December 1, 2015

‘Removal of Gülen’s books from NT shelves a shame for Turkey’

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, the former president of the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER), has lashed out at a decision made by new trustees of Kaynak Holding to have copies of all books written by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen removed from the shelves of hundreds of NT bookstores across the country, calling the act of censorship a shame for freedom of expression and Turkish democracy.

“This censorship has no legal base. It derived from a feeling of hatred, anger and revenge [against] one person [Gülen]. The removal of the books without any court order is a shame. I hope people somehow see this madness. But unfortunately, these kinds of things are going to happen more and more because there is no one to stop them. There are no checks and balances. Everything is under the control of the government. There is no reason for people to be optimistic,” Gergerlioğlu told Today's Zaman.

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

In the dozens of books written by Gülen, he promotes ideals such as the 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.

Particularly after the Sept. 11 attacks in the US, Gülen took a leading role in calling on Muslims to stay away from violence and extremism and remain loyal to the core values and real meaning of Islam.

In an interview with the Zaman daily in 2004, he even said he "hates Osama Bin Laden because he has stained Islam's luminous face." Gülen noted that by killing innocent civilians through terrorist acts and violating human rights, bin Laden and his organization, al-Qaeda, caused Islam to be identified with terrorism.

Again, Gülen was among the first to condemn the recent terrorist attacks perpetrated by the radical terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Paris that killed more than 100 people.

In a strongly worded statement, the scholar called on everyone to join in the rejection of terrorism “without ifs and without buts.”

Despite the clear stance he has taken against terrorism and the lack of even a single piece of related evidence, Gülen and the movement he inspired, 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.

The AK Party government and then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched an all-out war against the Gülen movement following the revelation of a corruption probe in late 2013 in which Erdoğan's close circle was implicated. Erdoğan accuses the movement of masterminding the probe despite denials from the movement. Since then, individuals and organizations that are thought to be linked with the Gülen movement have been the target of a witch hunt.

The appointment of trustees to Kaynak Holding -- which is tied to the movement, and the censorship imposed on Gülen's books -- is part of this witch hunt.

In a controversial move, the trustees last week decided to halt the publication and distribution of books by Kaynak Publishing House, a development that has been described as a blow to freedom of expression and tantamount to forcing the company into bankruptcy.

Since 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, it is a matter of 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 books that promote political Islam and extremism.

Published on Today's Zaman, 1 December 2015, Tuesday