President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously praised Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
For more than 20 years, or since the very beginning of his political career, Erdoğan always had good relations with Gülen. Shortly after the graft probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, he started to smear Gülen publicly. First, he accused Gülen of acting as the head of “hashhashins,” a phrase derived from Hassan Sabbah's gang at Alamut Castle in the 11th century. Sabbah was giving hashish to his men and sending them to assassinate opponent state leaders, like Seljuk grand vizier Nizam al-Mulk, who ordered his arrest. In fact, the word “assassin” derives from Hassan Sabbah's hashhashins. In Islamic culture, this word is used for acts that cause disorder and encouraging revolt, and it is considered a great insult. Erdoğan was trying to create a negative impact for Gülen and his Hizmet movement by stating that they started a revolt against the political party that is in charge in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
This attempt was not enough to convince people in Turkey that a moderate religious movement which mostly concentrated on education work by opening more than 500 schools on five continents was a criminal gang. Instead, sincere religious people started to see that a political Islamic movement that they've voted for was mired in corruption after spending 12 years as the ruling party. The graft probes of Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 revealed evidence that clarified that many AKP officials are involved in this corruption scandal, including family members of President Erdoğan, and it resulted in the resignation of four ministers. If another movement from a different political wing, for example the Republican People's Party (CHP) of the opposition, stated the same thing, saying, “The AKP is corrupt,” it wouldn't create such an impact. In my opinion, the main reason for Erdoğan's fury was that it was another religious movement that has a greater effect on AKP voters that was stating that the AKP is corrupt.
These dynamics drove Erdoğan to invent a terrorist organization out of the Hizmet movement. He started to talk about a parallel sate organization. A court issued a warrant for the arrest of Gülen, though he lives in the US in Pennsylvania. Now, the Ministry of Interior is issuing a red notice to be distributed to Interpol in order to extradite Gülen to Turkey. As far as I can see, there is absolutely no concrete evidence stated in the file that indicates that Gülen is the head of this so-called terrorist organization.
Extradition is a criminal law concept that has strict rules. First, there is a principle that a nation's own citizens and political criminals are not extradited, as a general rule. Furthermore, we have to take into consideration the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of religion in US law and history. The US was formed by religious minorities who fled Europe's oppression. In colonial times, for example, Quakers, who faced hostility when they opposed performing religious rituals, taking oaths, violence, war and military service, had an enjoyment of rights in the US that included liberty of conscience. US law and the US constitution do not allow any person to be extradited on political grounds or for their religious beliefs. Concrete evidence sufficient to prove the physical element (actus reus) and mental element (mens rea) of a crime are needed and the US is not a country where one is able to create evidence. Therefore, extradition of Gülen will not be so easy, but this attempt gave Erdoğan a chance to change the agenda from the corruption scandal to the battle between the AKP and the Hizmet movement. Now, the focal point of public opinion has been diverted to the extradition of Gülen, months before the elections.
German war criminal Joseph Goebbels said, “It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.” Is there an end to this propaganda?
Published on Today's Zaman, 25 December 2014, Thursday