March 31, 2015

Grand Lodge of Liberal Freemasons refutes Yeni Şafak’s claims as baseless

The Grand Lodge of Liberal Freemasons has denied claims by government mouthpiece Yeni Şafak, a daily newspaper known for its slanderous campaigns against the Gülen movement, that Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen had secretly joined a Masonic lodge.

“Fethullah Gülen is neither currently nor has ever been a member of the Grand Lodge of Liberal Freemasons,” said the lodge in a press statement issued late on Monday. The Masonic lodge also expressed frustration over being dragged into political debates in Turkey, saying it operates in accordance with the law.

“We are deeply hurt to repeatedly be pointed at as a target based on fabricated documents. Our association currently operates under public authority. Furthermore, our activities and legal documents are periodically being inspected by the state officials,” the lodge said in the statement.

The Islamist Yeni Şafak daily published several fake documents on Monday purportedly revealing Gülen's initiation into Freemasonry in Turkey. In one document dated 1975, Gülen was said to have taken the oath to join “Türkiye Büyük Mason Mahfili” (Turkey's Grand Mason Association), a small splinter group established in 1966 after a schism with the Grand Lodge, the largest of several Masonic Grand Lodges operating in Turkey.

However, the lodge said in its statement that the emblem of “Turkey's Grand Mason Association” on the fabricated documents has nothing to do with the Grand Lodge of Liberal Freemasons. “Our association used the title ‘Türk Yükselme Cemiyeti' [Turkish Advancement Union] until 1973. This name, then, was changed to ‘Hür ve Kabul Edilmiş Masonlar Derneği' [Free and Accepted Masons Association]. In 2011, our association's name was changed to ‘Hür ve Kabul Edilmiş Masonlar Derneği' [Grand Lodge of Liberal Freemasons],” the lodge stated.

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 other words, there was no such lodge in 1975, the year Yeni Şafak claimed Gülen was accepted into Freemasonry.

In a related development, Nurullah Albayrak, the legal representative of Gülen, criticized the publication of the forged documents by 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.

“Soon after the documents were published [by Yeni Şafak], the fact that they [the documents] were fabricated became as clear as day. Behind this falsified news, there is a mentality that wants to polarize the nation by calling them mason, traitor, Jewish, Armenian, etc. This mentality will turn Turkey into the Baath regime in Syria,” the lawyer said.

In another document Yeni Şafak fabricated that included details of Gülen's life, he was referred to as “hocaefendi” (venerable teacher). However, the title hocaefendi only began to be used for Gülen in the 1990s. 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.”

This was not the first time pro-government dailies have run fabricated stories. Gülen's critical stance against the corruption scandals that erupted on Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 of 2013 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 Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement. A wide range of pro-government dailies, including Sabah, Star and the Islamist daily Yeni Akit, have previously published groundless reports targeting Gülen and the Hizmet movement.

Yeni Akit once alleged that the name of Gülen's mother was Rabin, implying that she 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.

Published on Today's Zaman, 31 March 2015, Tuesday