Fethullah Gulen inspired dialogue

Rumi Forum's blog on Hizmet, Fethullah Gulen, peacebuilding, education and interfaith efforts.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Exclusive: Interview with Fethullah Gülen, home sickness and fabricated coup


Exclusive: Interview with Fethullah Gülen, home sickness and fabricated coup






Sat, Jul. 15, 2017
CAIRO - 15 July 2017: It is not easy to find a Turkish political dissident old man who is being chased by regimes and terrorist organizations from all over the world. Fethullah Gülen, leader of Hizmet movement who has been living as a Political refugee in Pennsylvania, USA for more than 20 years talked to Egypt Today through email about several issues, including the current political regime in Turkey, the real reasons of his dispute with Erdogan and his expectations for his country’s future: 

[Read more Gulen interviews and op-eds here - including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, Asharq Al-Awsat, Le Monde, Reuters and many more ]

A year after July 15, 2016 coup, how do you evaluate what happened during this period? 

Turkey has witnessed a lot of injustice and freedoms violation during the past period, not only after July 15, even before that. The ruler party has controlled the judiciary system, as you can tell there is not any independence in the way it- Judiciary system- works. 

Huge number of sever repressive practices were applied on civilians for the first time in the Turkish history, even some American media outlets started to make comparisons between what is happening now in Turkey and what some dictators like Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung did. 


You have been accused of being responsible of the July 15 coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In your opinion who is responsible for it? 


In the same night, I condemned the coup attempt and assured that I’m not responsible for it and that I don’t have any relation with any of its planners, Erdogan insisted that I’m responsible even before starting the investigations; however these accusations are neither real nor true. 

I am not in a position that allows me to accuse anyone with a coup attempt; however according to some media, analysts and experts reports this attempt was not planned to be a real coup. Some of the secular nationalist hardliners designed this movement to look like a coup; accordingly, Erdogan troops will have the chance to get rid of all the Turkish army members who supports me. This would allow the Turkish president to tighten his powers over the army and give his militants the chance to go within the army troops. 

Shortly after the coup, I suggested to make international investigations to know the truth about what really happened during this night. I announced that I am willing to buy a ticket myself and go back to Turkey if I was convicted with planning to the coup attempt; however, Erdogan refused. 

How do you see Erdogan’s rule? 

The experts have discussed Erdogan’s law state and his eligibility to take the office, especially after the allegations that went viral regarding forging his university degree; however, personal wise I do respect Erdogan, but I do not think he has the required qualifications to be the president. 

I think Erdogan is now following the steps of the worst dictators the history have known. 

What the Turkish people can do regarding the state of repression it faces.. And do you think Erdogan can be sued internationally? 

It seems that there is no one left to say “enough” to Erdogan, most of the people who tried to stop him before are now in jail, and if the opposition can’t find a way to defend the civilian and constitutional rights then it’s completely useless. Some of them used to ignore the regime injustice just because they weren’t targeted by its actions, but they didn’t know that it will get to them one day as well, as for the Turkish people have many different ways to express their anger and abjection in peaceful ways. 

Some of the Arab countries decided to cut its diplomatic relations with Qatar, how do you see the Qatari-Turkish relations now, and what do you think of the establishment of a Turkish military base in Qatar? 

Excuse me, but I do not want to talk about issues could be related to other countries political affairs; however, I never been convinced that Erdogan is really confronting ISIS. From a way I think he is pretending to help the international coalition to confront ISIS, but from another he is financing the terrorist groups in north Syria. 


ISIS militants are being treated in the Turkish hospitals, to be released later without any interrogation or investigation. Most of the media outlets know that already but I think that the United States and the European Union do not want to take serious actions against turkey for many reasons including Turkey’s strategic location and the Syrian refugees’ issue. 

I also think that the turkey regime is trying to blackmail Egypt and intervene in its affairs through using Muslim brotherhood. 

How far you think Hizmet movement has been oppressed by Erdogan regime?

They shut all the organizations affiliated to the movement inside Turkey, dismissed more than 120,000 employees, and jailed about other 50.000. All of those did nothing but being members of a political party. 

Do you expect the coup attempt to be repeated anytime soon against Erdogan? 

Regardless that the 15 July attempt was not a ‘real coup’, I do not think that any military movement could talk place against the current government. Despite all the aggressive actions they used against the opposition, I don’t second any non-democratic way of ending the Erdogan rule. 


Earlier, Erdogan accused you of being ‘hypocrite’ and terrorism supporter.., what do you think of that? 


Until December 25, 2013, my relation with Erdogan was great, we used to meet and talk; however, I cannot understand what happened after that date made the Turkish government very angry with me. 

All of this started when Erdogan government’s members were accused of being involved in corruption cases, the following day Erdogan’s perspective towards Hizmet movement was changed, although all of our activities remained the same. The only one who should be asked about all of these accusations is Erdogan. Still however, we hope that he returns to the right democratic track he used to take during the first years of his rule. 


Some of the Turkish people organized a protest in front of the white House demanding your extradition to their government. Who do you think is financing and supporting these demonstrations, and how far you think you are secured and protected by the American administration? 

Most of the demonstrations organized in the United States are usually against the current Turkish regime and the justice and development party; however, there are some organizations with very good relation with the Turkey-ruler political party inside the U.S., and there are very high expectations that they are getting financial aid and support from the Turkish government. 

I live in the United States for nearly twenty years, so I can say that the American government provides security for all its citizens and visitors without any discrimination. I am sure that the officials here are extremely aware of the situation my political movement and I are facing and that they have the potentials and ability to handle the situation. 


Since when you are away from your home, and do you still want to go back to Turkey? 

I miss my homeland, and wish I can go back to the place I love, but I don’t want this visit to cause other problems of any kind, as I will not be able to go back as long as the current regime is ruling. 


Do you have anything you want to say to the Arab and Turkish people? 

There are too many things in common between the Arab and Turkey people. We could have used these things in common; however, we are living very hard days. From one side we have these terrorist and armed groups which distort Islam all around the world, and from the other side we have regimes knows how to get benefits from the existence of these groups and don’t think of anything but its own interest. 

I ask all of the Muslims everywhere to pray to God for our salvation.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fethullah Gulen: Erdogan is not Fit to be President



TEMPO.CO



Fethullah Gulen: Erdogan is not Fit to be President
WEDNESDAY, 26 JULY, 2017 | 21:10 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Whenever the failed military coup which took place in Turkey on July 15, 2016, is talked about, his name will also be mentioned. But Muhammad Fethullah Gulen, 79, accused as being the brain behind the coupbelieves that event was in fact engineered to benefit Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


[Read more Gulen interviews and op-eds here - including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, Asharq Al-Awsat, Le Monde, Reuters and many more ]


Known as Hojaefendi--the highest spiritual teacher--Gulen has become Erdogan's arch enemy. The President's supporters are pushing hard to get Gulen extradited from the United States.

Journalists from all corners of the want to interview this spiritual leader after the failed coup. But Gulen rarely accepts requests for interview. Having contacted him since last year, Tempo reporter Wahyu Muryadi was lucky when in June, Gullen finally agreed for a meeting at his retreat in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The meeting initially was planned as a friendly get-together during Ramadan, without an interview. "Every Ramadan, Gulen's tradition is only to read and recite the Qur'an, not responding to the mass media," said Osman, one of his staff.

After an hour-long meeting with servings of tea, dates and nuts, Gullen surprisingly allowed Tempo to publish the results of the discussion. Wearing his old blue robes like an overcoat, he even allowed his picture to be taken. This was also the first time Gulen made a video selfie with the media.

Gulen has written many books on Islamic mysticism and the history of the Prophet Muhammad. He is also an avid reader of French classic literature by Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. Like other spiritual leaders, the sunni muslim scholar from the Hanafi school has a steady routine of teaching and interpreting the Qur'an for followers who attend his retreat. Over the years he has been well-known for his work with interfaith movements to promote peace and reconciliation, in Turkey and overseas, with Protestant, Catholic and Jewish religious leaders.

Marking one year since the coup this July, Gulen appears to be using this momentum to speak openly about many issues in his home country, including the political situation under Erdogan. During the interview, he was accompanied by his right-hand-man Alp Aslandogan--a doctor of computer science who leads an NGO called Alliance for Share Values. Gulen answered all questions in Turkish, while Aslandogan acted as interpreter, translating into English. Excerpts:

You've been accused of being behind the failed coup against Erdogan on July 15, 2016. Is it true?

I condemned the coup attempt on that same night and denied any involvement. But President Erdogan, without any investigation, began accusing me of being behind it. This is wrong from the Islamic perspective and according to universal justice principles. How can you accuse someone of a crime like this, with no investigation? After the July 15 incident, I again stated my commitment to democracy and peace, declaring that I am against any attempt to remove Erdogan from his position through undemocratic means. I published an article in The New York Times saying governments should change through ballots not bullets.

So who is responsible?

I cannot say it was this or that person, nor group who staged the attempt. But other observers and commentators are arguing that a group of ultranationalist generals might be behind the failed coup attempt.

Can you explain in more detail?

It was not a real coup. It was designed to help purge the military of people allegedly sympathetic to me. I invited Erdogan to allow for an international investigation into the event, and I pledged that if they found me guilty, I would buy my own ticket and return to Turkey. But he did not respond to my challenge.

Is there an analogy explaining your relationship with Erdogan?

You can see it in cases of national and religious leaders over the centuries. All are imams from the four major schools, Imam Abu Khanifa, Imam Shafie, Imam Ibn Hanbal, Imam Malik, Imam Rabbani, even Maulana Jalaaluddeen Rumi's father suffered the same fate we are suffering now in Turkey. They were asked by a political leader to provide unconditional support, and having to give up their integrity.

What do you think about Erdogan's leadership?

Legal experts discussed Erdogan's eligibility to serve as president, because of questions about his college education. Other have questioned the fairness of the elections and there are allegations of electoral fraud. But aside from this, if the Turkish people elect a shepherd as their leader, I respect their choice. But personally I don't see Erdogan is fit to be president.

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine
Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/news/2017/07/26/241894729/Fethullah-Gullen-Erdogan-is-not-Fit-to-be-President

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cleric Gulen says he would not flee U.S. to avoid extradition to Turkey

Fethullah Gulen’s interview with Reuters



JULY 11, 2017 / 6:35 PM

Matt Spetalnick and Julia Harte

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkey of instigating last year’s failed coup, says he has no plans to flee the United States and would accept extradition if Washington agrees to a request by Ankara to hand him over.


[Read more Gulen interviews and op-eds here - including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, Asharq Al-Awsat, Le Monde, Reuters and many more ]


In an interview in his gated compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, Gulen, 79, denied a Turkish government allegation from February that he was preparing to leave for Canada to avoid extradition.

“The rumors aren’t true at all,” he told Reuters.

“If the United States sees it appropriate to extradite me, I would leave (for Turkey),” he said, sitting in an ornate meeting room, its walls lined with Islamic scripture.

President Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government accuse Gulen of orchestrating last July’s attempted coup, in which rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets, bombing parliament and trying to abduct or kill Erdogan. More than 240 people were killed in the violence.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington declined to comment on Gulen’s latest remarks. The White House did not respond immediately to requests for comment. Officials in Ankara could also not immediately be reached for comment.

Erdogan said in May he would pursue “to the end” Turkey’s demand for the extradition of Gulen, who denies any involvement in the coup attempt. But there has been little or no concrete progress on the Turkish request.

U.S. officials have said privately that even though Erdogan has appealed directly to U.S. President Donald Trump on the matter, Turkey has yet to provide enough evidence for the Justice Department to act.

The issue has been a major sticking point in the relationship between the two NATO allies.

Gulen said he hoped that the Trump administration would not allow his extradition to move forward, especially after the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a White House aide who quit just weeks after Trump’s inauguration.

Flynn, who resigned over his failure to disclose the extent of his contacts with Russia, had performed paid lobbying work that “could be construed to have principally benefited” the Turkish government, according to his lobbying registration filings, and was outspoken in favor of Gulen’s extradition.

Gulen said he felt “pity” for Flynn but acknowledged that the former Trump aide’s departure might have helped his case.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the status of Turkey’s extradition request. There was no immediate response from Flynn’s lawyer to a request for comment.

FRAIL EXILE
Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999, presiding over what he says is a humanitarian religious movement. His followers operate a global network of schools and businesses that has been linked to the Gulenist movement.

His network was declared a terrorist group by Turkey’s national security council two months before the failed coup. Since then, Gulen himself has become an increasingly marginalized figure across the political spectrum.

Following the putsch, a wide crackdown, which the government says is targeting Gulen’s followers, has seen 50,000 people arrested and 150,000 state workers including teachers, judges and soldiers suspended under emergency rule.

Gulen denounced Erdogan’s consolidation of power and the seizure of media outlets, comparing him to a “dictator.” He urged the Trump administration and European governments to do more to encourage the restoration of political freedoms in Turkey.

“(If Erdogan hears) a strong voice from the United States or European Union, European Parliament, Brussels, saying: ‘What you are doing is wrong … your judicial system is not working,’ then maybe he will change his mind,” the cleric said.

European leaders have been critical of Erdogan’s crackdown, but Washington has been more muted in its response. In a meeting in Washington in May, Trump made no mention of Erdogan’s record on dissent and free speech.

The Turkish government has repeatedly said its actions are justified by the gravity of the threat posed to the state by last year’s coup, and rejected suggestions that it is clamping down on dissent.

“The rule of law is upheld in Turkey, and it is not just about gaining more power or punishing the opposition,” Revza Kavakci Kan, deputy chair of Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, told a conference in Washington on Monday.

Gulen praised the political opposition in Turkey and stressed that any fresh effort to remove Erdogan should be through peaceful protest and elections, not non-democratic means.

His followers say his global movement – known as “Hizmet,” which means “service” in Turkish – seeks to spread a moderate brand of Islam, which promotes Western-style education, free markets and interfaith communication.

“I have never supported a coup or an ouster,” he said.

Today, Gulen is an isolated figure in Turkey, reviled by Erdogan’s supporters but also shunned by much of the opposition, who see his network as having conspired over decades to undermine the secular foundations of the modern republic.

Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets of Istanbul on Sunday to protest against Erdogan’s crackdown, but there was no sign of sympathy for Gulen.

Gulen appeared frail in the interview, walking with a shuffle, and keeping his longtime doctor close at hand.

Additional reporting by Nick Tattersall in London and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney//

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-security-iran-idUSKBN1A00D2

Cleric Accused Of Plotting Turkish Coup Attempt: ‘I Have Stood Against All Coups’

Fethullah Gulen’s interview with NPR



On July 15 last year, in an attempted coup, a faction of the Turkish military bombed government buildings, blocked roads, and bridges and attempted to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The coup attempt was quelled by the next day — but Turkey has been feeling the repercussions ever since.

[Read more Gulen interviews and op-eds here - including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, Asharq Al-Awsat, Le Monde, Reuters and many more ]

The government has engaged in sweeping purges, arresting tens of thousands and firing more than 100,000 people from their jobs, including civil servants, university professors, and soldiers.

But the primary target of Erdogan’s wrath is Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar in his late 70s living in exile in the United States. Erdogan blames Gulen for masterminding the failed coup attempt. The government has declared Gulen’s movement a terrorist organization.

Gulen, who is said to have millions of supporters in Turkey, has steadfastly denied any responsibility for the coup — but Turkey is demanding his extradition from the U.S., where he has lived since the late 1990s.

“To this day, I have stood against all coups,” Gulen told NPR’s Robert Siegel, who traveled Monday to the cleric’s compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, in the Pocono Mountains. “My respect for the military aside, I have always been against interventions. …If any one among those soldiers had called me and told me of their plan, I would tell them, ‘You are committing murder.’ ”

Gulen, who rarely speaks with the press, expressed concern for Turkey’s future, but has “some hope,” he said.

“If they ask me what my final wish is,” he added, “I would say the person who caused all this suffering and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face.”

When asked if he was referring to Erdogan, he replied: “It can’t be anyone else. He is the oppressor.”

NPR has sought comment from the Turkish embassy, which declined to issue a written response to Gulen’s remarks.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS
On Erdogan’s claim that he orchestrated last year’s failed coup attempt

To this day, I have stood against all coups. I suffered during the military intervention of May 27, 1960, and then again on March 12, 1971 and again on September 12, 1980, and I was targeted February 28, 1997. My respect for the military aside, I have always been against interventions. I don’t know the people who attempted the July 15 coup. They might know me, they may have attended some lectures — I have no idea. Thousands of people have come here to the retreat to visit, among them 50 members of parliament, former President Abdullah Gul, former Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. …For this reason, many people might know me, but I don’t know them. …

One other thing is I live here, thousands of miles away from Turkey. Some soldiers decided to do the coup, and despite the many questions and suspicions that remain of the government account of what transpired that night, if such claims are still taken to be credible, I shudder in astonishment. But if I were to humor that idea, if any one among those soldiers had called me and told me of their plan, I would tell them, “You are committing murder.”

On Turkey’s extradition request

I think the United States is mindful of its reputation for its democracy and rule of law, and if they are willing to risk that reputation by extraditing me based on the request and claims made by Turkey, I would never say no. I would go willingly.

I am living my final years, even if they decide to kill me or poison me or bring back the death sentence to hang me. When I was a young imam back in the day, I was present at the execution of two men, and I asked them about their final wish. If they ask me what my final wish is, I would say the person who caused all this suffering and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face.

On allegations that his organization is secretive

The perception that I control all of this… that I tell people to do things and that they are doing them… there is no such thing. As I have said to one lawmaker, if there is any suspicion of secrecy, they should conduct deep investigations and expose it. I am not clear on what it is that is so secret, but they should send their law enforcement and intelligence services to uncover it. I firmly support that.

On why his organization is based in the Pocono Mountains in rural Pennsylvania

Before I moved here, I always lived in Turkey and was subject to many difficult situations and targeted in the numerous military coups that happened over the years. … I never really wanted to leave Turkey, but I had some heart problems and a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic insisted that I come here and get treatment. So I traveled here and while I was in the hospital, a prosecutor in Turkey opened a case against me, so I was advised to remain here until things calmed down, but they never quite did.

I don’t want to be perceived as pretentious to Americans for speaking to an American outlet and for what I’m about to say, but I have always carried an admiration for the United States for its democracy and its leadership of the world. I had freedom here and for that, I decided to stay here. And a few years later, I received my permanent residency, and as such I am still here and I think it was a wise decision.

I haven’t ventured out of the retreat much, only to come and go to the hospital, as I prefer tranquility.

On what he foresees for his movement’s future

[Erdogan] thinks that if he can eliminate me, everyone else in this movement will dissolve. … Erdogan thinks if he gets rid of me, he thinks ending me will end the movement. He couldn’t be more wrong. We are mortals, we will die one day. But this is a movement of love and dedication to humanity and God willing, the people who use their rationality and free will shall continue doing their great work.

On his hopes for Turkey’s future

I am neither a sociologist nor a psychologist, but you don’t have to be one to see that Turkey is in a vortex of problems, isolated from the world. Diplomacy has been replaced by profits and benefits. …

The whole world has borne witness to this. From this perspective, I don’t see a bright future for Turkey. It pains me, but I have some hope, I pray for it to be better. It is a blessed country, a NATO member, and was an E.U. candidate. These were things we wanted — to see progress in the democracy, to see respect for diversity of thought. …

Turkey is a diverse country …I think that democracy is the ideal system for a country with a social foundation such as this. My view is based on my belief that everyone should be able to comfortably live what they believe, and this is only possible in a truly democratic environment. I am insistent in my views and I strongly believe in what I say.

In addition, I have previously expressed to others that the Turkish constitution should be modeled on the American constitution. America is a non-homogenous society of more than 300 million governed under such a constitution. It would be very effective for Turkey.

Source: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2017/07/11/536011222/cleric-accused-of-plotting-turkish-coup-attempt-i-have-stood-against-all-coups

Accused Turkish Cleric Assails President on Anniversary of Coup Attempt

Fethullah Gulen, in interview with the Wall Street Journal speaks out against Recep Tayyip Erdogan



By Alan Cullison
July 14, 2017 4:24 p.m. ET

SAYLORSBURG, Pa.—The reclusive cleric who was accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of planning a coup attempt one year ago from his gated U.S. compound urged in a rare interview that the West stand up to what he called Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian leader.

[Read more Gulen interviews and op-eds here - including New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, Asharq Al-Awsat, Le Monde, Reuters and many more ]


In an ornate conference room in his home in the Pocono Mountains, the cleric Fethullah Gulen repeated his declaration that he has never been involved in any coup-plotting. He decried Mr. Erdogan for launching a purge within Turkey, the brunt of which has fallen on his followers.

Fethullah Gulen, shown on Wednesday in Saylorsburg, Pa., criticized Turkey’s president for his crackdown following a failed coup one year ago. Photo: Sasha Maslov for The Wall Street Journal

“I never thought that he could go so bad,” said Mr. Gulen, who said that the Turkish president was unleashing mass hysteria inside the country. “Some parts of Turkish society have lost their ability to think.”

Since last July, Turkey has arrested or driven from their jobs tens of thousands of people Turkish authorities accuse of supporting Mr. Gulen. The government has closed hospitals and schools affiliated with his social movement, Hizmet, which translates roughly as “service.”

The Turkish government said it has seized up to $4 billion in property previously owned by businessmen or foundations alleged to be linked to the movement.

“Nothing like this has been seen before in Turkey,” Mr. Gulen said. “It can only be compared with Lenin and Stalin or Saddam in Iraq.”

Turkey is now investigating 160,000 people, and 50,000 have been arrested, with 48,000 of them released, according to Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic. There are outstanding arrest warrants for about 8,000 people, he said.

In a news conference held Friday to commemorate the first anniversary of the coup attempt, Mr. Kilic supported the country’s extended state of emergency, saying Mr. Gulen’s followers have spent decades in the ranks of government and it would take time to remove them.

Mr. Kilic continued to blame Mr. Gulen for organizing last July’s failed plot, and pressed Turkey’s demand for extradition.

TOP: A soldier accused of attempting to assassinate Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the night of the failed July 15, 2016 coup is carried to a Turkish courthouse. BELOW: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a ceremony marking the failed coup, in Ankara on Thursday. Photo: kenan gurbuz/Reuters (TOP) ; Adem Altan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images (ABOVE)

He said he saw “more willingness” on the part of the Trump administration to entertain the extradition request, but that the process is “not moving as fast” as Turkey would like.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to comment Friday, saying the Justice Department doesn’t speak publicly about extradition requests.

“I believe that there are certain measures that the U.S. authorities can take,” Mr. Kilic said, “including limitations on his activities in the United States. He’s still freely giving interviews to newspapers. This is not freedom of expression, he’s accusing the Turkish government, he’s sending messages to his supporters in Turkey and he is still traveling.”

Mr. Gulen said that his movement is also coming under pressure outside of Turkey as Ankara tries to persuade countries to shut down his movement’s schools in other countries. Many governments have refused, his aides said, but others have been currying favor with Ankara by shutting down schools and transferring property to the Turkish government.

Mr. Gulen described what he called rising chauvinism and racism in Turkey—as well as Europe and the U.S.—but said traditional institutions weren’t addressing them head on. “NATO has a potential, the European Parliament has a potential,” he said. “But in their current state they don’t seem to be addressing these problems right now.”

On July 15, 2016, mutinous elements of the Turkish military took to the streets, tanks opened fire on civilians and jet fighters bombed parliament as part of the unsuccessful coup attempt, during which commandos also made a botched effort to catch or kill the Turkish president. More than 240 people died in the violence.

The Turkish government alleges that Mr. Gulen’s followers in his homeland have been plotting for years to take over the state through powerful positions in the military and judiciary and across the civil service. Authorities in Ankara liken him to a cult leader.

Mr. Gulen, who has been a resident of the U.S. since 1999, said he supports a modern and moderate version of Islam that supports democracy, science and tolerance.

His presence in the U.S. was an early quandary for President Donald Trump, who sought closer relations with Turkey and whose former national security adviser, Mike Flynn, had performed lobbying work on behalf of the Turkish government.

Aides to Mr. Gulen said they think any extradition to Turkey is less likely after the resignation of Mr. Flynn, who had failed to disclose the extent of his contacts with foreign officials.

In the interview, Mr. Gulen said that the Turkish president’s authoritarian streak was on display during his visit to Washington earlier this year, when Mr. Erdogan’s personal bodyguards attacked protesters outside the Turkish Embassy. Federal prosecutors in the U.S. later filed charges against at least 10 members of the detail.

“They are not like guards, they are like assassins who are so devoted to their leader that they will not refrain from shooting people,” he said.

The Turkish Embassy said at the time that the Erdogan supporters were responding in self-defense to terrorist sympathizers.

Mr. Gulen—a powerful orator known as the Hocaefendi, or respected teacher, by his followers—has written numerous books and delivered emotional video speeches.

His group, formed at a time when Turks feared religious persecution by a secular government, has often been cagey about its membership, contributing to allegations that he in fact was running a secret cult.

Graham Fuller, former vice chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council who has defended Mr. Gulen’s movement as a positive force for moderate Islam in today’s world, said the allegation is no longer deserved. “Over the last decade or more it has had a very public face,” he said.

In Turkey, Gulenists have spread throughout state institutions such as the courts and the military “to ensure these institutions would not be used against them again,” said Mr. Fuller, who in 2006 wrote a letter to the FBI defending Mr. Gulen against attempts to extradite him.

Mr. Gulen in Saylorsburg on Wednesday. Photo: Sasha Maslov for The Wall Street Journal

—Felicia Schwartz contributed to this article.

Write to Alan Cullison at alan.cullison@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 15, 2017, print edition as ‘Turkish Cleric Assails President.’