April 12, 2011

Gülen movement becomes new target of scaremongers

Murat Tokay

With no hope left to draw any benefit from a discourse on the “approaching reactionaryist threat,” some media outlets, military and judicial circles as well as politicians today seem to be intent on placing the Gülen movement on the target board as if the movement poses a threat for secular people and their lifestyles in the country.

Until a short while ago, some circles in Turkey were constantly trying to create fears and concerns in society, claiming that Turkey will be a country that is ruled by Shariah and that there is an imminent threat of reactionaryism. To prove their allegations, some media outlets constantly print photos of veiled women and men in Islamic attire.

The military released memorandums against the government, warning of Islamic reactionaryism in the country. In the last of these memos, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) released a memorandum against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government during the presidential election process of 2007. In the memorandum which was released against the AK Party’s presidential nominee, then Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, the TSK voiced its concerns about Gül’s secular credentials.

In the same year, thousands of people who were motivated by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) took to the streets to say no to the “Shariah rule” which they claimed would be brought Turkey by the AK Party.

Nowadays, the warnings about an “imminent reactionaryist threat” seem to have lost effect mainly because they failed to convince the majority of the nation, which ignored their warnings and brought the AK Party government to power again with a record 47 percent of the vote in 2007. Nevertheless, this time the same circles point their fingers at the movement led by respected scholar and Islamic thinker Fethullah Gülen, as if the movement is ruling the country behind the scenes and interferes in people’s lifestyles.

According to Professor Doğu Ergil, there is nothing surprising about the Gülen movement’s becoming a major target because this is what a power struggle requires. “The ones who have been waging this war are the same since the establishment of the republic. They share the same mentality. First, they scared people with communism, then they used separatism. Later, they made up the reactionaryism threat. When they saw that the reactionaryism discourse did not work, they found an alternative, which is the Gülen movement,” said Ergil.

In the latest occasion, the Gülen movement was placed on the target board following the crisis regarding the Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS) held early this month. Allegations surfaced that the question booklets of the YGS were coded to reveal the correct answer if read in a certain way. Some circles alleged that this was done in favor of the students attending university preparation courses run by Gülen's followers.

Professor Niyazi Öktem thinks individuals who lost their power politically and sociologically want to make others pay the cost of their incompetence and they target the Gülen movement. “These circles talk less about the reactionaryism threat today because they make this threat concrete by pointing their fingers at the Gülen movement. The Gülen movement and reactionaryism mean the same thing for them,” explained Öktem.

The Gülen movement was targeted again when several journalists were placed behind bars over their links to Ergenekon, a shadowy crime network which has alleged links to the state and suspected of plotting to topple the government. Groups affiliated with Ergenekon tried to create controversy over arrested journalist Ahmet Şık’s upcoming book on Gülen titled “İmamın Ordusu” (The Imam’s Army), saying the police and prosecutors sympathetic to Gülen’s ideas pushed for censuring the book.

Sociologist Yasin Aktay noted that the circles who now present the Gülen movement as a threat began to do so after they saw that their claims of reactionaryism in Turkey found no support from the public. “These circles are trying to create an area of power for themselves through certain fears. This time they found another source of fear, which is the Gülen movement. Those who spoke about the reactionaryism threat yesterday are talking about the threat allegedly posed by the Gülen movement today,” he said.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 April 2011, Tuesday