What is Fethullah Gülen?

By F William Engdahl and cross posted from New Eastern Outlook

345345345345Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey of July 15 there has been much speculation in western media that it in fact was all engineered by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to provide him with the pretext to impose emergency rule and to jail any and all opposition to his rule. At this point evidence still suggests that that was not at all the case. Rather, as I wrote at the time when it was clear the coup attempt was collapsing, it was a coup initiated by the CIA acting through their primary asset inside Turkey, the networks of their fugitive Turkish asset Fethullah Gülen. When we examine more closely “what” is Fethullah Gülen he is anything but the grandfatherly image of a 75-year-old soft-spoken Islamic moderate, scholar and Imam. His networks have been called the most dangerous in Germany by Islamic experts and have been banned in several Central Asian countries. Now, too, in Turkey. What’s becoming clear is that the failed coup was in fact a dry-run, a dress rehearsal by Gülen’s controllers in Langley to see how Erdogan would react, in order to recalibrate and prepare for a more serious attempt in the future. Washington was not at all happy with the foreign policy turn of Erdoğan turning to reconcile with Russia and possibly also with Syria’s Assad.

Fethullah Gülen is not a “who” but, rather, it is a “what.” The what is one of the most extensive and elaborate surrogate warfare networks ever created by the United States intelligence community, spanning countless nations including the United States and Germany, as well as the historic Turkic regions of Central Asia from Turkey up to the Uyghur peoples of China’s oil-rich Xinjiang Autonomous Province.

Fethullah Gülen’s Spider Web

The following draws on research for my book, The Lost Hegemon: Whom the gods would destroy. I begin with a quote from a Gülen speech to his followers when he was still in Turkey in the 1990’s:

“You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers…You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it…You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power…in Turkey…Until that time, any step taken would be too early—like breaking an egg without waiting the full forty days for it to hatch.”

—Imam Fetullah Gülen, in a sermon to followers in Turkey

As they were deploying Osama bin Laden’s Arab Mujahideen “holy warriors” into Chechnya and the Caucasus during the 1990s, the CIA, working with a network of self-styled “neo-conservatives” in Washington, began to build their most ambitious political Islam project ever.

It was called the Fethullah Gülen Movement, also known in Turkish as Cemaat, or “The Society.” Their focus was Hizmet, or what they defined as the “duty of Service” to the Islamic community. Curiously enough, the Turkish movement was based out of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. There, its key figure, the reclusive Fethullah Gülen, was allegedly busy building a global network of Islam schools, businesses, and foundations, all with untraceable funds. His Gülen Movement, or Cemaat, has no main address, no mailbox, no official organizational registration, no central bank account, nothing. His followers never demonstrated for Sharia or Jihad—their operations were all hidden from view.

In 2008, US Government court filings estimated the global value of Gülen’s empire at anywhere between $25 and $50 billion. No one could prove how large as there were no independent audits. In a US Court testimony during the hearing on Gülen’s petition for a special US Green Card permanent residence status, one loyal Cemaat journalist described the nominal extent of Gülen’s empire:

The projects sponsored by Gülen-inspired followers today number in the thousands, span international borders and…include over 2000 schools and seven universities in more than ninety countries in five continents, two modern hospitals, the Zaman newspaper (now in both a Turkish and English edition), a television channel (Samanyolu), a radio channel (Burc FM), CHA (a major Turkish news agency), Aksiyon (a leading weekly news magazine), national and international Gülen conferences, Ramadan interfaith dinners, interfaith dialog trips to Turkey from countries around the globe and the many programs sponsored by the Journalists and Writers Foundation. In addition, the Isik insurance company and Bank Asya, an Islamic bank, are affiliated with the Gülen community.

Bank Asya was listed among the Top 500 Banks in the world by London’s Banker magazine. It had joint-venture banking across Muslim Africa, from Senegal to Mali in a strategic cooperation agreement with the Islamic Development Bank’s Senegal-based Tamweel Africa Holding SA. Zaman, which also owns the English-language Today’s Zaman, is the largest daily paper in Turkey.

By the late 1990s, Gülen’s movement had attracted the alarm and attention of an anti-NATO nationalist wing of the Turkish military and of the Ankara government.

After leading a series of brilliant military campaigns in the 1920s to win the Independence War after World War I, Kemal Ataturk established the modern Turkish state. He launched a series of political, economic, and cultural reforms aimed at transforming the religiously-based Ottoman Caliphate into a modern, secular, and democratic nation-state. He built thousands of new schools, made primary education free and compulsory, and gave women equal civil and political rights, and reduced the burden of taxation on peasants.

Gülen and his movement aim at nothing less than to roll-back the remains of that modern, secular Kemalism in Turkey, and return to the Caliphate of yore. In one of his writings to members, he declared, “With the patience of a spider we lay our net until people get caught in it.”

In 1998, Gülen defected to the US shortly before a treasonous speech he had made to his followers at a private gathering was made public. He had been recorded calling on his supporters to “work patiently and to creep silently into the institutions in order to seize power in the state,” treason by the Ataturk constitution of Turkey

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