Destinations Magazine

Turkey’s Political Imams: The Gulenists Fight Back

By Stizzard
Turkey’s political imams: The Gulenists fight back Fethullah Gulen: at home in America

IN A recent sermon Fethullah Gulen, Turkey’s most powerful Muslim cleric, preached against hubris. Delivered in rural Pennsylvania, where Mr Gulen lives in self-imposed exile, it was broadcast from his website with an electrifying effect. Was the holy man alluding to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian prime minister?Mr Gulen is the spiritual leader of a global network, the Hizmet (meaning service), that includes media outlets, schools and charities. These have spread his pacifist, modern-minded Islam, often praised as a contrast to more extreme Salafism. Much of the network is financed by Anatolian businessmen.One recent afternoon Muslims from the Balkans feasted on roast lamb in a wooded corner of New Jersey. At the call to prayer, trousers were rolled up, ablutions taken and the genuflecting began—all organised by the Hizmet, which holds similar events in Africa and Asia. But their impact is strongest in Turkey. Long persecuted by the secularist generals, the Hizmet was relieved when Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) party took power in 2002.Mr Erdogan began his career…

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