk look at their reactions, They sure don’t think he’s tolerant.

    The reason to be worked up about it is that there TWO thugs worked assiduously to destroy whatever hope Turkey had of becoming a normal democratic country. Then RTE turned on him: wanted all the power for himself. He was RTE’s right-hand man before then. And now he’s a US problem, where he’ll predictably do there what he did in Turkey.

    • #21
  22. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Finally, Larry3435: if you want to know how Turks feel, try asking them here: 

    It’s sad to see NYT patronize people in Turkey by encouraging this idiotic Islamist vs Islamist paradigm by letting Feto write articles for them. Where are actual intellectuals and proponents of human rights’ articles?

    The core tenets of a functioning democracy — the rule of law, respect for individual freedoms — are also the most basic of Islamic values bestowed upon us by God.

    …except for the “democracy” and “respect for individual freedoms” part. So much “Islamic scholar” wow

    Where are they, indeed?

    • #22

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