[Note: The following was first published at Oct 9, 2012 in response to Scott C. Alexander’s “apologetic” comment on GatestoneInstitute.org. It was followed up with another response where I backed up my claims with the relevant sources.]
Let me first point out that I have no intention to touch upon the personal beef Scott C. Alexander seems to have with Schwartz. Similarly the papal analogies mentioned by Alexander are of no interest to me. My sole intention is to tear down his shameless apologetics regarding Gülen by presenting some solid facts about this deceptive and unsophisticated, rather than “enigmatic,” imam.
“How… can one explain Schwartz’s absolute refusal to take Gülen at his word…” Alexander asks, apparently without realizing that he is about to give a hint of the answer to his own question straight away: “…despite the fact that what Gülen says in this Op-Ed piece is utterly consistent with his thought as articulated in numerous publications which span at least three decades?”
There is the problem for you right there. The last thing one could say about Gülen would be that he has been “consistent” in his “thought[s]” and “publications.” Alexander insults the intelligence of those who did not start following this imam just yesterday. Contrary to the tolerant Sufi image that he tries to uphold these days, until the end of the 1990s Gülen’s statements, sermons, and publications were full of intolerant passages and hate speech towards anyone whom he considered (and still considers) to be the enemy of Islam. I will call this period the “pre-transformational period.”
Take this sermon, allegedly dating from 1979. Gülen is heard chastising his flock intensely for not doing anything about the fact that infidels (“gâvur” in Turkish) are in control of all of the holy places of Islam. He cries out among others: “Muslims should become bombs and explode, tear to pieces the heads of the infidels! Even if it’s America opposing them.” (“Mü’min, karsisinda Amerika dahi olsa, bomba olup patlamali, basini dagitmali gâvurun!”) and continues cursing the daylights out of those who remain indifferent about this cause.
Or take this other sermon. He says: “Till this day Missionaries and the Vatican have been behind all atrocities. The Vatican is the hole of the snake, the hole of the cobra. The Vatican is behind the bloodshed in Bosnia. The Vatican is behind the bloodshed in Kashmir. They have lobby groups in America and Germany.” (“Bu güne kadar dünyanin dört bir yaninda bütün vahset tablolarinin arkasinda maalesef (?) vardir, misyoner teskilatı vardir, Vatikan vardir. Çiyan yuvasi, kobra yuvasi. Saraybosna’da akan kanin arkasinda Vatikan vardir. Keşmir’de akan kanlarin arkasinda Vatikan vardir. Amerika’da onlarin lobileri vardir, Almanya’da lobileri vardir.”)
Or take his writings in such books as Fasildan Fasila and Asrin Getirdigi Tereddutler, both written in Q&A-style with Gülen providing answers to questions about topics concerning Islam (ergo concerning anything you can imagine). But please make sure you get hold of the unrevised, pre-transformational editions so that you get to see the ‘true’ Gülen. This ‘true’ Gülen calls the Western world the “continuous enemy of Islam.” He writes: “First it were the Europeans with their crusader’s mentality who invaded us, occupied us, colonized us. Then, since World War I, the Americans and Russians have taken over this role. There is no difference between the mentality of today’s westerner and that of King Richard I who drank the blood of Muslims. We cannot expect any humane treatment by them until the end of days.”
Of Christians he writes: “After a while they perverted and obscured their own future.” According to him, Jews have a “genetic animosity towards any religion” and they have used “their guile and skills to breed bad blood” to threaten Islam since the beginning until this day, “uniting themselves with Sassanids, Romans and crusaders.” He continues: “The Church, the Synagogue and Paganism form the troika that has attacked Islam persistently.” Jews have always been an “abscess” and that is why, among others, the deportation of Jews from the Arabian peninsula by the second Caliph Umar was justified. “In any case,” he writes, “the Prophet considers Islam as one nation and the Kuffar as the other nation.”
All of the citations above are taken from the books mentioned earlier, namely Fasildan Fasila and Asrin Getirdigi Tereddutler. Again, it is extremely important that you look up the unrevised, pre-transformational editions of these books. I can provide anyone who is interested with scans of some relevant pages of editions dating from the 1990s of Asrin Getirdigi Tereddutler.
“All fine and well, but every man has the right to change his mind!” you might respond. Very true. For example, aren’t there enough people who at some point in their lives decided to replace their youthful socialist views for an intensely capitalistic lifestyle? Unfortunately this type of reasoning is not valid in Gülen’s case. The records show that this is a man who had spent 50 years of his life targeting, demonizing, vilifying everything and everyone associated with a non-Islamic worldview. All of a sudden, towards the end of the 1990s, he decides to change tactics, forming a pact with the Vatican and other tablemates of the deceitful, opportunistic Interfaith Dialogue platform and he even flees to the United States, ensconcing himself at the heart of what he once considered as the Devil’s headquarters. From that moment on he can no longer afford to present himself as the big bad anti-Western imam. Instead, he presents himself as the big appeaser, as an antithesis of Islamic terrorism – at least, that is what he and his companions from the CIA and Interfaith Dialogue wants the Western public to believe. In fact, he hasn’t changed a bit – again, he has only changed tactics. The Turkish community still knows him as the archconservative imam with extremist views about women (“The wife is supposed to deal with household affairs and undomestic affairs should be left to the man;” “Those who try to change the roles of men and women, feminists, are cursed by Allah;” “Why should Islam get in the way of corporal punishment if it can be used to discipline a woman?” – quotes from Asrin Getirdigi Tereddutler) , atheists (“Murderers are equal to atheists” – in an interview with Zaman newspaper, 03.23.2004), apostates (“Under Islamic law, apostasy is regarded with the same gravity as treason is regarded by most states and all armed forces. The hope must be to prevent, by pleading, prayers, persuasion, and all other legitimate means, such a crime from becoming public and offensive to society. Those who insist on pursuing this path must be asked to reconsider and repent. If they reject this opportunity, the penalty is death.” – source ) and leftists (but let me not get into that).
I strongly believe that he has not changed his views on Jews, Christians and “pagans” either. Firstly, he has never apologized for his “old” views or even slightly reminisced about them. On the contrary, he and his followers act as if he never said or wrote all that stuff – not to mention the fact that his followers have been busy revising his pre-transformational writings, adapting them to his new tactics of deceitful tolerance.
Secondly, as seen above, his deceitful tolerance only extends to individuals and institutions that take part in the equally deceitful Interfaith Dialogue. He still makes no bones about demonizing feminists, leftists, atheists, and apostates but turning a blind eye to the atrocities of Western imperialism (his deafening silence on the Iraq War comes to mind) and Israeli aggression (his reaction on the Gaza Flotilla Raid comes to mind) is no longer a problem for him.
Last but not least, my believe that he has not changed a bit is based on his infamous pre-transformational sermons where he warns his flock not to engage in premature actions. He says: “You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers… until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this. If they do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads.… The time is not yet right. You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it.… The work to be done is [in] confronting the world. Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all—in confidence… trusting your loyalty and secrecy. I know that when you leave here—[just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and the feelings that I expressed here.”
These statements are not fabricated, they are not the products of a ‘Kemalist’ or ‘Ergenekon’ conspiracy as Gülenists would like you to believe. These statements are real, they are recorded on tape and must not be put aside just like that. They shed light on the true character of Gülen and his flock. These are the statements of a man who writes: “In the world of tomorrow Islam will be the one and only dominating force.” (Asrin Gettirdigi Tereddutler & Fasildan Fasila) “An innocent desire of an ideologue,” you might think, but I hope that by now I have been able to persuade the reader of the fact that Gülen’s utopian world of tomorrow will not be a quite friendly place for anyone who disagrees with him.
Now, this should be a sufficient answer to Alexander’s question of how one can refuse to take Gülen at his word. I would also like to spend a few words on the alleged “humbleness” of Gülen. Alexander writes: “True, Gülen lives a reclusive life, making few public appearances. But this is no different than many highly regarded but deeply humble religious figures who shun the public spotlight.”
I don’t know and I don’t care about other religious figures but what I do know is that Gülen’s refusal to go public does not stem from his humbleness – which is nonexistent. In his biography Kucuk Dunyam (‘My Small World’, where he is being interviewed by one of his closest disciples) he talks about himself as if he is some sort of prophet or anything that comes close to that rank. In his application for an American Green Card he tries to convince the court that he is an “alien of extraordinary ability,” that he “has developed an educational methodology that is used in the hundreds of Gülen schools[!] throughout the world”, that he is “an educator of educators” and he talks about the “Gülen Movement” (in contrast to the interview he gave to USA Today, where he refuses to accept the existence of a movement carrying his name, source ) and so forth.
His public statements on every single issue, small or big, that is on the agenda back in Turkey constantly occupy the headlines of the intimidated Turkish media as if he is some sort of omnipresent herdsman.
No, sir, “humble” is not the right word either when it comes to describing Gülen’s character. So what is it then that keeps this guy away from the spotlights (with the exception of some rare, unthreatening interviews he gives once in a while)? The answer is not hard to find: his lack of intellectual depth. Gülen is an old-fashioned imam and as such he is not used to hearing nor engaging in a debate with dissenting opinions. Can you imagine him in a debate with someone like Noam Chomsky or Eric Hobsbawm defending the bloodguilty Turkish “Associations for Fighting Communism,” of which he was a cofounder, and his demonizing statements about leftists? Can you imagine him in a debate with someone like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett defending his childish takes on evolution theory or metaphysics? Can you imagine him in a debate with Salman Rushdie defending his views on apostasy? And so forth and so forth… Gülen only gives sermons; he is a man of monologues and he does not like to be held to account for his views. On this point (actually, not only on this point) he definitely resembles the Pope, but I won’t make it a secret that I’m not a big fan of the Pope either.
So, Gülen is neither consistent (at least not regarding his appearance), tolerant, nor humble. Don’t let anyone, especially the opportunists of the deceitful Interfaith Dialogue, make you believe otherwise. Back to you, Scott.