January 01, 2014

Fethullah Gülen

Fethullah Gülen

You may be wondering who Gülen is. The grade-school dropout’s website explains:

Gülen is an authoritative mainstream Turkish Muslim scholar, thinker, author, poet, opinion leader and educational activist who supports interfaith and intercultural dialogue, science, democracy and spirituality and opposes violence and turning religion into a political ideology.

Gülen’s English language PR guys have mastered TED Talk, those bits of jargon that reassure human resources departments and excite CEOs. (For example, charter schools are catnip to US-based Davos Men.)

Still, Gülen’s L. Ron Hubbard-level megalomania is reminiscent of Philip Seymour Hoffman introducing himself in The Master (a fictionalization of Scientology’s roots) as, “I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a theoretical philosopher, but above all I am a man.”

Cult leaders can’t just be one thing, can they?

Recall Werner Erhard, the former car salesman Jack Rosenberg who renamed himself after physicist Werner Heisenberg and West German finance minister Ludwig Erhard. He founded est, the existentialist cult that swept white-collar America in the 1970s. Est was like a new, improved version of Scientology shorn of space aliens. Est was Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous October 1945 lecture to the young intellectuals of Paris telling them that life was meaningless so they had to take responsibility for choosing their own meanings, just remodeled for American regional sales managers.

Here’s how Erhard describes himself today:

Werner Erhard is considered a leading thinker in academic and corporate communities and is currently engaged in rigorous examination and presentation of his ideas. As a creator of models he provides new paradigms to thinkers and practitioners in fields as diverse as philosophy, business, education, psychotherapy, third world development, medicine, conflict resolution, and community building.

In 2005 the British magazine Prospect and the American magazine Foreign Policy held an online poll to name the world’s top public intellectuals. Noam Chomsky came in first and Umberto Eco second. In 2006, however, Muslims swarmed the poll, demoting Chomsky to eleventh place as Muslims took the top ten spots. Number one was Gülen (which may have amused Eco, author of byzantine conspiracy novels such as Foucault’s Pendulum). I suspect Gülenists saw this poll as their opportunity for vengeance for TIME’s late 1990s Person of the Century poll, which was hijacked by Kemalists voting en masse for Ataturk.

The Gülen cult, which calls itself Hizmet for “The Service,” owns the largest newspaper in Turkey, Zaman. A Zaman columnist recently elucidated:

Hizmet does not—and more correctly, by its very nature, cannot—take on an all-comprehensive physical form or name, other than the very abstract nominalization of “Hizmet,” which, for the lack of a better word, is used to refer to the diverse civic service initiatives its followers are involved in. It is thanks to this very porous, fluid and ether-like electromagnetic nature of Hizmet that it can manifest itself in 150 different nations, cultures and regimes, and welcome devotees and sympathizers from all walks of life.

Well, that clears that up.

Hizmet runs something like 130 charter schools in the US. Why? Because that’s the kind of thing you do in 21st-century America when you have tons of money and a potential image problem: teach math to black children. Remember when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was concerned about the upcoming Social Network biopic, so he suddenly gave $100 million to Newark public schools? Think of the children!

In contrast to the Zuck’s donation, however, the Gülenist charters are paid for by you and me to the tune of many hundreds of millions of dollars annually in American taxpayer money. Charter schools represent a giant opportunity for anybody skilled at bureaucratic maneuvering. It’s common for schools costing $50 to $100 million to be turned over to charter operators claiming to be in it for the children.

It is rumored that Gülen’s charters are intimately wrapped up with immigration fraud. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2011:

Fethullah Gülen is a major Islamic political figure in Turkey, but he lives in self-imposed exile in a Poconos enclave and gained his green card by convincing a federal judge in Philadelphia that he was an influential educational figure in the United States. As evidence, his lawyer pointed to the charter schools, now more than 120 in 25 states, that his followers – Turkish scientists, engineers, and businessmen – have opened….

And because there is apparently a shortage of English-speakers in America, Gülen’s charters get H-1B visas (684 in 2009 alone) from the federal government to bring in Turkish men to teach American kids.

Ruth Hocker, former president of the parents’ group at the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School in State College, began asking questions when popular, certified American teachers were replaced by uncertified Turkish men who often spoke limited English and were paid higher salaries. Most were placed in math and science classes. “They would tell us they couldn’t find qualified American teachers,” Hocker said.

The Turkish teachers are said to have to kick back 40% of their salaries to Gülen’s movement. Last month, a few days before Gülen’s prosecutors raided Erdoğan’s cronies, the FBI raided a Gülen school in Baton Rouge and hauled off documents. (The FBI has yet to announce what they found.)

Why is Gülen in Pennsylvania, rather than his own country? When immigration bureaucrats asked that question in 2006, 29 influential Americans wrote in to vindicate Gülen. One of the most outspoken was Graham E. Fuller, the former CIA station chief in Afghanistan.

This intervention on Gülen’s behalf by America’s own deep state merely encouraged Turkish conspiracy enthusiasts who think the Gülen movement is a front for the CIA, as the former head of Turkish intelligence Osman Nuri Gundes claimed in a 2010 book.
Fuller came to my attention last spring when I wondered how the Tsarnaevs who blew up the Boston Marathon had gotten refugee status in America despite being Trouble with a Capital T. As I surmised, the Bomb Brothers’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni, a murky player in Beltway circles, pulled some strings. Why did some Chechens have strings to pull in America? Beyond all the geopolitical raison d’État, Fuller’s daughter Samantha Ankara Fuller used to be married to Uncle Ruslan.

A major problem with America being the imperial capital of the world is that, with some obvious exceptions, Americans aren”€™t all that adept at imperial court maneuverings. We were raised being told that we have a republic, if we can keep it. And that means we aren”€™t prepared to compete with those who represent thousands of years of training in the art and craft of empire.



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