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5 Things to Know About Turkey's Gulen Movement

5 Things to Know About Turkey's Gulen Movement
In this March 15, 2014 file photo, Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, sits at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, United States. (AP Photo/Selahattin Sevi, File)

By    |   Monday, 18 July 2016 01:52 PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that the U.S. extradite U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom he accused of staging the failed coup attempt staged last week.

Gulen and other critics of Erdogan suggest that the president himself may have staged a coup – and used the fallout to crack down on dissent.

They seemingly have some evidence of this, as Erdogan has arrested or fired more than 8,000 officials, including judges and police.

Gulen may be an easy scapegoat for Erdogan, as the religious teacher, now in his 70s, lives in exile in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

“I don’t believe that the world believes the accusations made by President Erdogan,” Gulen said, according to The Guardian. “There is a possibility that it could be a staged coup and it could be meant for further accusations [against Gulen and his followers].”

Here are five things to know about Turkey's Gulen Movement:

1. Reach — The movement of Gulen followers, known as Hizmet, has grown into the world's biggest Muslim network, despite having no formal structure, visible organization, or official membership, the BBC reported. Gulen rejects all forms of religious violence and "promotes a tolerant Islam which emphasizes altruism, hard work, and education," the BBC said.

The movement has influenced millions of people in "every strata of the society regardless of class, ideology, political, ethnic, and religious affiliations," the group's website claims. It cites a survey by Akbar Ahmed of American University, which found that 84 percent of Turkish society has a highly favorable opinion of Gulen.

2. Origin — The movement began in the 1970s to improve educational opportunities. Gulen followers, usually Turks, have opened charter schools around the world, including more than 160 public charter schools in the United States that focus on science, math, and technology, The Washington Post reported.

3. Not affiliated with ISIS — Gulen has long opposed jihadism and terrorism, and has called for closer ties to the U.S. Gulen denounced ISIS in an editorial that ran in The Wall Street Journal in August 2015.

"As the group that calls itself Islamic State, known as ISIS, continues to produce carnage in the Middle East, Muslims must confront the totalitarian ideology that animates it and other terrorist groups. Every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam profoundly affects all Muslims, alienating them from fellow citizens and deepening the misperceptions about their faith’s ethos," he wrote.

4. Gulen and Erdogan were once friendly — Gulen was once a supporter of Erdogan and helped the leader rise to power, The Washington Post noted. They had a falling out after Erdogan accused Gulen of "stirring up allegations of corruption among senior officials as well as Erdogan’s son," the Post said. Erdogan has increasingly moved his regime close to dictatorship – arresting opponents and journalists. Gulen has served as a counterweight to his moves so far.

5. ‘Terrorist’ label doesn’t stick — In May, Erdogan announced that the Turkish government had officially designated the Gulen movement as a terrorist group and accused it of trying to topple the government, Reuters reported. There is no evidence that Gulen is anything but peaceful. The organization has called for Erdogan to govern by democratic principles.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demanded that the U.S. extradite U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom he accused of staging the failed coup attempt staged last week.
things to know, turkey, gulen movement, erdogan, coup
Monday, 18 July 2016 01:52 PM
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