Why do some (in Turkey in particular) oppose the Gülen Movement?
For those who have exploited and usurped Turkey’s wealth and resources for years, the altruism of those raised among the Gülen Movement is a challenge to their way of thinking. They have found their logic upset. For they see that while they seek to siphon money and resources illegally from the state and people’s pockets, others have begun instead to construct alternate modes of behavior and generate alternative meanings. This offers a symbolic challenge to the more usual rationality of calculation, established bureaucratic routines, and means–end relationships. The challenge arises from the given-for-nothing nature of the “offering” and the directness of personal commitment. These two features demonstrate that sharing with others is not reducible to instrumental logic. In essence, the Gülen Movement reminds everyone of the limitations of a system’s power over people and events. It calls into question the System’s sway over us and invites us to assume greater responsibility for our choices and actions. In so doing, it becomes a vital component in the renewal of civil society and the reinforcement of social cohesion. For precisely those reasons there is counter-mobilization by vested interests.
The Gülen Movement was able to come through the crisis of the February 28 Process without resort to negativity, to any counter-action or conflictual or coercive means. The opposition from certain ideological interest groups within the power establishment in Turkey is directed towards any collective actor that is perceived to endanger their schemes and vested interests; however, there are particular reasons why those vested interests made the Gülen Movement a major focus of their counter-mobilizing efforts.
Exactly what kind of group(s) opposes the Gülen Movement?
The protectionist political elite within the Turkish establishment collaborates with the interest groups mostly formed out of the ‘68 generation (as it is known in Turkey). The experiences of that generation resulted in ideological readings of reality – dogmatism, separatism, sectarianism, violent clashes and armed conflict – that still haunt and prevent the elite’s thinking from keeping abreast of the changing terms of social, economic and political realities in Turkey.
The statist, elitist, leftist, militant secularists, ultra- and neo- nationalists in Turkey failed to produce either political ideas or the tools with which ideas can be put into practice. They failed to deliver, in other words, not just an alternative point of view but also the means whereby it could be made practicable. They were unable to produce a political design that comprised instruments and models of transformation compatible with the historical, economic, and social context. Also, the effects of their actions at the systemic level did not enable cultural innovation or institutional modernization. That inability has reduced them to an ineffectual “opposition” in the Turkish Parliament and a minority voice in the wider society; their position and programs are mostly articulated and projected from within the Republican People’s Party, or simply “the left” in Turkey. These groups have contributed little to the development of reflexivity in the larger societal context or social cohesion. Their ideologies and action have become a means and source of polarization, segmentation and tension in Turkey.
What has evoked hostility towards the Gülen Movement?
It is the success of the Movement’s mobilization that has evoked considerable hostility in some quarters. Leaving aside envy, which is simply a psychological issue, there are a number of political, ideological, and financial factors motivating this hostility. First of all, any collective mobilization – not only or particularly the Gülen Movement – that is not initiated by the protectionist groups within the power establishment is viewed with disfavor by the establishment; the establishment tends to regard any independent collective action as a potential threat to itself. If an independent collective mobilization proves its success or efficacy, the establishment mobilizes against it because the mobilization encroaches upon territory that vested interest groups within the establishment need to monopolize for their own purposes. Those in the establishment work to prevent or limit the action of the civic mobilization so that they can pursue their own projects and schemes and retain their hold on the levers of power.
Moreover, the Gülen Movement’s mobilization draws on cultural codes and traditions that the protectionist groups within the establishment in Turkey wish to suppress. The militant secularist elite prefers to represent Islam and Muslims to the public as radical and backward, but the discourse and action of Gülen and Movement does not permit the elite to successfully perpetuate in the public space that negative view of Islam and Muslims. In addition, the Gülen Movement succeeds in educating huge numbers of people from outside the established elite by teaching them foreign languages and providing scholarships for study in foreign countries. This also makes the establishment feel threatened because they fear losing their control of the country and its resources. These factors explain why they particularly and very publicly chose to target Gülen himself and the Movement. They have targeted them as a smokescreen to distract public attention (and legal scrutiny) away from their own financial and ideological schemes.
In spite of the establishment’s hostility, the Gülen Movement’s projects and activities have educated and trained many thousands of people. the Gülen Movement has provided people with moral orientation and guidance that makes them orderly, law-abiding citizens, an effort that has improved and modernized society, widened opportunity, etc. In doing all this, the Gülen Movement has systematically avoided contentious or adversarial action, so that its work should strengthen public order and social cohesion, and so that it should not be used (or construed) as a threat to the power or authority of the state and its institutions.
Related Article: Opposition to the Gulen Movement: Who and why? (2)