December 4, 2015

‘Removal of Gülen’s books from NT shelves offends the public’

Former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay has condemned a recent decision made by the new trustees of Kaynak Holding to have all copies of books written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen removed from the shelves of NT bookstores across the country, saying that the “indecent” act of censorship offends the public.

“This is an indecent act [of censorship]. Mr. Gülen's books largely deal with issues related to religion. These books, which are widely read, are not dealing with political issues and there have been no complaints filed against them. Acts such as this are aimed at disturbing [the faith-based Gülen movement] and offend the public. I think what they [the trustees appointed by the government] did is inappropriate … It can't be explained by reason, law, ethics, love or respect,” Günay told Today's Zaman on Friday.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, former president of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER), criticized the decision made by the new trustees of Kaynak Holding, saying: “This censorship has no legal basis. It is derived from feelings of hatred, anger and revenge [against] one person [Gülen]. The removal of the books without any court order is shameful. I hope people somehow see this madness.”

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Akif Hamzeçebi also said he regarded the censorship as “primitive.”

The nationwide NT bookstore chain is one of 23 companies operating under the umbrella of Kaynak Holding, which also owns the country's largest publisher, Kaynak Publishing House.

Gülen has written dozens of books in which he promotes ideals such as peaceful co-existence with others, inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, democratic values, altruism, deepening one's religious values and the fight against extremism and radicalism.

Despite the clear stance he has taken against terrorism and the lack of even a single piece of related evidence, Gülen and the movement that he inspires, the faith-based Gülen (or Hizmet) movement, have been facing accusations of terrorism in Turkey over the past two years under the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

Accusations against the movement came after the revelation of a corruption probe in late 2013 in which Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's close circle was implicated. Erdoğan accuses the movement of masterminding the probe despite the movement denying this. Since then, individuals and organizations that are thought to be linked with the Gülen movement have been targeted by the witch hunt.

The appointment of trustees, who are responsible for the recent censorship of Gülen's books, to Kaynak Holding is part of this witch hunt.

After the publication and sale of Gülen's books, which are read and appreciated around the world in many languages, were banned by the government-appointed trustees in Kaynak Holding, it now is a matter for concern whether Kaynak Publishing House will be used to print books on political Islam and if Gülen's books at NT bookstores will be replaced by ones that promote political Islam and extremism.

Published on Today's Zaman, 4 December 2015, Friday