Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Fethullah Gülen

Mustafa Akyol: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Fethullah GülenIf you have the chance to talk to a staunchly secular Turk these days and want to hear something mind-boggling, just ask him a simple question: “What the hell is this Gülen movement?”

It is very likely that you will then listen to a chilling conspiracy theory about how this evil cadre of “Islamists” is taking over Turkey step by step. You will learn how they have “infiltrated” every state institution, from the police to the judiciary, and now are defusing the power of the military, the last bastion of secularism. You might even hear that the 69-year-old Mr. Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999, is similar to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the sense that he will soon come back to bless an “Islamic revolution” prepared by his disciples.

The Imam in America

But if you want to get your facts right, don’t stop there. Ask the same Turkish ultra-secularist about the role of the U.S. in this evil scheme. It is very likely that he will tell you that Gülen is “supported by the CIA.” He will explain you how America wants to create “moderate Islamic regimes” in the Middle East, along with an independent Kurdistan – and, of course, a Greater Israel – and how Gülen perfectly fits into all these plots. Your friend will even quote a recent bestseller titled “Amerika’daki İmam” (The Imam in America) by Ergün Poyraz, a staunch Kemalist, to “prove” all this.

To me, however, all this rather sounds a bit like The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the notorious anti-Semitic forgery. In both The Protocols and the conspiracy theories about Gülen, the theme is similar: There is a cunning enemy that is secretly, yet steadily achieving its plan for total domination. The enemy never sleeps, always schemes and works “everywhere... behind every institution."

I, as you can imagine, have a different explanation for the Gülen movement.

First, I believe that its extent and influence is exaggerated. I actually know this from personal experience: Despite the fact that I have stated many times that I am not a follower of Gülen, or anybody else, I routinely get aggressive comments, and even hate mail, from Kemalists who take it for granted that I am yet another “Gülen lackey.”

In fact, Turkey’s ultra-secularists have lately come to believe that anybody who is conservative, pro-Islamic or even just critical of the military must be a “Gülenist.” Recently, even a more refined Kemalist commentator defined the anti-militarist daily Taraf as a “pro-Gülen newspaper.” One could rather define it as the Turkish paper with the highest number of atheists and agnostics among its editors and writers.

The truth is that with a few million followers, and lots of schools, media outlets and business networks, the Gülen movement is certainly powerful, but not all-dominant in any part of society. Within the Islamic camp, they are just one of the many different communities. For the secularists, all of these people can be the same – they all pray too often and their wives wear the hated headscarf. But there are actually various groups of Naqshbandis, Qadiris, “Süleymancıs,” “Erbakancıs” or “Nurcus.” The Gülenists are just one of the several offshoots of the latter tradition.

But what do they aim for Turkey? While the secularist answer is, “to dominate, stupid,” I think they rather want to have a hospitable environment in which they can survive and grow.

To see why, you should look at the group’s origins. Islamic thinker Said Nursi (1878-1960), who laid the foundations for Gülen’s thinking, was a very apolitical figure who believed Islam can best be served in this age by an intellectual and spiritual struggle against atheism and moral decadence. Even this most moderate form of Islam was unacceptable for Kemalism, so, in the latter’s heyday (1925-50), Nursi was repeatedly imprisoned for his books. He and his followers, whose stated goal was “to save people’s afterlife” by preaching “the truths of faith,” only took a deep breath in 1950, when the center-right Democrat Party came to power.

A secret agenda?

Since then, both the followers of Nursi, and of Gülen, who further modernized Nursi’s thoughts and created a global movement out of them, have supported center-right governments. They, meanwhile, distanced themselves from the Islamist parties founded by Necmettin Erbakan, whom they saw as a radical troublemaker. The reason was that the Nursi-Gülen tradition doesn’t envision an “Islamic state.” It rather seeks a liberal-democratic state that will be tolerant to its missionary work, which it carries out through publications, charity and education.

The recent alliance between members of this tradition and the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government should be understood within this context. Members of the Gülen movement supports the AKP because they know that the alternative (a military coup, or a military-orchestrated restoration government) will crack down on them severely, as happened in the late 1990s. This is a survival strategy, in other words, rather than a plot to dominate.

Finally, if the group really has a “secret agenda” to turn Turkey into a “Shariah state,” then it is in deep trouble. For it now has schools in more than 100 countries, most of them non-Muslim and any radical thing it does in Turkey would ruin its reputation and faith mission throughout the whole world.

So, perhaps, the Gülen movement has to dominate the whole world first in order to take over Turkey!

But, well, your secularist Turkish friends might say, isn’t that what all “learned elders” conspire for?

This article has first appeared on Hürriyet Daily News of Turkey and can also be reached at

Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition: An Example of Biased, Misleading, Mispresented and Miscalculated Article

Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition: An Example of Biased, Misleading, Mispresented and Miscalculated Article Rachel Sharon-Krespin’s article titled “Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition: Turkey’s Islamist Danger" published in the Middle East Quarterly’s 2009 winter issue was brought to my attention by a colleague due to its citation of an article which I co-authored with Helen Rose Ebaugh. In her article Sharon-Krespin states:

He (Fethullah Gülen) is a financial heavyweight, controlling an unregulated and opaque budget estimated at $25 billion (p56).

She gives our article as the source of the above information, citing it in the footnotes as Helen Rose Ebaugh and Dogan Koç, “Funding Fethullah Gülen-Inspired Good Works: Demonstrating and Generating Commitment to the Movement,", Oct. 27, 2007.

It appears as if Sharon-Krespin was using Ebaugh and Koç (2007) as a source for her statement. It is unclear, however, just which part of her statement she attributes to our article. Regardless, her statement misquotes what we presented in the article.

In this paper, without suggesting any alternative argument to Sharon-Krespin (2009), first I correct the information which is referenced to Ebaugh and Koç (2007). I then analyze the sources used by Sharon-Krespin (2009) to show how biased, selective, misleading, mispresentative and miscalculated are the data that she presents. Finally, I address some of the contradictory information and arguments presented in the same article.

First of all, as the co-author of the cited article, it is my responsibility to respond to Sharon-Krespin and to inform readers that the information mentioned in the article with reference to the Ebaugh and Koç (2007) citation is incorrect and that the statements she makes based on the incorrect data, therefore, are also incorrect.

The article, "Funding Fethullah Gülen-Inspired Good Works: Demonstrating and Generating Commitment to the Movement," was originally a conference paper that Ebaugh and I presented at the London School of Economics during the Muslim World in Transition: Contributions of the Fethullah Gülen Movement Conference in October, 2007. The article addresses mechanisms of financing for Fethullah Gülen-inspired projects, based on interviews with business leaders in Turkey who constitute much of the financial infrastructure of the movement. In addition, the paper presents data from one local Fethullah Gülen movement organization in Houston, Texas, that collects thousands of dollars annually from local members, mostly students on small educational stipends (Ebaugh and Koç 2007). We framed the paper sociologically in terms of organizational theories of commitment. Beginning with Kanter (1972;1977) and including subsequent major figures in the organizational field (e.g. Reichers 1985; Meyer and Allen 1991; Hall 2002; Scott 2003), scholars have demonstrated a positive correlation between sacrifices asked of members or participants and degree of commitment to the goals of an organization. Using this perspective, the paper argues that the financial contributions made by participants in the Fethullah Gülen movement both demonstrate commitment to the ideals espoused by Fethullah Gülen and generate commitment to the movement.

Ebaugh and Koç (2007) article defines the Fethullah Gülen movement as a civil society movement that arose in the late 1960s in Turkey, initially composed of a loose network of individuals who were inspired by M. Fethullah Gülen. While Ebaugh and Koç (2007) article accepts Woodhall’s (2005) statement that the Fethullah Gülen-inspired projects number in the thousands, span international borders and are costly in terms of human and financial capital, the article does not give an exact or even an estimated financial amount of contributions. Therefore, the $25 billion that Sharon-Krespin (2009) reports, citing our paper, has no basis in the paper itself or in the data that we collected. Where Sharon-Krespin obtains the $25 billion figure remains unknown or undeclared.

As a matter of fact, during the presentation of the paper at the London School of Economics, a member of the audience asked if we could give a total amount for the financial worth of the movement. We indicated (This happened during the questions and answer section of the panel during our presentation.) that we could not, and that it was not in the scope of our paper to do so. A later article (Koç 2008) describes the fact that Fethullah Gülen-inspired projects are always locally based and embedded in local circles of supporters so that a study of the financial resources of the Fethullah Gülen Movement as a whole would require traveling all over the world and studying all the GM projects to determine the financial amounts involved. Since such research has not occurred, it is impossible for Sharon-Krespin (2009) to state an exact quantity for the money contributed to Fethullah Gülen-inspired projects.

In our paper, we cite Aslandogan and Cetin (2006) who state that, apart from encouraging people to donate money, Fethullah Gülen has remained distant from all financial involvements and instead has encouraged those who sponsor projects to oversee the use of their contributions. During our interviews, one of the businessmen stated:

Every school has its own independent accounting system and accountants who manage the budget and financial books. They are all accountable to the local and state authorities, as well as to the trust’s sponsors. The local sponsors are knowledgeable about the status of the ongoing projects at any given time, for they are personally responsible for many of them, either as construction contractors, accountants, serving on the board of directors, teachers, principals, etc. It is quite easy, therefore, for them to monitor how the donations are used, thereby achieving transparency in financial issues. Moreover, as one businessman explained, “First of all, I want you to know that people in the Fethullah Gülen movement have gained the trust of people in every strata of life. People who support the activities of this movement do not worry about whether the support reached its destination, they don’t chase it. However, if we want to look at it, all kinds of information is available in every activity, we can be sure by looking at them" (Ebaugh and Koç 2007, 544).

Finally, we underline the complexity and contradictory structure of the arguments regarding the source of money involved in the Fethullah Gülen Movement. While some suggest the possibility of collusion between the movement and various governments, especially Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Turkish government, others suggest that the United States’ CIA may be a financial partner behind the projects (Kalyoncu (2008) refers to these claims). Some have even suggested that Fethullah Gülen is a secret agent of the Papacy (M. S. Eygi 2000). None of the above contentions have been substantiated with any kind of objective data, and they appear mostly as newspaper articles. In our article (Ebaugh and Koç 2007), we conclude:

Based on the scant literature that exists on the funding of Fethullah Gülen-inspired projects and our own interviews conducted with members of the Fethullah Gülen Movement both in Turkey and in Houston, Texas, it is evident that the money behind the movement is provided by millions of people the world over who are committed to the ideas and ideals promoted by Fethullah Gülen (p. 550).

In 2008, I conducted an empirical analysis of the financial resources of some of the Fethullah Gülen-inspired projects by inspecting the books in institutions and interviewing key personnel. I find that donations are not made in large amounts by a few but rather donations are made in small amounts by many people. (Koç 2008)

In light of the errors contained in the Sharon-Krespin article regarding our paper, one wonders if Sharon-Krespin actually read the article or simply used it as a reference since it carried the words “Funding" and “Fethullah Gülen" in its title. If the Sharon-Krespin (2009) article had been published in a newspaper or on an internet blog, I would have simply addressed the misquotes of the Ebaugh and Koç (2007) reference. However, since the article was published in an academic journal, I feel compelled to address some other issues in the paper, especially with regard to its references and data.

Issues Regarding the References in Sharon-Krespin (2009)

I am not suggesting that only academic or scientific resources should be used in academic articles; however, there must be criteria which distinguish social science papers from newspaper or internet blog articles. In other words, while people can write anything they want in newspapers and internet blogs without any scientific or academic concerns, academic journal papers should be based on at least some scientific ground or analysis.

Since Sharon-Krespin (2009) did not conduct an empirical study or theoretical analysis, and her arguments (and paper itself) are based mainly on selected literature, it is essential to evaluate references. Sharon-Krespin used endnotes to indicate her resources. The following table shows the types of resources used as references in the article. (For more details see Sharon-Krespin (2009) endnote section.)


Before looking at the credibility of some of the resources used by Sharon-Krespin (2009), I would like to point out that 56.9% of the resources are newspaper articles 27.8% are TV programs, and 4.2% are internet based papers. Only 6.9% are conference or journal articles and 4.2% are references from books. In other words, almost 90% (the combination of newspaper articles, TV programs, and internet blog articles) of the sources used by Sharon-Krespin (2009) are from sources with no academic or scientific control for credibility.

For instance, the main references that shape the structure and the tone of the Sharon-Krespin (2009) article are from non-credible, marginal sources. Sharon-Krespin refers to Yanardağ (interview) in 5 different places (6.9% of the total number of sources). Yanardağ was taken into custody by the Turkish police on October 27, 2008, due to his connection with the Ergenekon Terrorist Organization (ETO) (Taraf 2008). Yanardağ is accused because of his connections with a high-ranking ETO member, Tuncay Ozkan, who has also been arrested (Çoban and Turk 2008) and who was the owner of a TV channel (Kanal Türk) on which Yanardağ gave this interview. Sharon-Krespin (2009) uses the interview of Adil Serdar Saçan who, interestingly, was also arrested due to his connection to the ETO, and not surprisingly his interview was also on the same TV channel (Kanal Türk). An interview with Nurettin Veren that is quoted several times was also on the same TV channel. Newspapers and internet blog news quoted are also from similar non-academic sources.

In summary, anyone can write an article and shape it according to his/her agenda by using selective sources. However, academic and scientific papers should be based on credible, academic and scientific sources. The use of such scientific sources and data maintains the credibility of an academic journal and the field which it represents.

Sharon-Krespin (2009) not only uses selective and biased references but also fails to give references for some very important information. In some cases she miscalculates, misleads and distorts the data. For instance, she states:

Today, Turkey has over 85,000 active mosques, one for every 350 citizens—compared to one hospital for every 60,000 citizens—the highest number per capita in the world, and, with 90,000 imams, more imams than doctors or teachers. It has thousands of madrasa-like Imam-Hatip schools and about four thousand more official slate-run Qur'an courses, not counting the unofficial Qur'an schools, which may expand the total number tenfold (p. 55).

There is no reference for the numbers of active mosques (85,000); therefore, the reader cannot judge the accuracy of the number or verify it through a referenced source. Ergener (2002), for example, gives the total number of mosques as 73,500 in 2002 and states that 1,500 mosques are built each year. Assuming Ergener (2002) is accurate, and 7 years have passed since his estimate, we can assume that Sharon-Krespin’s (2009) claim that there are 85,000 mosques is accurate. However, Sharon-Krespin (2009) claims that there is one mosque for every 350 citizens. According to the CIA World Factbook (2009), Turkey’s estimated population for July 2009 is 76,805,524. Using simple math, if there are 85,000 mosques for the total population, there is one mosque for 76,805,524/85,000 (which is 903). In other words, according to the numbers she provides, there is one mosque for every 903 citizens, not every 350 as she claims. She intentionally exaggerates the numbers to depict Turkey as a country where there are mosques everywhere while hospitals are not found.

Sharon-Krespin (2009) blames the Justice and Development Party (AKP) but mainly Fethullah Gülen for the transformation of the “secular and democratic fundamental identity" of Turkey “away from sympathy toward Israel and much more toward friendship with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria. Anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic sentiments have increased." She implies that Fethullah Gülen and the AKP have increased the number of mosques in Turkey. However, according to Ergener (2002), the number of mosques was 73,500 before the AKP government came into office. The AKP was founded in August 14, 2001, and won the November 2002 election in Turkey. Again according to Ergener (2002), 1,500 mosques were being built every year in Turkey, even before the AKP took office. If Ergener’s (2002) data were accurate, 10,500 (7*1,500) new mosques would have been added to the total number (73,500). Therefore, the number of mosques would be 84,000 (73,500+10,500). According to the CIA World Factbook (2003), the population of Turkey was estimated at 67,308,928 for July 2002. There was one mosque for every 915 (67,308,928/73,500) citizens in Turkey, before the AKP government, and even before the establishment of the party. In a comparison of 2009 and 2002, we see that there are only 12 (915–903) fewer people for each mosque. Therefore, the number of citizens per mosque did not change very much during AKP rule, from 2002 to 2009.

Within the same paragraph Sharon-Krespin (2009) provides additional data (again without any source) that there is one hospital for every 60,000 citizens in Turkey. She claims that while there is one mosque for every 350 people (in which I have already shown the miscalculation), there is only one hospital for every 60,000 citizen (the lowest ratio of hospitals per capita in the world) . By implication, while Turkey is full of mosques, people suffer from lack of health care.

First of all, in health data analysis, it is illogical and uncommon to provide the number of hospitals per person. The size and capacities of hospitals differ greatly; therefore, such data can be misleading and useless. For instance, if there are 10 hospitals in Region A, each with a bed-capacity of 1000 in a population of 1,000,000, we can conclude that there is one hospital for every 100,000 people; however, we can also conclude that there is one hospital bed for every 100 people.

On the other hand, if there are 20 hospitals in Region B, each with a bed -capacity of 100 in a population of 1,000,000, we can conclude there is one hospital for every 50,000 people, while there is only one bed for every 500 people. While, in terms of number of hospitals per person, Region B is two times better than Region A, Region A is 5 times better than Region B in terms of number of people per hospital bed. This example shows why using number of people per hospital bed in health data is logical and useful, and why this ratio has been used by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN), and any other organization which tries to provide sound data. In fact, number of beds per 10,000 people is used by most of the above-mentioned organizations. However, Sharon-Krespin (2009) used number of hospitals per person to compare with number of people per mosque (in order to mislead readers into thinking that there are 171 (60000/350) times more mosques than hospitals) in Turkey.

Sharon-Krespin’s data regarding actual health data is also misleading. The following table presents the World Health Organization (WHO) global data on health care in Turkey and other world regions in order to compare health care conditions in Turkey to other parts of the world.


* Data was obtained from the WHO website, and available at

According to the WHO data, in Turkey there are 27 hospital beds per 10,000 people, which is below the global average (30). However, it is three times more than the African Region (9), slightly more than the Region of the Americas (24), two times more than the Eastern Mediterranean (14) and close to both the global average (30) and the Western Pacific Region (33), but less than half of the European Region (63). The data for the South-East Asia Region is not available. Keeping in mind that the South-East Asia region includes the most populated region in the world, and health care provision in this region is usually lower than in other regions, the inclusion of this region would decrease the global average severely, which in turn puts Turkey above the global average. Thus, in terms of numbers of hospital beds per population, Turkey does not rank at the top of the list; however, it is much better than most countries in the world.

While this is the actual case for Turkey’s health care provision, Sharon-Krespin draws a picture of Turkey that is totally contradictory to the facts. Sharon-Krespin’s main purpose is to blame the AKP and Fethullah Gülen for her false picture of Turkey.

On the other hand, the WHO data refute Sharon-Krespin’s claims with regard to the AKP. The WHO data provide a comparison of 2000 and 2005. Since the AKP became the government in Turkey in November 2002, the WHO data gives an analysis of health expenditure ratios before the AKP and during the AKP.

According to the WHO data, general government expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditures (the ratio of health expenditure by government to total health expenditure (including both private and government)) in Turkey was 62.9% in 2000, and it increased to 71.4% in 2005, an increase of 8.5%. While the global average of this ratio stayed the same (56.0%), it decreased in the South East-Asia Region (-1.1%) and Western Pacific Region (-2.8%); it increased slightly in the African Region (1.6%), the Region of the Americas (1.0%) and the European Region (0.9%). The general government expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditure on health also increased in the Eastern Mediterranean Region more than other regions (6.6%); however, even this increase was lower than Turkey’s. In other words, under the AKP government the general Turkish government expenditure on health as a percentage of total expenditure increased more than in any other region. The AKP government spent on health care more than not only the previous Turkish government, but also more than most of the governments in the world.

The data on general government expenditure on health as a percentage of total government expenditure also show how much the AKP government increased health care expenditure as a percentage of total government expenditure. The general Turkish government expenditure on health as a percentage of total government expenditure in 2000 was 9.8%, and it increased to 13.9% in 2005. In other words, health expenditure increased by 4.1% in total government expenditures, again one of the highest in the world, especially since it decreased by 0.7% in global expenditures.

In summary, first, under the AKP government, Turkish government spending on health increased by 8.5% (as a function of total spending only on health), which was one of the biggest increases in the world. Second, while spending on health decreased or slightly increased in other parts of the world (as a function of overall government spending), in Turkey, it increased by 4.1% from 2002 to 2005. In conclusion, the WHO data show that health care conditions in Turkey are not as Sharon-Krespin depicts them. Furthermore, even if they were as she describes, the AKP government could not be held responsible, since the AKP government has spent more than not only previous Turkish governments but also more than most governments in the world.

In the same paragraph, Sharon-Krespin reports data on the budget of Religious Affairs (RA) (Diyanet Işleri Başkanlığı). She states:

The spending of the RA has grown fivefold, from 553 trillion Turkish lira in 2002 (approximately US$325 million) to 2.7 quadrillion lira during the first four-and-a-half years of the AKP government; it has a larger budget than eight other ministries combined (p. 55).

She gives Can Dündar from Milliyet Newspaper and Reha Muhtar from Vatan Newspaper as her sources for the above data (see Sharon-Krespin (2009) endnote 1 for details of the references). According to her assertions, Turkey spends a big portion of its budget on religious affairs (a larger budget than eight other ministries combined). Even though, Sharon-Krespin does not suggest that the Religious Affairs is a ministry, her comparing it to other eight ministries may lead readers to assume that the Religious Affairs is a separate ministry. Therefore, it is helpful to point out that Religious Affairs is not a separate ministry but a secretariat under the Prime Minister. Most of the laws and regulations related to the tasks and functions of Religious Affairs have remained the same throughout the history of the Turkish Republic. In other words, the AKP has not changed much about RA.

Turkey is the 17th largest economy in the world (IMF 2009, World Bank 2008) and one of the fastest growing. If the amount of money being spent on Religious Affairs indicated by Sharon-Krespin, (larger than eight other ministries combined) were accurate, this would amount to billions of dollars, and would have caused huge debate both in Turkey, and the EU. However, such discussion is absent both in Turkey and the EU. Again, the data presented by Sharon-Krespin (2009) are inaccurate, manipulated, miscalculated, and distorted.

According the very same source that Sharon-Krespin uses (Milliyet newspaper), the numbers about the budgets of the ministries and Religious Affairs give a very different picture than that which Sharon-Krespin presents.

Milliyet (2006) presents a table of the 2006 budget for ministries (actual numbers) and a conjectural budget for 2007, which I present below.


*Milliyet (2006) indicates that the data is based on the Ministry of Treasury

As can be seen clearly, the budget for Religious Affairs was only 0.78% of the total expenditure in 2007. It is also clear that the budget for the Ministry of Defense was 6.3%; the Ministry of Education had 10.4%; and the Ministry of Health had 3.2% of the total expenditure in 2007. The combination of the budgets of these three ministries (Ministries of Defense, Education, and Health) is 25 times larger than the budget for Religious Affairs. One wonders which eight ministries Sharon-Krespin is talking about. Where did she get the data? One of the sources that she quotes gives a totally different interpretation of the facts.

In her analysis of Fethullah Gülen’s intentions, Sharon-Krespin quotes several paragraphs of Fethullah Gülen’s speeches, in which Fethullah Gülen seems to be encouraging people to organize secretly in the administration until they reach a certain point and gain control of power. Most of these speeches were broadcast during a defamation campaign against Fethullah Gülen in 1998. Fethullah Gülen denied the accusations and stated that the video tapes were speech excerpts without context. Aslandogan (2006) points out:

A concurrent phenomenon that happened exactly during this period was the passing of important legislation for the regulation of the banking sector and a banking crisis that eventually cost the state treasury the equivalent of nearly 100 billion dollars. The peculiar coincidence of the media campaign against Fethullah Gülen and the banking legislation that was at the national assembly during this campaign was noticed by Turkish intellectuals as well as by Mr. Bülent Ecevit, then the prime minister of Turkey. Ecevit voiced his opinion that the media campaign was intended to divert public attention from important legislation to the detriment of the country. Later revelations and developments over time have unfortunately confirmed the prime minister (p. 2).

Aslandogan indicates that this defamation campaign was launched against Fethullah Gülen as a smoke-screen to divert public attention while some among the elite were emptying banks. Turkey’s loss in that period was close to 100 billion dollars. Aslandogan (2006) also states that the chief attorney for the Ankara National security court Nuh Mete Yüksel started an investigation into the matter:

It was later revealed that the clips that formed one of the bases of the campaign were excerpted without context and montages were done to leave the impression that Fethullah Gülen was organizing a secret group of government workers to later take over the government. These turned out to be context‐free cut and pastes from multiple cassettes that left a completely different impression of Fethullah Gülen’s intentions (p. 4).

While quoting the montaged video speeches as if they were truly representative, Sharon-Krespin fails to mention the rest of the case. In this way she excerpts without context from excerpts without context from doctored video clips.

Furthermore, Sharon-Krespin states:

In 2008, members of the Netherland's Christian Democrat, Labor, and Conservative parties agreed to cut several million euros in government funding for organizations affiliated with “the Turkish imam Fethullah Gülen" and to thoroughly investigate the activities of the Fethullah Gülen group after Erik Jan Zürcher, director of the Amsterdam-based International Institute for Social History, and five former Fethullah Gülen followers who had worked in Fethullah Gülen’s ιşιkevi told Dutch television that the Fethullah Gülen community was moving step by step to topple the secular order (p. 59).

In her reference section she shows Erik Jan Zürcher, “Kamermeerderheid Eist Onderzoek Naar Turkse Beweging," NOVA documentary, July 4, 2008 as her source of the above quoted information. In this documentary produced by Zürcher, there are only unsubstantiated claims against the Fethullah Gülen Movement and Fethullah Gülen himself. These claims are similar to made by marginal groups in Turkey. In fact, Hikmet Çetinkaya of Cumhuriyet newspaper, whose chief editor Ilhan Selcuk (also licensee) was also taken into custody in the investigation of the Ergenekon Terror Organization, appears several times in the film. Most of the claims in the film are supported by statements from five “former Fethullah Gülen followers.". In the film, the faces of these five people are obscured and their voices are changed in order to hide their identities. If asked why their identities were covered, most probably the producers of the film would claim that it was in order to protect them. However, covering the faces and disguising the voices of the five also lends an air of mystery or subterfuge and makes their claims difficult to refute. It may have been done because in reality there are no such “former Fethullah Gülen followers," but only people who were paid to speak as instructed.

On cutting funding to the schools, Sharon-Krespin fails to provide sources. If the source is the aforementioned film or documentary, (as one assumes), she again fails to cite correctly. The film itself only asks the Netherlands’ government to cut funding after providing fabricated information. However, there is no corroboration of the funding actually being cut. She asserts the wishes and claims of these marginal groups as if they were fact.

In the remaining part of this article, I will address some logical contradictions within the Sharon-Krespin article.

Contradictions and Ambiguities in Sharon-Krespin (2009)

At the very beginning of the article, Sharon-Krespin (2009) states:

Prior to the AKP’s rise, Ankara oriented itself toward the United States and Europe. Today, despite the rhetoric of European Union accession, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned Turkey away from Europe and toward Russia and Iran and reoriented Turkish policy in the Middle East away from sympathy toward Israel and much more toward friendship with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria. Anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic sentiments have increased (p. 55).

Later on, she states:

In October 2007, the British House of Lords feted Fethullah Gülen with a conference in his honor (p. 57).

Furthermore, she states:

…the Russian government, weary of the movement's activities in majority Muslim regions of the federation, has banned not only the Fethullah Gülen schools but all activities of the entire Nur sect in the country (p. 59).

With regards to Fethullah Gülen’s immigration case, she states:

Two former CIA officials, George Fidas and Graham Fuller, and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Morton Abramowitz also supplied references (p. 65).

Even though it is not clear, the implication from Sharon-Krespin (under the title US Government Support for Fethullah Gülen) is that the US government supports Fethullah Gülen and its granting him residency supports that idea.

At the beginning of the article, Sharon-Krespin (2009) attracts the attention of the Western reader by asserting that Turkey is no longer EU–USA oriented but Russia–Iran oriented. However, her later quotes indicate that the EU–USA supports Fethullah Gülen while the Russian government bans the Fethullah Gülen-inspired schools. If the AKP and Fethullah Gülen are trying to pull Turkey towards Russia and Iran and away from the EU–USA, one wonders why Russia is banning schools (but this information is also not accurate), why the British House of Lords is organizing a conference in Fethullah Gülen’s honor, why CIA agents and US. diplomats provide references for Fethullah Gülen, and why the US government is supporting Fethullah Gülen by granting him residency rights.

Sharon-Krespin is not alone in these contradictory arguments about who is behind Fethullah Gülen. Some of the sources used by Sharon-Krespin present similar contradictory claims. Some suggest that the American CIA may be a financial backer behind the GM projects (see Kalyoncu (2008) for examples of such claims), and others claim that Fethullah Gülen is a western plot in Turkey and Islam in general. Meanwhile, the chief writer of the daily newspaper Milli Gorus—a right-wing Islamist newspaper—Mehmet Şevket Eygi (2000a, 2000b) accused (though not directly) Fethullah Gülen of being a secret agent of the papacy.

None of the above claims have been supported with evidence. They are claims which have been made in TV interviews (on marginal TV channels), or in newspapers and on internet blogs (again marginal ones). These forms of information may be circulated in such sources; however, if they are used in academic venues, they need to be supported by data (unbiased, correctly presented and calculated) or logical assertion. In conclusion, Sharon-Krespin provides a picture of Turkey and Fethullah Gülen which is contradictory to the facts. However, more importantly, she uses biased, selective, miscalculated, misleading, and misrepresentative data in order to draw these false pictures. Turkey’s role with regard to American interests has increased with the recent changes in the Middle East and Central Asia, especially with regard to war on terror in general, but also the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama’s visit to Turkey highlighted the important role of Turkey and underlined the American administration’s awareness of this importance. Therefore, American readers need an accurate picture of Turkey. Sharon-Krespin’s article reminds us (one more time) how cautious readers need to be in interpreting the flow of information, and it serves as an example of how artificial and false information and conclusions can be produced by using selective, biased, miscalculated, misleading, and misrepresentative data.

  • Aslandogan, Y. Alp, “Defation as a Smoke-Screen: A Case in Modern Turkey” in Islam in the Contemporary World: The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Thought and Practice. 3-5 November 2006, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK. May 26, 2009).
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Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition: An Example of Biased, Misleading, Mispresented and Miscalculated Article

East and West Encounters: The Gülen Movement or 'Hizmet'

East and West Encounters: The Gülen Movement
The conference titled "East and West Encounters: The Gülen Movement," held on Dec. 4-6 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, indicated that Turkey and its people have much to offer all humanity.

Academics discussed the socio-cultural, political and spiritual services provided by people and institutions inspired by Gülen. Interestingly, most non-Turkish academics used the name "hizmet" for the services provided by movement participants.

The academics discussed particular instances and general forces that have molded the hizmet movement. They had visited people and institutions within and outside Turkey to gain a better command of the topics. Many focused on the appeal of the movement for its Turkish, Muslim and non-Turkish and non-Muslim participants and supporters. They argued that the new service models established by the hizmet foundations answer a need in contemporary societies and that in hizmet understanding and action, many people find something that is missing in their own society.

Karen Fontenot and Michael Fontenot said: "The appeal the hizmet movement holds for numerous non-Turks and non-Muslim supporters: Gülen's extraordinary transformational leadership qualities; a widespread hunger for spirituality that is fulfilled by Gülen's neo-Sufism; an educational vision that seeks to reconcile science with religion; the movement's direct and personal approach to aid, which satisfies altruistic impulses; the movement's successful promotion of a moderate, tolerant version of Islam truly interested in interfaith dialogue; the dedication, enthusiasm and manifest goodwill of its followers; and finally, the appeal of a dynamic movement with a real potential to have a positive impact on an international scale. This has attracted the interest of many non-Muslims, who have always wanted to know more about Islam but have been repelled by its literalist or radical wings. Many non-Muslims believe that the hizmet movement is worth participating in."

Loye Ashton discussed the criticism directed at services given by the movement. He argued that "the opposition to the movement in Turkey is best understood as emblematic of the larger contemporary cultural struggle within society toward greater openness and freedom found in the tension between military-statist and civilian-democratic control of the government. This larger struggle has surfaced in the debates around political reforms necessary as Turkey pursues its process for membership in the EU. These reforms include moves toward greater democratization, political participation, religious liberty and civil rights, social equality and protection of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as increased economic competition and interaction with the globalized free markets. Since the socio-cultural aspect of these reforms are consistent with the values of the Gülen movement, this provides the motivation for why the movement has become a target of those factions within Turkish society, such as the old establishment of business-banking-media industrialists, neo-nationalist political parties, ruling bureaucracy-military-security elite, as well as religious fundamentalists, who see such reforms as a threat to their own financial, political and ideological interests. Opposition to the Gülen movement has less to do with the activities of the movement per se (interfaith initiatives, educational projects, media, relief work, etc.) than with the values it represents. These values are focused around inner personal transformation, an ethic of individual freedom and social responsibility for the purpose of serving other human beings."

Russell Powell, after mentioning such contemporary conditions as invasion, economic domination or systematic persecution, argued that "the dialogue efforts by the Gülen movement are predicated on tolerance and provide opportunities for forgiveness, reconciliation, solidarity and friendship. Movement participants regularly invite non-Muslims to public events and to their homes. It is hard not to be struck by the sincerity and hospitality of people who may have ample justification for resentment. This example of human warmth and charity has caused me to reflect more deeply on my own religious commitments, particularly my own need to forgive and be forgiven. No religious system has a monopoly on forgiveness. Traditional Islamic jurisprudence values and encourages it. Contemporary Muslim scholars [including Gülen] place an even greater emphasis on it as a necessary precursor to reconciliation and sustainable, peaceful, intercommunal relations."

The Gülen movement has found new models of peaceful service based on dialogue, cultural events, conferences, schools, festivals and trips to Turkey. These have enabled it to be uniquely successful in reaching and appealing to the wider public and people.

Impressions from The Gülen Conference in Los Angeles

Impressions from The Gülen Conference in Los Angeles

The “East and West Encounters: The Gülen Movement” Conference was held on Dec. 4-6 and was organized by the Pacifica Institute, a Turkish-American institution established by the Turkish community in the Los Angeles area.

In 2005 in my editorial in a special issue of The Muslim World journal about contributions of Fethullah Gülen and contemporary Islam in Turkey, I wrote that the Gülen movement can contribute to the development of positive relationships between Islam and the West. I suggested that American academia be more interested in Gülen and his movement.

Four years later, I had a chance to attend a conference, titled "East and West Encounters: The Gülen Movement," of which I was part of the editorial board. This conference has given me the impression that there is a rising interest among scholars concerning Gülen, his teachings and the movement named after him. The conference, which was held on Dec. 4-6, was organized by the Pacifica Institute, a Turkish-American institution established by the Turkish community in the Los Angeles area. The conference was sponsored by the University of Southern California's Office of Religious Life, the International Education Center at Santa Monica College, the department of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, the department of religious studies at Humboldt University and the department of religious studies at Whittier College. The conference was held on the USC campus. During the conference, various topics about Gülen and his movement were discussed, including the characteristics of the Gülen movement, which were described as hizmet (service), the functionality of the movement in contrast to the organizational structure, the contribution of the movement in dialogue between Muslims and Christians, the personality of Gülen and his reflections on hajj, gender issues and the Gülen movement, and hijra (migration) for the sake of God by admirers of Gülen. Some other topics that were discussed included the education of young men as practiced in Gülen-inspired schools and a comparison between educational and spiritual foundations of Gülen schools and Jesuit schools in specific contexts, such as Gülen schools in Australia and Kosovo.

Again, among the topics that were discussed was a comparison between Gülen and Alasdair MacIntyre, who is a contemporary philosopher at the University of Notre Dame, and the contribution of Gülen to public life through the promotion of virtues and spirituality, as well as another paper that dealt with the critiques of Gülen and his movement in political, economic and ideological contexts. Dr. Kathleen Moore of the University of California at Santa Barbara spoke of Turkey's secularism and the Gülen movement. Dr. Juan Campo spoke on Gülen's reflections of hajj, which led me to think once again of the importance of studying Gülen from a religious perspective and not only from a political or sociological perspective.

Thinking of all these topics and the discussions presented during this two-day conference, one can get the impression that there is a rising interest in the Gülen movement. From the scholars present at the conference, which included Jill Carroll and Dr. William Martin from Rice University, John Olsen of the University of Arizona, Daniel Skubik of California Baptist University, Darryl Tippens of Pepperdine University, Dr. Marcia Hermansen form Loyola University-Chicago and Thomas Michel, S.J., of Georgetown University, one can see the interest in American academia that the Gülen movement is having. The above mentioned scholars contributed greatly to the conference through their presentations and discussions at the conference.

Most successful conference to date

I had previously attended several conferences on Gülen. This particular conference can be considered one of the most successful, both academically and organizationally. It was very interesting to see the curiosity in Turkey and the teachings of Gülen by scholars such as Reza Aslan from the University of California, as evident from his keynote address. In his address, he criticizes critiques of the Gülen movement and the current ruling party in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), by saying those who are criticizing Gülen and his endeavors do not introduce any alternative to the Gülen movement. He also criticized Michael Rubin, who is closely associated with neo-conservativism. Aslan says this group pushed America into war and that they are failing in every aspect. Aslan said it is unbelievable to see that these people can still find jobs though they are failing, which made the audience laugh. I thought Aslan was good in his assessment of Turkey and what was going on between the elite ultra-secularists on the one hand and the current ruling party along with the Gülen movement on the other. After Aslan's eloquent speech, to me the most interesting talk during the opening remarks was the speech of a local Armenian who came to the podium and expressed his feelings. He described how he and his group, the Organization of İstanbul Armenians of Los Angeles, became involved in several projects with the cooperation of the Turks who established the Pacifica Institute. He suggested that the Turks in the Pacifica Institute are engaged in dialogue with Armenians not superficially but genuinely and from the depths of their hearts. It was interesting to hear that the one thing he missed the most was the trait of the Anatolian people who would help you, regardless of your religion or ethnicity, whenever they found you in need of help. This is a very important step in the dialogue between Armenians and Turks in the city of Los Angeles. Surely this achievement gives hope for a better relationship on a larger scale between Turkey and Armenia as well.

As for the presenters, they were prepared, and the papers were mostly above and beyond the standard. Being one of the editors, I can say that the process of the editorial assessments was very serious; therefore, from 84 papers, only 18 were chosen to be presented. To mention all the papers and their titles would be beyond the scope of this article; therefore, I will only mention two of them that were also published in the conference proceedings. In the panel chaired by Rabbi Reuven Firestone, Russell Powell presented a paper titled "Forgiveness in Islamic Jurisprudence and Its Role in Intercommunal Relations," which resulted in many questions from the audience and an interesting discussion. The paper also showed that people are very much interested in the Islamic understanding of law and forgiveness. Gerald Whitehouse, in his paper titled "Movement Functionality versus Organizational Structure," strongly emphasized the importance of the Gülen movement as a movement and not as an organization. He suggested that if the movement turns into an organization, it will lose its strength. Therefore, the Gülen movement should never attempt to become an organization because its power lies in the movement itself.

All discussions during this conference show that in American academia there is a growing interest in the Gülen movement and its endeavors. Today in the West, unfortunately the image of Islam and Muslims is presented as barbaric, violent and even backwards. The Gülen movement is showing the world that there is an Islam which is positive, and there are Muslims that do not put forward their Muslimness, rather they put forward their service for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They are contributing to the betterment of their communities not only through their words but also through their actions. These Muslim Turks are proving that Islam has another image and that image is a positive one. Their actions speak louder. Many papers in this conference elaborated on the characteristics of the Gülen movement and the power beyond its success. When discussion turned to the secret of the success of the movement, one presenter said "Allah," which received a positive reaction from the audience. The participants had almost a consensus that the movement was powered by a dedication for service to others, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. This is why some presenters suggested that among the admirers of Gülen, there are many non-Turks as well as non-Muslims.

This conference has shown that things related to the Gülen movement are to be discussed in the future and in more detailed ways. I think this conference gave us an opportunity to think and elaborate on the Gülen movement and its endeavors in a more focused way. If there are going to be more conferences on Gülen, I think academic institutions should carry this responsibility and elaborate on themes such as jihad, gender issues, independent reasoning and Sufism from Gülen's perspective.

Dr. Zeki Sarıtoprak is an associate professor of Islamic Studies and the director of the Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Turkish Delight

The Hagia Sofia, in Istanbul
We were a strange trio of pilgrims as we arrived at the Istanbul airport. There was the 30-ish tall, dark Turkish Imam, Ibrahim Sayar; the 60-ish American Episcopalian, Chuck; and the 70-ish Viennese-born Catholic, me.

Ibrahim leads the local chapter of the world-wide Dialogue Movement, which includes millions of moderate and observant Muslims inspired by the writings of philosopher Fethullah Gulen. Gulen's goal is to have a positive and peaceful relationship with non-Muslims. Chuck and I belong to Boston-area parishes that have ongoing social and educational relationships with this group. Our trip to Turkey included daytime sightseeing in this beautiful, historically fascinating and orderly country, and evenings spent enjoying the hospitality of supporters of the movement.

The Blue Mosque, with its cool filtered light and reverent visitors standing quietly in personal prayer, was inspiring even to a non-Muslim. There were none of the chattering tourists with flash cameras who often spoil the atmosphere in Western European cathedrals. Some of the icons at Hagia Sophia, the massive former Byzantine cathedral, could still be seen clearly in the huge building, which has a different kind of beauty.

Out of all the major European and Middle Eastern cities I've visited, Istanbul is by far the cleanest and best kept. No one ever seems to even throw away a candy wrapper. There were no beggars and apparently no homeless people, and residents of all ages were walking around in the evenings with no concern about crime. There were none of the disheveled party-goers who can make riding on public transport unpleasant in London and Paris. About half the local women had their hair covered but there was only a very occasional burka. Usually the scarf would be carefully color-coordinated with a modestly calf-length dress or skirt.

We had dinner with members of the administration of Fatih University, a fairly new private university 20 miles north of Istanbul which is run by the movement. The thousands of students study through the medium of English with faculty who often have PhDs from U.S. universities.

After Istanbul, we flew to Izmir and visited Ephesus, which had a population of 100,000 at its height but was abandoned when the harbor silted up. As it was neither destroyed nor buried under a modern city, it is easy to imagine how it was when St. Paul was there.

We drove east to Konya, the birthplace of Rumi, where a dervish, a pleasant young man in a long white robe, told us about Sufism. Dervishes don't really whirl but have a ritual dance whose movements reminded me of Chinese group aerobics. Further east, we saw Cappadocia, where 10,000 early Christians had lived like gerbils in several layers of caves connected by secret passages while they were hiding from Roman persecution.

Throughout the trip, I was impressed by the way Ibrahim and our hosts and guides punctuated their day with prayers. When the call to prayer came from the minaret, they would find a quiet place to pray and return obviously refreshed. Even the gas stations out in the country had a prayer room behind the convenience store to which customers would go after they had pumped their gas.

Religion survived here in spite of decades of actively atheistic governments when the Koran could only be taught behind closed doors. Throughout the trip, we were met with hospitality and openness to discussion about our respective religions.

Hypocrisy in Languages: Criticizing Fethullah Gülen, English or Turkish?

Fethullah Gülen has been the subject of several books and hundreds of articles, in many languages. Some of these books and articles are very critical of Gülen and the Gülen movement.

If someone wants to understand who Gülen is, the first thing this person would do is to look at the existing literature about him. However, if this person is able to read both English and Turkish, he/she would see two totally different pictures. There is a huge contradiction between the English and Turkish versions of articles critical of Gülen.

If someone looks at these articles in Turkish, he would see someone who is a CIA agent, a US puppet, a hidden cardinal of the Pope or someone working for Zionists. Though there are articles that show Gülen as trying to establish an Islamic state in Turkey, the main argument in Turkish articles is that he is a Western Trojan horse in the Muslim world and trying to either Christianize Muslims or making it easy for Western powers to exploit the Muslim world through his moderate Islamic teachings.

On the other hand, in the English versions of articles criticizing Gülen, he is portrayed as a second Khomeini who is trying to establish an Islamic state in Turkey, or even more grand, trying to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. In these English versions, he is anti-Semitic, anti-Western and trying to Islamize Christians.

This may seem absurd for people who are not able to read both Turkish and English. However, the interesting point is that both versions of the articles mainly use the same sources or are even written by the same people. For instance, Hikmet Cetinkaya, a leading figure in this campaign, wrote a book called “Fethullah Gülen’in Kırk Yıllık Serüveni” (which could be translated as Fethullah Gülen’s 40 year journey). On the cover of the book, a picture of Gülen and the White House stand side-by-side. In another book by Cetinkaya called “Fethullah Gülen, ABD ve AKP” (Fethullah Gülen, US and AKP), the cover features caricatures of Gülen and President George W. Bush, and Gülen whispers to President Bush, “Buddy, I am taking care of it.” Cetinkaya is a journalist who writes for the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and he is known for his critical (to the level of enmity) articles about Gülen. In one of his news pieces, Cetinkaya quotes İlhan Selçuk, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet: “Fethullah Gülen, who is living in America, is the vein of Christian imperialism in the Muslim world; while he is playing an oppressed religious role, in reality, he is playing for politics [and] business because he leans his back on neocon evangelists and is controlled by them, money, finance…”

In the same article, Çetinkaya claims that Gülen is supported by the CIA. To make his point, he gives the example of a school in Arbil, in northern Iraq. According to Çetinkaya, 25 out of 40 teachers working at that school had American passports in 1994. And yet, the same Çetinkaya appears on documentaries in the Netherlands and warns Christian Dutch citizens against Gülen, whom he portrays as a radical Islamist using dialogue to Islamize Christians.

Merdan Yanardağ is also a leading figure in this matter. He wrote several books paralleling the aforementioned claims. In one of his books, titled “Turkiye Nasıl Kuşatıldı?” (How Turkey is Besieged), he claims that the Gülen movement is under the control of foreign secret services, especially the CIA. He further suggests that America is using Gülen and the Gülen movement for its plans in the Middle East and Eurasia (to implement its Greater Middle East Project) and this moderate Islam approach is part of this plan.

While this was the rhetoric and claims that were used to criticize Gülen and the Gülen movement, the same sources are used to paint a totally different picture in English versions of these criticisms. For instance, Michael Rubin (interestingly, a neocon) warns America and Western powers that Gülen will establish an Islamic state in Turkey just like Khomeini. Again, he uses the arguments of the Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Similar to Rubin, Rachel Sharon-Krespin (another neocon) blames Gülen for turning “Turkey away from Europe and toward Russia and Iran and [reorienting] Turkish policy in the Middle East away from sympathy toward Israel and much more toward friendship with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Syria,” claiming that “anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-Semitic sentiments have increased.” She, like Rubin, uses the same sources (like Cumhuriyet, Çetinkaya, Yanardağ, etc.) to justify her claims.

One wonders how come these critics can contradict each other this much even though they use the same sources. How come they criticize Gülen for being an American and Zionist puppet (Turkish versions) but at the same time as an Islamic danger who is trying to establish an anti-American, anti-Semitic Islamic state (English versions)?

In fact, it is not that difficult to understand because they are addressing different audiences. It makes more sense to warn Turkish speakers of an American imperialist danger which is supported by Zionists. But, on the other hand, for English speakers, you will find more buyers if you use an Islamic danger argument. However, those who can read both languages will see the hypocrisy therein.

Talking About Islamic NGOs with the Japanese

İhsan Yılmaz
Until they contacted me, I did not know that five big Japanese universities, such as Waseda, Toyo and Tokyo, had been undertaking research for five years on faith-based Islamic NGOs and civic initiatives. When the end of the five-year term of the project approached, the academics conducting the project realized that they had failed to include probably the largest faith-based NGO originating from the Muslim world: the faith-based civic movement led by Fethullah Gülen. That is why they approached me and asked if I could deliver a paper, titled "Civil Society, Social Capital, Islamic NGOs in Turkey and their Nationwide and Global Initiatives: The Case of the Gülen Movement," in the project's final workshop.

Professor Nejima Susumu, who has been coordinating the project, told me that about 200 academics have been working on the project and that one of its aims is to underline that despite stereotypical representations, Islam is not about violence and that there is a good deal of a humanistic side to it. He emphasized that the existence of thousands of Islamic NGOs all over the world, engaged in all sorts of activities ranging from poverty eradication to human rights advocacy to interfaith dialogue, is a telling manifestation of this fact.

I discussed in my paper how the Gülen movement, with several of its faith-based NGO initiatives, successfully turned its spiritual, intellectual and human resources into effective social capital and utilized this social capital in promoting interfaith and inter-civilization dialogue as well as in establishing educational institutions from primary schools to universities to attract students of diverse ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds. The movement also mobilized its social capital to establish media outlets, charities and all sorts of other civic organizations to promote democratic participation and dialogue among various sections of the society. In the global arena, the movement has enunciated an inclusive discourse with regards to several different religious, ethnic and ideological groups.

As observed by several Western academics studying the movement, in its sponsorship and support for interfaith and inter-civilizational dialogue, the Gülen movement seeks both to counter the impact of violent radical strains in the contemporary Muslim world and to undermine wherever it can Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis. These are transnational activities, but are global in their reach and potential impact.

I endeavored to show in this paper that while the Gülen movement is directly engaged with interfaith and intercultural activities and works toward a peaceful coexistence and alliance of civilizations, it is simultaneously engaged in concrete educational projects that indirectly foster an understanding of intercultural dialogue, that help peace-building in global zones of conflict and that transform its social capital into sustainable development.

Back in Japan, Professor Susumu told me that they had to relocate one of their five campuses to Tokyo because of the demographic pressure, adding that four universities had to close as they could not attract sufficient numbers of students. Seasoned non-Japanese observers of Japan highlight here that the country has been suffering the side effects of rapid modernization and the much talked about Japanese achievement of fusing tradition with modernization is nowhere to be seen, especially in urban regions. The worst affected area is family life. By 2050 the country's population could shrink from today's 127 million to 70-80 million, with a very large percentage comprising the elderly population, bringing about the total collapse of the country's social security system. Even today 22.2 percent of the population is above 65 years old and the median age is 44.2. The population growth rate is -0.191 percent.

The country is evidently in need of a sense of direction, and who knows, this might be one of the reasons why the Japanese Ministry of Culture has financed the tremendous five-year 200-man project on Islamic NGOs with a hope of inspiration.