We were delighted with the colorful presence of 700 Turkish-speaking kids from all around the world at a recent gathering in Turkey. They won both hearts and minds in a country full of people who would be thrilled if a tourist called at them "Merhaba!" The usual answer would be, "Ne kadar güzel Türkçe konuşuyorsunuz / Your Turkish is so very good." The children came from literally all corners of the world to compete in singing, poetry-reading and prose competition at the Turkish Language Olympics, an exciting event sadly not covered by Eurosport.
But Reuters nicely covered the touching event, with a heartfelt lead paragraph, "I want to see your hands," little Bangaina Jose from Mozambique shouts in confident Turkish to an auditorium of piously-dressed Turks clapping along to her song routine (Turkish language fest shows preacher’s global reach, June 7, 2009). I thought that a more proper lead could have read: "I want to see your fists against the Ergenekon murderers," little Bangaina Jose from Mozambique shouts...
Reuters’ euphemism for the global network of fine schools operated by the Fethullah Gülen movement ends with a defensive quote from Özcan Keleş, head of the "Gülen-inspired" Dialogue Society in London. "If you have a secret agenda to overthrow the secular Turkish state, why open a school in Madagascar?" It would have been absurd if a news story began with a quote from a merry event involving little children and ends with another that talks about secret agendas and overthrowing a state. But we call it reality when the principal figure behind all the fanfare is Mr. Gülen, whose supporters from remote corners of the world condemned this columnist for calling him the ’Muslim Pope’ last week.
Ironically, the Gulenists became offended although I had only mentioned a ’Muslim Pope’ not necessarily Mr. Gülen. I wondered what might have made them think the Muslim Pope was in fact Mr. Gülen, since in Islam we do not have the equivalent of archbishops and cardinals, let alone a pope. BizarreÉ Yet that much confusion should be normal for the world’s most religious non-religious network.
But I learned my lesson. I shall call Mr. Gülen what his followers do: Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi, or The Grand/Esteemed Imam/Hodja Fethullah Gülen, hoping that the world’s possibly most powerful group of missionaries would not object to an acronym, FGH, hereafter. According to Reuters, the Gülen-inspired groups that teach Turkish to non-Turkish children say they do not teach Turkish to spread Islam.
Since the teachers are just incidentally "pious" people, and dishonesty is a sin in Islam, I would think they must be telling the truth. I guess we must begin to suspect that these schools are part of an ultra-nationalist organization, since they vigorously teach Turkish but do not aim to spread Islam. Ah, yes, Ergenekon! There is further evidence of ultra-nationalistic motives. Alp Aslandogan, chairman of the Houston-based Gülen Institute recently admitted: "Our goal is to put every Turk in contact with our movement."
Hmm... Every Turk... in contact with our movement... These are very suspicious remarks and I tend to increasingly believe the Gulenists, since they do not operate on religious motives, must be championing a pan-Turkish mission.
And, did Mr. Keles from the Dialogue Society not say, why would anyone open a school in Madagascar in order to overthrow a secular state? True, the reasoning looks poor in this regard. It’s not much different than a general saying: "Why would we hire a bunch of ailing men aged 60-85 to overthrow the Islamist government when we have the tanks and artillery and hundreds of thousands of soldiers for that?"
FGH’s supporters have no intention of de-secularizing Turkey and not a single officer at the barracks intends to overthrow the government. FGH’s powerful network should at once infiltrate Wikipedia and convince its editors to take out that problematic entry, taqiyya, which the popular online dictionary defines as, "concealing or disguising one's beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of imminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury. A one-word translation would be dissimulation." FGH’s impressive propaganda machine works on the principle of spreading the message, "Hey, Franks! We are friends," decorated with a broad smile on the face and a waving hand. All the same propaganda, weary of years’ of work and of going against principles of mechanics, is giving signals of a breakdown these days.
Sadly, FGH’s missionaries are decreasingly convincing in the ’western markets’ in which they wish to sell their product, and the divergences with one-time tactical allies, the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, may grow deeper in the near future since their ’friends in Ankara’ are getting frustrated by the calculus of alliance. "You stir up tensions, get away with it, and we are held accountable for all your dirty work." Hopefully FGH, who is in poor health, does not change strategy and abruptly put his mission into sixth gear from a safer second in order to see a few worldly accomplishments before - God forbid -- his health deteriorates.
FGH and his followers may always rely on their western friends. But in exactly the same way they won their hearts they may lose them in the same pragmatism: Moses is Moses, Jesus is Jesus and business is businessÉ