August 18, 2014

Gülen slams pro-gov't media for disseminating lies and blasphemy

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen criticized on Monday the pro-government media in Turkey for spinning the truth and disseminating lies while trying to justify senior officials' blasphemous remarks.

In a speech published on, a website that usually broadcasts his speeches, Gülen said a true believer can never lie as lying is the characteristic of the non-believer.

“Just as not all of the characteristics of an individual Muslim necessarily reflect the teachings of Islam, not all of the qualities of a non-believer reflect the traits of unbelief,” he said.

Referring to fabricated stories published in the pro-government press, Gülen said those who spread lies through the media are committing more serious lies because false stories reach many people, confusing them further.

Gülen, who has inspired a worldwide religious network that defends peaceful coexistence through dialogue and education, has been targeted in a government-sponsored smear campaign that is harsher than the ones seen in past military coup periods.

On Feb. 28, 1997, the powerful military forced a coalition government to step down, citing claims of rising religious fundamentalism in the country. The Feb. 28 coup brought a series of severe restrictions on social life, including the expulsion of thousands of officers from the military for no reason at all and an unofficial but widely upheld ban on the wearing of headscarves at university campuses and in positions of public service.

Gülen suffered extensively at the hands of powerful figures and media of the Feb. 28 period. A number of lawsuits were filed against Gülen. However, he was acquitted of all charges and the Supreme Court of Appeals confirmed these acquittals in 2008.

Gülen and his Hizmet movement are being targeted in a major smear campaign again after Dec. 17, 2013, when a police operation exposed major corruption involving Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his family members and his business associates. Media organs owned and run by associates of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government have been publishing stories saying the scholar and his movement are part of a clandestine organization that is seeking to overthrow the government.

Erdoğan and some officials of his government have been raising similar claims and even insulting Gülen and the Hizmet movement. On various occasions, the prime minister has called Gülen a “false prophet,” a “fake saint” and a “bogus scholar.” He has called the Hizmet movement a “parallel state,” a “gang,” an “illegal organization” and “raving Hashashins” -- referring to a historical order of assassins.

Blasphemous remarks

Gülen on Monday also harshly criticized what he called blasphemous remarks uttered by senior officials in Turkey.

“Even Orientalists never said such words about Islam,” he lamented, criticizing those who have scrambled to justify what these officials actually meant.

An audio recording leaked in March revealed former EU Affairs Minister and chief negotiator Egemen Bağış, who was forced to resign amid the graft scandal, mocking the Qur'an in a phone conversation with journalist Metehan Demir.

Demir acknowledged the content of the conversation and apologized, but Bağış denied the conversation, saying the tape was doctored.

Muslim scholars reacted to Bağış, saying the minister had committed blasphemy based on Islamic teachings that say a person making derogatory remarks about the holy book of Islam no longer has his or her faith and is no longer considered a Muslim.

In the recordings, a voice allegedly that of Bağış can be heard making jokes about the Qur'an, saying he “tosses” verses from the Qur'an onto Twitter every Friday, presumably in an effort to present himself as a religious person. He is also heard twisting the name of the second chapter of the Qur'an, “Surah Baqara,” calling it “makara,” which is related to Turkish expressions like “to pull a prank on someone,” “to joke around.” The combination “Baqara makara” also means that what is being talked about -- in this instance, the second chapter of the Qur'an -- is nonsense.

“Somebody said ‘makara' about the words of God. Not even the Orientalists said such things about the Qur'an. Even Abu Jahl did not say such things,” said Gülen. Abu Jahl literally means Father of Ignorance, a name that is attributed to Amr ibn Hisham, the arch-enemy of Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in the early years of Islam.

Gülen also criticized Interior Minister Efkan Ala, without naming him, who claimed in July that although the Prophet Muhammad showed signs of pride after his conquest of Mecca, the AK Party avoids pride and attributes all its accomplishments to God.

Speaking at a pre-dawn meal prepared during the month of Ramadan, Ala told around 300 party members that they should avoid pride, adding that the Prophet Muhammad received a warning from God when he felt pride as he was entering Mecca after the city's conquest.

“When our Prophet entered Mecca following its conquest, [he felt that] ‘we had to migrate from here, we have since returned and conquered Mecca, and people are converting to Islam in large groups.' It is likely that he attributed some of this success to himself. We are the representatives of such a civilization and beliefs. It is normal for a person to feel some pride; it is human. But he [the Prophet] was immediately warned. ‘…Ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever accepting of repentance' [Qur'an 110:3]. So we do not attribute [successes] to ourselves. We don't say we lifted the headscarf ban. We don't say we put the Qur'an everywhere, including in military schools, in Turkey. We say God made all these changes possible and he tested us,” Ala said in his remarks.

Ala was rebuked by many scholars in Turkey on the grounds that all prophetic biographies and religious history books narrate how humble the Prophet was during his entrance into the holy city of Mecca through the city gates.

Gülen said the pro-government media's justification of these disrespectful remarks and outright lies have in fact encouraged similar comments.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 August 2014, Monday