Documents published by a pro-government daily on Monday alleging that Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen had secretly joined a Masonic Lodge have turned out to be completely fabricated.
The Islamist Yeni Şafak daily, known for its slanderous campaigns against moderate scholar Gülen, whose views inspired a civil society organization called Hizmet, popularly known as the Gülen movement, published several fake documents purportedly revealing Gülen's initiation into Freemasonry in Turkey.
In one document dated 1975, Gülen was said to have taken the oath to join the Grand Lodge of Liberal Freemasons of Turkey, a small splinter group established in 1966 after a schism with the Grand Lodge, the largest of several Masonic Grand Lodges operating in Turkey.
The fabricated letterhead carried the insignia of the Grand Lodge of Liberal Freemasons of Turkey, when in fact the lodge had to remove the word “Turkey” from the seal after a law adopted in Parliament in 1973 banned all associations from using the words “Turkey” or “Turk” in their official titles. In another words, there was no such lodge in 1975, the year Yeni Şafak claimed Gülen was accepted into Freemasonry.
What is more, in one document, Gülen's name was not only misspelled as “Fetullah” with a missing “H” but also added a first initial “M.” Gülen's official identity card has the name “Fethullah Gülen.”
In another document dated 1967 which details the life and CV of Gülen, he was referred to as “Hocaefendi” (venerable teacher). However, the title Hocaefendi only began to be used for Gülen in the 1990s.
The documents were artfully aged in such a way as to make them appear to be vintage, stained and damaged. Yet a close examination reveals that the perpetrators did not do a very good job staining a common type of paper. The letters seemingly covered by liquid stains are not smudged in any way and are in perfect shape despite the fact that the paper soaked up what appears to be spilled tea or coffee.
The Yeni Şafak exposé of fabricated documents was ridiculed on social media by many Turkish users. Some suggested that vintage Freemasonry documents are being sold on Turkey's busiest online shopping site, Gittigidiyor.com, which is a subsidiary of eBay, for TL 15-20 ($6-8).
Gülen's lawyer on Monday criticized the publication of forged documents in Yeni Şafak, saying that these lies will be remembered as shameful documents, just like those that were made targeting Gülen in the '90s as part of a defamation campaign. nurullah albayrak, Gülen's attorney, said he will seek legal remedies against the owners, publishers and editors of the paper for knowingly publishing fabricated documents about his client.
This was not the first time pro-government dailies have run fabricated stories. In February, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Umut Oran was accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and pro-government media of plotting on Twitter to assassinate Erdoğan's daughter Sümeyye. They published fake Twitter conversations that aimed to smear the CHP by targeting Oran.
The smear campaign collapsed when Oran refuted the claims via official documents provided by Twitter which showed no record of such conversations on his Twitter account.
Gülen was also targeted previously by another Islamist daily, Yeni Akit, which alleged that the name of Fethullah Gülen's mother was Rabin, implying that he is of Jewish origin. The paper published a document that altered the name of the Islamic scholar's mother on his passport application form. It later turned out that the daily fabricated the document and that her name was in fact Rabia, as is registered in numerous official documents.
The pro-government media in Turkey take their cues from Erdoğan, who has singled out Gülen, an advocate of interfaith dialogue who inspired a powerful, apolitical social movement that places emphasis on the empowerment of Muslims through science and education, as his number-one enemy.
Gülen's critical stand against corruption and his refusal to be cowed into silence prompted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to openly take a hostile position against the Hizmet movement. In public rallies leading up to the municipal and presidential elections in 2014, Erdoğan slammed Gülen for having met with Pope John Paul II in 1998 and called him a "false prophet,” a "traitor," a "virus" and "hashashin" -- a member of a medieval group that spread political influence through assassinations -- among other slanderous terms.
The destructive speeches delivered by Erdoğan continued throughout the campaign trail for two major elections. Defamatory articles published by Erdoğan-controlled media outlets unrelentingly stigmatized Jews, Christians and even moderate Muslims who refused to conform to Erdoğan's brand of political Islamist ideology.
Published on Today's Zaman, 30 March 2015, Monday