Why Erdogan can't get along with Gulen

When you get such a leader who resorts to dirty tactics with his aggressive spy agency, there is little chance that you can survive by confronting him

Mahir Zeynalov
Published: Updated:
Enable Read mode
100% Font Size

The reason you hear almost every day that Erdogan is yelling at his critics, particularly Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, is because the prime minister is playing nasty when it comes to politics. There is almost nothing that he won't resort to in order to extend the life of his throne and crush his opponents.

Millions of AKP supporters, who had been oppressed for decades under secular establishment mostly composed of deeply anti-democratic military and judiciary, voted last month for a party that is rapidly building its own authoritarian regime. One wonders why those who have long been victims of non-democratic governments would support another political force to build its own dictatorship. The reason is simple: They believe that the government won't abuse the extensive powers it is given. Erdogan is wielding Islamist rhetoric and exploiting religious sensitivities of the public to make sure that his supporters believe that "his dictatorship is a good one."


Erdogan's scapegoats

There is basically no free media to tell a different story to the public, particularly to the AKP electorate who mostly live in rural areas and have little access to social media channels that often provide alternative views from the mainstream government mouthpiece newspapers (or bulletins). In addition, Erdogan's biggest source of power is his ability to avoid the accusations and he often puts the blame on others. Although he has dominated the Turkish politics for over a decade, he has never taken the responsibility for the country's woes and always designated a scapegoat to blame. When he exhausts domestic scapegoats, he looks for other oppressed Muslims abroad to exploit their tragedy and blood.

When you get such a leader who resorts to dirty tactics with his ruthless media and aggressive spy agency, there is little chance that you can survive by confronting him. And these are exactly the same tactics that are used to silence followers of Gulen, who have grown increasingly critical of the bellicose prime minister. But why did Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen and Erdogan, former allies, fall apart?

When you get such a leader who resorts to dirty tactics with his ruthless media and aggressive spy agency, there is little chance that you can survive by confronting him

Mahir Zeynalov

It is important first to see how they are different from each other.

Erdogan and people of his ilk believe that the only path to solve lingering problems of Muslims and make them powerful in international arena is politics and the authority. Islamists like Erdogan usually reject other Muslims for basically thinking in a different way and see the power as something that deserve but long been denied. The ultimate aim of Islamists is to come to power and try to shape people's morals through rules and regulations. Most of them reject violence to promote their goals and see politics and state as a sacred venue for making Muslims dominant again.

Gulen and his followers, however, believe that the only way to solve problems Muslims face is through education, not politics. The Gulen movement believes that lifting people out of poverty, preventing internal strife and ending ignorance are three most important goals that need to be realized. The global vision of Gulen, who is a moderate Muslim preacher living an austere life in rural town in Pennsylvania, is that his followers travel to almost every corner of the world and give a helping hand to those in need. He believed that it is only possible to bring peace and welfare to the Muslim world by engaging with everyone in every part of the world. The activities of the Gulen movement has been impressive so far, with followers establishing schools, universities, hospitals, charity associations and cultural facilities in over 160 countries in the world. The financing comes through fundraising and donors largely include those businessmen feeling sympathy to the movement.

Burying corruption scandal

The biggest achievement of the Gulen movement was to educate millions of people, not only in Turkey, but also all around the world. Some of them, citizens of Turkey, climbed in bureaucratic ranks through legitimate means. When faced with a corruption scandal by prosecutors who have already been conducting the investigation for over a year, he thought it would be a good idea to blame on the Gulen movement for orchestrating the "plot." This would allow him to purge every member of the police and judiciary he considers a threat. Along with those sympathetic to the Gulen movement, thousands of bureaucrats with no association with the movement were purged. Erdogan was successful in eradicating those who are just doing their jobs under the guise of "fight against the parallel state."

He skilfully and quite successfully convinced the people that the corruption allegations, despite huge evidence circulating over the media, are nothing but a plot by the Gulen movement that has "global links." When one realizes that a leader who is banning Twitter and YouTube has declared a war on the Gulen movement, it is not difficult to fathom who is right and who is wrong.


Mahir Zeynalov is a journalist with Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
Top Content Trending