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The Real Face of Fethullah Gülen

It is widely known that Fethullah Gülen has invested millions of dollars into creating and sustaining a false public image (the story of how a Foreign Policy poll was rigged is but one example). For the most part, the investment has been successful – the majority of the media reports coming out this past week since the attempted coup have referred to him as a “moderate” or, his favorite line, a proponent of “inter-faith dialogue.” Most media reports don’t find the time to mention how he instrumentalized his influence within the government to have his opponents arrested, tried, and jailed on false charges and fabricated evidence.

However there is another side to Fethullah Gülen, one that is rarely seen outside of his organization. There are the famous comments, such as the leaked video from 1999 in which he instructed his followers to “move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers. . . . Until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this.” He later swore them to secrecy (Gülen isn’t exactly known for transparency), telling them, “Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all—in confidence . . . trusting your loyalty and secrecy. I know that when you leave here, [just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and the feelings that I expressed here.”

And then there are frightening moments of outright anger and calls to violence, which can be seen below. My question to all the press corps currently heading to Saylorsburg: is this the same Gülen you are meeting with, or is he putting on yet another convincing performance?

The fact that the real Gulen is different from the one marketed and sold to the U.S. public is not lost upon Turkish observers. Here Merve Şebnem Oruç explains:

As a matter of fact, the movement and its leader, who likes to talk to Western media and reiterate his commitment to democracy again and again, are defining themselves quite different in Turkey. Their discourse on Turkish and English media was as different as black and white for a long time with regards to matters of religion, democracy and freedoms. Gülen’s furious sermon posted online of him and his followers cursing Erdoğan and asking Allah to “burn down their houses, spoil the peace in their homes, break their unities,” was also in contradiction with the movement’s self-promoting characteristics of “tolerance” and “love.”

He and his followers think that Allah has chosen them and that Turkey has been promised to them by Allah. He tends to be absolute by bandying myths about himself.

If only more people could understand the true face of Fethullah Gülen, we wouldn’t be where we are today.