Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Storm Track Infiltration: Turkey’s Ayatollah Khomeini?

When the Shah of Iran fell from power, Ayatollah Khomeini stepped in and turned Iran into the first fundamentalist Islamic state. If a man named Fethullah Gülen came to power in Turkey, that country might go the way of Iran.

Who is Fethullah Gülen? He is Turkey’s most prominent theologian and political thinker. The web site WMD – War to Mobilize Democracy – has a very good article that explains the man and the threat.

Here are some excerpts that will introduce you to Mr. Gülen. Keep an eye on this man. He just may be the future of Turkey. – and he has the support of West, just as Khomeini did at first.

Self-exiled for more than a decade, Gülen lives a reclusive life outside Philadelphia, Pa. Within months, however, he may be as much a household a name in the United States as is Ayatollah Khomeini, a man who was as obscure to most Americans up until his triumphant return to Iran almost 30 years ago.

Many academics and journalists embrace Gülen and applaud his stated vision welding Islam with tolerance and a pro-European outlook. Supporters describe him as progressive. In 2003, the University of Texas honored him as a “peaceful hero,” alongside Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama.

Are you starting to get the drift?

Last October, the British House of Lords and several British diplomats celebrated Gülen at a high-profile London conference. Later this year, Georgetown University scholar John Esposito will host a conference dedicated to the movement. As in 2001, Esposito will cosponsor with the Rumi Forum, an organization Gülen serves as honorary president.

Now there’s a red flag right there. Esposito – the noted paid apologist for Islam.

The Gülen movement controls charities, real estate, companies, and more than a thousand schools internationally. According to some estimates, the Gülen Movement controls several billion dollars. The movement claims its own universities, unions, lobbies, student groups, radio and television stations, and the Zaman newspaper. Turkish officials concede that Gülen’s followers in Turkey number more than a million; Gülen’s backers claim that number is just the tip of the iceberg. Today, Gülen members dominate the Turkish police and divisions within the interior ministry. Under the stewardship of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of Gülen’s most prominent sympathizers, tens of thousands of other Gülen supporters have entered the Turkish bureaucracy.

You can safely say that this man is very well positioned to induce enormous pressure in Turkey. So what’s the problem with the man? The West seems to find him quite compatible. But Turkey knows other wise.

While Gülen supporters jealously guard his image in the West, he remains a controversial figure in Turkey. According to Cumhuriyet, a left-of-center establishment daily — Turkey’s New York Times — in 1973, the Izmir State Security Court convicted Gülen of “attempting to destroy the state system and to establish a state system based on religion;” he received a pardon, though, and so never served time in prison. In 1986, the Turkish military — the constitutional guardians of the state’s secularism — purged a Gülen cell from the military academy; the Turkish military has subsequently acted against a number of other alleged Gülen cells who they say infiltrated military ranks.

Because of his statements and veiled threats, the judiciary in 1998 charged Gülen with trying to “undermine the secular system” while “camouflag[ing] his methods with a democratic and moderate image.”

And of course his liberal supporters in the West fall for his taquia.

He often equates the separation of religion and state with atheism, an assertion many of Turkey’s most secular officials find offensive: Believing that religion is best kept to the individual rather than state sphere does not equate with any lack of belief in God. In 2004, Gülen equated atheism with terrorism and said both atheists and murderers would spend eternity in Hell.

On May 5, 2006, the Ankara Criminal Court overturned the verdict against Gülen. While a public prosecutor — a secularist hold-out — appealed the court’s action, the process is now nearing conclusion. Gülen’s supporters are ecstatic. His slate wiped clean, Gülen has indicated he may soon return to Turkey.

If he does, Istanbul 2008 may very well look like Tehran 1979. Just as Gülen’s supporters affirm his altruistic intentions and see no inconsistency between a secretive, cell-based movement and transparent governance, too many Western journalists also give Gülen a free pass.

So what else is new?

If this sounds familiar, it should: Three decades ago, the same phenomenon marked coverage of Iran. “I don’t want to be the leader of the Islamic Republic; I don’t want to have the government or power in my hands,” Khomeini told a credulous Austrian television reporter during the ayatollah’s brief sojourn in Paris. In November 1978, Steven Erlanger, the future New York Times foreign correspondent, penned a New Republic essay arguing that Khomeini’s vision for Iran was essentially a “Platonic Republic with a grand ayatollah as a philosopher-king,” and predicting the triumph of an independent liberal left worried more about labor conditions in Iran’s oil fields than pursuing any theological tendency.

Watch this man. He may spark an Islamic revolution in Turkey.

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  • "After the Shah of Iran was driven from power by President Jimmy Carter and replaced by what Carter assumed would be a more appropriate leader,..."

    By Blogger Michael, at 5:54 AM  

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