The information on Fethullah Gülen can be found at different places of the book: The Army of the Imam. The DTF has tried to present it in a (more or less) structured manner.
Fethullah was born in Erzurum in 1941. He left primary school, but later took an examination to get the diploma. At the age of 10 he had read the Qu'ran and at the age of 14 he held his first sermons (tr: vaaz vermek). Like his father he was an imam. At the end of the 1970's he adopted the doctrine of Said Nursi and spent his time in an association called Nurcus and the Spreading of Science (tr: Nurcular ve İlim yayma Cemiyeti).
Between 1963 and 1966 he was on duty in Edirne and Kırklareli. Two years after Gülen started to work in Edirne he had to conduct his military service. He was sent to İskenderun, where he faced charges because of a sermon, but he was acquitted.
The Gülen movement was founded by 12 men. The definition of this parish that emerged in the 1970s, this sect or organization that is known by the name of its leader is no longer the work of religious scholars, but part of sociology. In the NTV Mag journal that did not appear for long Tolga Çelik stated on Fethullah Gülen: “The journey of Gülen who is known in recent years for his schools, the Lighthouses (Işık Evleri) and his relations to politics and media, started with the Nur Sect."
The different way of Fethullah Gülen
Fethullah Gülen did not always abide by the advice of his superiors. Mustafa Sungur, one of the elderlies had told him to open a “Nur Class”, which he did not in the beginning. Later he opened classes known under the name of “Lighthouses” (tr: ışık evleri) together with Mustafa Birlik and Mehmet Metin.
The name that is most discussed since the rise of the political Islam at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, when AKP came to power is certainly Fethullah Gülen. The Gülen parish adopted itself to the socio-political conditions of the time, but managed to stay independent of political parties.
(In the 1970s) He saw that the New Asia Parish got worn off and that the MSP gained political strength day by day. He started to criticize the New Asia Parish and praised the MSP. Thus the groups got closer. Trying to weaken the New Asia group Necmettin Erbakan told his followers to stay around Fethullah Gülen and help him.
The MSP members made propaganda for him saying that he was not like the other Nurcus and actually a member of the MSP, although he could not openly become politically active. Meanwhile Fethullah Gülen just like the New Asia Parish had his own camps, classes, journals, dormitories and most important of all, he was rich.
At this time he declared his closeness to the State. He criticized the boycott of the Turkish Islam Institutes in 1977. He drew a final line to the New Asia Parish declaring that it was too political. When some of the classes of the New Asia Parish entered the Gülen Parish a great shock occurred.
During his time as preacher in İzmir Bornova the conditions allegedly got worse and Gülen did not go on duty by constantly obtaining medical reports. In November 1980 he was appointed to Çanakkale but again obtained a medical report and did not start his duty. On 20 March 1981 he resigned from the post of a preacher.
One day after the coup of 12 September 1980 Fethullah Fülen was put on a list of wanted people. According to his own account he went around in Anatolia. On 12 January 1986 he was detained in Burdur. This time Prime Minister Turgut Özal intervened and after one night at the police station Fethullah Gülen was taken to Izmir and released.
Fethullah Gülen's support for military interventions
One of the most important names in the Nur Parish is Mehmet Kutlular, the owner of the newspaper New Asia (Yeni Asya). In an interview with Ruşen Çakır he said: “The State politics changed after 1980. Formerly the anarchists and Marxists were the danger, now the devotees became the danger.
In the continuation of the interview Mehmet Kutlular states that Fethullah Gülen who like him comes from the Nurcu tradition supported the State and that the generals intended to use him against the Wealth Party and, when his duty finished, they attacked him.
In October 1980 Gülen published an article in the journal “Leakage” entitled “The last police station” including the following lines: “The boat of the nation rolled from one side to the other, about to capsize. On the lips were thousands of foreign songs, on their tongues thousands of killing wines... A more rooted and inspired movement was necessary... When our hopes came to an end the soldiers came to our rescue and we once again send our salutes.”
After 28 February 1997 Gülen spoke on TV on the line of the National Security Council. His words “the government should go” were the headlines of all newspapers the next day. On the fourth anniversary of the 28 February coup the columnist in the daily Zaman and at the same time speaker of the parish Hüseyin Gülerce wrote: “It may be puzzling, but 28 February was quite useful at the time. Taking a breath inside and outside the country there was more leisure to speed up positive changes. Those who tarnish Islam and use it separated. The Islam circles understood that religion may not be used for politics.”
Contacts to politicians
On 30 November 1994 Fethulah Gülen came together with Prime Minister Tansu Çiller. This was the first time that the leader of a parish met a Prime Minister after Said Nursi, the founder of the Nur Parish had met Prime Minister Adnan Menderes in 1961. Later other politicians met Gülen including Mesut Yılmaz (ANAP), Necmettin Erbakan (RP), Bülent Ecevit (DSP) and Aydın Menderes (DP).
Wealth of the Parish
There is no certain information on the financial dimension the parish has reached. As long as the parish does not reveal this information nobody will know. Since the beginning the donations of shop owners under the term of grace (himmet) has been the backbone of financial sources.
The group is running lobby activities in Washington as well as in Brussels. It owns media organs with TV, newspapers and journals and runs schools, dormitories, classes and universities with more than 2 million students.
The journal “Leakage” (tr: Sızıntı) was at the beginning distributed for free not only to members of the parish, but also to private houses. The director of publication Arif Sarsılmaz narrated the founding stage of the journal in an article he wrote in 2006 as follows:
The journal “Leakage” was continued with the daily “Time” (Zaman) showing a great development in the 1990. The TV stations “Samanyolu” and “Kanal 7” followed. More stations including radio stations and according to the new technology, websites followed. The media sector that the AKP wanted to dominate together with the Gülen Parish was to be more than half in their hands as of 2010.
Gülen's enforced exile
When the soldiers were no longer in need of Fethullah Gülen, of whom they benefitted in the 28 February coup a court case was opened against him that forced him to “emigrate” (hicret) to the USA.
From the ashes of the RP emerged the AKP and the political Islam came again to power in 2002, and this time on its own. The support of Fethullah Gülen played a great role in this. The Islam streams finally got organized from top to the bottom of all ministries. Important parts of the staff in the Ministries for National Education, Interior, Health, Transport, Agriculture and Village and even in the Ministry of Culture headed by Ertuğrul Günay who comes from a left tradition were changed. The appointed persons all came from the Islam tradition, some of which had been dismissed for their affiliation.
Confessor Nurettin Veren
Nurettin Veren knew Fethullah Gülen since his sermons in Kestanepazarı Mosque (Izmir) in 1988. He was one of 12 people that founded the Akyazılı Foundation. According to his own account he was the right arm of Fethullah Gülen for 30 years.
When Veren criticized Gülen during a talk Gülen had attacked him with a rabble and asked others to kill him, although he was in the United States. Gülen accused Veren of attempting to kill him and take his place. After return to Turkey some people intervened and Nurettin Veren was again made the general coordinator of the daily Time (Zaman).
The lawyers of Fethullah Gülen sent statements to all organs that published the “confessions” of Nurettin Veren maintaining that his remarks were lies and slander.
The series of translated passages