By Nahal Toosi on 9/9/16 POLITICO
Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric that the Turkish government blames for the recent attempted coup, has long been reclusive, rarely granting interviews. But in the wake of the accusations against him, he’s sought to clear his name.
Other op-eds and articles by Fethullah Gulen here
Gülen recently agreed to answer a handful of written questions from POLITICO. The exchange is here in full:
I have served as a preacher for nearly 30 years before coming to the U.S. and my friends continued to publish my talks after I settled here. There are over 70 books based on my articles and talks. It is natural that in Turkish government there are people who share some of my views just as there are those who don’t share them.
My teaching has always been to act within [the] law and in an ethical way. If anybody who follows my works acts illegally or unethically, or if they disobey the lawful orders of their superiors, that is a betrayal of my teachings and I fully support their being investigated and facing the consequences.
If there is no discrimination, government institutions reflect the colors and patterns of its society. We know that in Turkish government institutions there are people of various political and religious orientations, such as nationalists, neonationalists, Maoists, Kemalists, Alevis, leftists, sympathizers of Sufi orders and others. For decades, none of these groups could be transparent about their identities except the Kemalists because of political profiling and discrimination. And now, loyalty to Erdoğan is replacing loyalty to Ataturk as the criteria for acceptable identity.
It is the constitutional right of every Turkish citizen to serve in their government institutions if they are qualified to do so. To accuse anybody of having a nefarious goal without evidence is slander. If people are afraid to reveal their identity for fear of reprisals, it is the regime’s problem, not theirs.
As far as my discourse is concerned, I have never advocated for regime change in Turkey. To the contrary, 22 years ago, in 1994, I told publicly that there will be no return from democracy in Turkey or elsewhere in the world. This was both a prediction and a commitment to democracy. Publications who are allied with President Erdoğan now, criticized me severely then, nearly calling me an infidel. When the military was dominating the domestic politics during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was charged in Turkish courts … but not a single piece of evidence could be brought to show that I supported any other regime but democracy.
What do you think the future holds for your movement in the wake of the attempted coup in Turkey and Turkish leaders’ demonization of your organization?
President Erdoğan appears determined to wipe all the institutions set up by Hizmet participants and prevent any future attempts to establish any new institutions. This is contrary to [the] Turkish constitution and all the international agreements Turkey is a party to. But unless world leaders take a stance with effective measures against this witch hunt, there is no internal dynamic in Turkey to stop the president.
Our friends have so far defended their rights through peaceful protests and in Turkish courts. Now even law offices are being raided and lawyers are being detained. People’s right to defend themselves in the court of law is taken away from them. [The] Erdoğan government is doing everything to push these people to violence. But so far they resisted and remained peaceful and I am confident that they will remain so. Some Hizmet participants have left the country to seek opportunities for investment or for professional work abroad.
This is a sad loss for Turkey but it is the only choice for some people. Private properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been confiscated. I hope and pray that this madness will not last for long.
If the U.S. government decides to extradite you to Turkey, will you agree to the decision?
The U.S. government has a long history of upholding the rule of law and respecting freedoms. Because of this, they have a respectable reputation around the world. I don’t consider it likely that they will abandon this tradition and undermine their reputation simply because President Erdoğan is so adamant about this issue. In the unlikely event that the extradition matter is decided on political grounds, I have already stated that they don’t need to force me out of the country, I will buy my own ticket and go on my own will without blinking an eye.