Is Turkey facing Khomeini-style return of Islamic leader?

June 25, 2008

A poster of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 4 June 2001/Damir SagoljIs Turkey heading towards a Khomeini-style return of its most influential Islamic leader? Turkish media asked the question today after the Court of Appeals upheld the acquittal of Fethullah Gülen on charges of plotting to establish shariah law in the officially secular state. Gülen, who lives in the United States, has millions of followers in Turkey and abroad who support his modern and moderate form of Islam and the schools and media he has set up to propagate it. This week, he came out on top of a Foreign Policy magazine poll of the world’s leading public intellectuals. That was an Internet survey, so it can’t be considered scientific, but the flood of votes for him is a rough indicator of wide and/or well-organised support.

“After the last verdict, there are two questions to be asked: Is Gülen going to come back to Turkey? If he does, it is going to be a Khomeini-style homecoming?” the centre-right daily Aksam asked. Hürriyet, a popular nationalist daily, hinted at a return in a report saying that his U.S. green card appeal had been rejected and he had one month to leave the country.

It’s an interesting thought, but it doesn’t seem likely he’ll come back. The secularist establishment, including high-ranking army generals and intellectuals, still suspect him of trying to destroy the secular state. Just because he’s been acquitted in this case doesn’t mean another couldn’t be brought against him.

Fethullah GülenHüseyin Gülerce, an associate of Gülen (pictured at left), told HaberTurk that speculation about a Khomeini-style homecoming was wrong “because Gülen is a modest person.” Harun Tokak, president of the Writers and Journalists Foundation whose honorary chairman is Gülen, told Zaman (a Gülen newspaper) the preacher’s poor health would probably be the deciding factor. “He had no legal limitations preventing him from returning to Turkey. Up until now, he has decided to stay there according to his own considerations and the advice of his doctors. I think his future decision will be based on the same factors,” he said.

7 comments

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Gulen is to Khomeini what basketball is to chocolate cake, that is irrelevant!

The status-quo whether they are fringe or radical(left, right, nationalist, islamist, neo-con, communist, facist, fundamentalist christian or whatever badge they wear) will always be bigoted against those who have a vision for a better world. Gulen is the enemy that they ‘have to have’ to protect their own selfish and vested interests.

Posted by NBAfan | Report as abusive

Pictured at left is Fethullah Gülen not Hüseyin Gülerce.
And to compare Fethullah Gülen with Khomeini is not logical.
Because interculturel dialog, and tolerence is one of the most important aim of Gülen..

Posted by jenny pratcher | Report as abusive

If you put your cursor over the picture, the caption appears and identifies the man as Fethullah Gülen. This software does not allow under-the-picture captions, so this is the way we have to do it.

This post did not compare Gülen to Khomeini. It quoted Turkish media recalling Khomeini’s tumultuous return to Iran and asking if the same type of return could be expected if Gülen were to return to Turkey.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

I fear Turkey will betray Ataturk. They ought to know better. Islam is a dead end — a medieval relic of arab imperialism.

What a shame.

Posted by chubbz molinaro | Report as abusive

M. Fethullah Gulen is an intellectual who has taken the high road to represent true Islam by living and and being a model. He opened up his and his followers’ hearts to all humanity. Focused on the education of a morally high, intellectual, modern youth that will work for peace in the world. He encouraged Turkish people to go and open up schools and colleges that will promote peace and dialogue within religions, cultures, and languages. Today, he is renowned for being the father of interreligious dialogue and interfaith activities all around the world. He is one of the very few leaders of Islam who declared “A terrorist can never be a Muslim, and a Muslim can never be a terrorist” right after September 11. He and his followers make it a point to get to know every individual regardless of their faith or culture, and accepting all in their own ways. Plus, Iran politics and the Islamic culture of Anatolia is nothing to compare. Anatolian approaches to Islam had been well alive for over 1000 years and produced the most peaceful co-existence for Christians, Jewish and Muslim around all Middle East and Europe for many centuries. Look at those countries after 19th century (colonization, and the rise of nationalism, and fascism) and look at the history before that. You will immediately see the impact of Islam peace there. Gulen is a true modern representative of that peaceful tradition of Islam that is best represented in the personality of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him).

Posted by bahar | Report as abusive

M. Fethullah Gülen

Posted by ZUBEYIR | Report as abusive

Fethullah Gulen has inspired a great number of organisations that are open to democracy and world peace through dialog, education and interaction. I would recommend all those interested to visit Rumi Forum http://www.rumiforum.org . Fethullah Gulen is the Honorary President of the Rumi Forum

Posted by Hus | Report as abusive