Statement on Turkish Media’s Attack on Fethullah Gulen’s Egypt Interview

October 3, 2019 –  Mr. Fethullah Gulen gave a short interview to Egypt’s Ten TV during the last week of September. Unfortunately, this interview has been misrepresented, taken out of context, and used as propaganda material to defame Mr. Gulen by Turkish media under President Erdogan’s control. The following is intended to clarify the context, intent and major themes of this interview:

1.     The hate speech and witch-hunt started by President Erdogan against Hizmet and Fethullah Gulen in 2014 has only escalated since then.

2.     Because of his near control over Turkish media, Erdogan has spread this hate speech and smear campaign to nearly all media outlets in Turkey.

3.     Starting in 2014, propaganda against Hizmet and Fethullah Gulen was exported to countries that have strong ties with Turkey or have significant Muslim populations.

4.     Erdogan’s government made a special effort to spread propaganda among Muslim groups, using various tactics and considerable money to depict Hizmet and Gulen as outside of mainstream Islam and even blasphemous. By financially sponsoring the projects of certain individuals and Muslim-initiated organizations, Erdogan has pushed for spreading his defamation against Hizmet through these individuals and organizations.

5.     In this context, Hizmet participants have accepted media opportunities within the Muslim world to disseminate an accurate portrayal of the movement and Mr. Gulen’s ideas. This latest interview should be considered within this framework.

6.     The interview’s main themes were human rights violations in Turkey, the future of Turkey and its relationships with its neighbors and countering terrorism. The focus of the interview was not Egypt.

7.     Mr. Gulen stated very clearly that he stands by democratic values, including the non-domination of any group by another. Mr. Gulen states that for countries like Egypt and Turkey that have populations with diverse subgroups, democracy is the best form of governance and the rights of every group should be protected. He also points to the United States constitution as a document that guarantees freedom of speech, religion and conscience, and protects the citizens against the excesses of government.

8.     Mr. Gulen shared his views about the Ihvan-ı Muslumin group before. When he was asked in a written interview given to Egypt’s Al Ahram Arabi magazine in 2018, “Some political parties and authorities in the West are trying to portray Ihvan movement, of which Erdogan is a member, as a terrorist organization. What do you think of these efforts?”. He said, “There might be some people within Ihvan who have been involved in terrorist or violent acts. Such involvement could never be justified. My stance on terrorism has always been the same from the very beginning: ‘A true Muslim cannot be a terrorist, and a terrorist can never be a true Muslim.’ Therefore, Islamic groups must take a firm stand against terror and violence. Otherwise, Islam’s bright face would be tarnished, which could mean the betrayal of Islam. However, in different countries of the world, associating certain people who have never been involved in violent acts with terror in a wholesale approach is not right, either. Otherwise, this would be an unfair treatment of those who are far from terrorism. Such an approach could also push non-violent people to the lap of radical movements.” 

9.     Mr. Gulen explained within the interview what he meant by the phrase “They are not children of Anatolia.” It is inconceivable for Gulen, an Islamic scholar, to criticize or hold in suspicion anybody due to their ethnic roots. Indeed, the various ethnic groups who live in Anatolia, including several branches of Turkic groups, have come to this land at some point in time and mixed with other ethnicities. Anatolia can be seen as a mixing pot of hundreds of ethnic identities. According to Islamic principles, the value of any individual in the sight of God is based on their intentions and actions. Mr. Gulen’s criticism is not against ethnic roots or identities, but hypocritical actions such as displaying a Muslim identity but violating core Islamic values blatantly and continuously, to persecute hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens including women, children and the elderly. This is also clear when the whole of the interview is considered.

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