December 1, 2015

Turkish group supports democracy: Objections

Y. Alp Aslandogan*

We object to USA Today’s uninformed depiction of Hizmet (aka Gulen movement) (“Turkish faith movement secretly funded 200 trips for lawmakers and staff” and “U.S. lawmakers got suspect Turkish campaign cash”). Hizmet is a pro-democracy movement whose supporters have set up schools, medical centers and disaster relief agencies around the world. Mr. Fethullah Gulen, the inspiration behind the movement, simply advocates for values.

If USA Today’s assertions are true that individual participants of the movement have breached the laws or the rules of their institutions, then those individuals would indeed have contradicted the core values of Hizmet. We are not defending those actions, and they should be subjected to legal or institutional investigation. But associating individual actions with the movement or Mr. Gulen is wrong.

Mr. Gulen’s contributions to interfaith understanding have been praised by world leaders such as President Clinton, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew and Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan. He also received an audience with the late Pope John Paul II. Time magazine’s 100 most influential people list in 2013 described him as “the most potent advocate of moderation in the Muslim world.”

Without this background, your articles simply echo the rhetoric made by an authoritarian Erdogan regime in Turkey.

*Executive director, Alliance for Shared Values; New York

Published on USA Today, 30 November 2015, Sunday