Fethullah Gülen speaks to Süddeutsche Zeitung daily

Fethullah Gülen speaks to Süddeutsche Zeitung daily

Turkish government demands your extradition from Barack Obama. Do you still feel safe in America?

USA is a democratic state of law. Nobody can be punished here without basing on law. There is no place for arbitrary decisions here. As for the demand of the Turkish President about my extradition, there is no crime or allegation that can serve as basis for such a demand. Thus, this behavior disregards international law and damages Turkey’s honor in the entire world.

Once you gave support to the conservative Islamic party of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. What has changed now?

During the period they were established the AKP party made promises on issues as democracy, human rights, membership to EU, putting an end to corruption and authorization of those who think differently, as well as economic development. In their initial years, the initiatives they realized were in compliance with their promises and were supported by members of the movement in this respect. However, after they were elected for a third time in 2011, they began to act in complete contrast to democratic gains. As an example we can remember the pressurizing of media, giving super authorities to the intelligence service, practicing the same political methods as the previous East Germany’s intelligence STASI, disregarding court decisions, the treatment of protesters who expressed their objection in a democratic frame, and so many other similar actions; then it will be apparent how much we have moved backward from the democratic gains. And eventually, the government decided to declare me as an enemy, so that they could cover up the corruption, and establish an authoritarian structure. As the Turkish phrase goes: “The liar’s candle seems to shine until the dusk.”

In the past, together with Erdoğan, you diminished the military influence over politics. Did all of these remain in the past?

Military juntas realized four coups in the past and the elected governments were overthrown consequently. Tens of thousands of people were interrogated, imprisoned, and most of them were tortured. During the process when we were a country nominated for membership to the European Union, things beyond dreams occurred in Turkey. The issue of judging the military officials who actively took part in coups was brought to referendum as a constitutional regulation and 58 % of Turkish people gave their support to that. If the constitutional change was not manipulated as a political tool to this degree, the support could be as high as 70%. I can even say that I made a suggestion about a certain election for the first time in life and said, “even dead people should rise from their graves to use their vote for this election.” Immediately after being saved from the military imposition, AKP made everything dependent on their enforcement, put the inspection mechanisms out of action, and eliminated the independency of law courts; thus they formed a party hegemony. Just as we took a stance against the military hegemony in the past, nowadays as well we are standing against the hegemony of a party. It is for this reason that we have been stigmatized as traitors.

Where is Turkey heading?

In this last process, Turkish Republic rather presents the picture of a party state, or rather a single-man state, far behind being a democratic, secular, and social state of law. With the exception of the still resisting side of high courts, the principle of separation of powers has been put aside. Considering the present state, Turkey is experiencing polarizations within, losing esteem outside more and more, and becoming lonely. I feel sad for this situation my country fell into.

Erdoğan says he wants to raise a religious generation Do not you want the same thing?

Duty of the state cannot be raising a religious generation. Because, this will mean imposing a certain opinion on those who think differently. Religious freedom is among the essential human rights. No matter what religious belief they have, the state has to prepare suitable grounds for its citizens to practice and learn their religion. The expectation from Erdoğan was protecting these rights during the 12-year period when he was governing the state, also for the communities of religious minorities. The question whether this has been fulfilled is open to debate. A religious person must not make concessions from rights and justice. I wish to see a religious generation in this sense. If they refer to a generation almost unaware of their own religion, who divide the society, and spread hatred in such an easy manner, my answer will be very clear: No.

Recently, your declarations have been published in five different leading American newspapers against the ISIS. How dangerous is ISIS?

In the history of Islam radical groups who put the pressure over other societies, who kill people, and thus who betray their own religion appeared all the time. The latest one was al-Qaedah. Now there is ISIS. Something we do not need at all. ISIS is defaming Islam. This is a work of barbarians. Whoever have prejudices against Islam will see themselves as right by looking at them. This situation makes me lose sleep. Unfortunately, the Islamic world failed to take a clearly negative stance against them. This holds true for the scholars in Mecca and Madina, as well as those in countries like Egypt and Turkey.

Did you expect there to be more protest about it?

Unfortunately, I saw no great protests. IN addition, it this is true, if ISIS is being supported with weapons and logistics from outside, then the future of the world peace and Islam is in danger.

Are ISIS warriors Muslims?

They are convicts of mass psychosis. This fact is very well known in Europe. So many people there went after currents that caused pools of blood everywhere. Ignorant members of the ISIS do not know their religion even a little bit. They made up something as holy war. This is only a system of madness.

How can European youths be saved from this madness?

What I am saying does not comply with the West’s ideal of freedom. Youths must be controlled better. They must be guided by means of seminars and conferences. In addition, the countries from which foreign youths come from must not be forgotten in terms of assuming responsibility.

What kind you suggestions do you have for Turkish politicians?

I do not have any suggestions. They will not listen to me. They have so broad horizons and they already know the best themselves.

What do you say about the new palace of Erdoğan.

Every state needs buildings to formally represent it. However, it was possible to extend the existing buildings instead of building a palace with 1000 rooms. If the prime minister had not prevented, court order would stop the construction. Such approaches harm the citizens’ respect toward rights and law. The most magnificent palaces of the Ottomans were built during their period of collapse. Today, the working places of so many state leaders in the world are very modest buildings. Not surprisingly, this palace issue have done much harm to Turkey’s reputation. 60% of Turkish people think that it is wastefulness to build this palace. When the issue is taken from a religious perspective, this construction is forbidden.

Erdoğan claims that members of your movement has infiltrated into the legislation and police force.

Citizens of a state do not infiltrate to the institutions of their own state, but they enter and serve there. Any individual with the required qualifications can work for the state. Is what bothers them there being some people who did not swore allegiance to them? The present political system categorizes among the elements harmful to the state not only those who sympathize with hizmet but everybody who do not wish to have any relations with those in power. This is called a witch hunt.

Thousands of people lost their positions and jobs. How many of them are affiliated with hizmet?

I do not even know a ten percent of people affiliated with hizmet. In time it will be understood that most of the prosecutors, policemen, and teachers do not have any connections with us. They are probably doing this with two different purposes. On the one hand, by labeling so many people as affiliated with hizmet, they are trying to show hizmet as a great threat. On the other hand, they want to get rid of those who are not from them. Recently, one of the influential people in AKP also confessed it.

The officials in question had gathered proofs of corruption about ministers’ children and businessmen close to the state. What do you say about these allegations of corruption?

As the working of legal process was prevented, nobody learned the truth of the matter. If such things happened in the West, governments would resign before such accusations. Ankara even defined those investigations as an international conspiracy. Just as habitually done in authoritarian regimes.

Did the movement of hizmet lose power?

As a consequence of the propaganda made via the state-controlled media, it cannot be denied that the general public opinion about the movement has been damaged. People are being intimidated about not sending their children to our schools and not making donations. The general effect of these dark propagandas built upon lies to the society in general will naturally be reversed when their lies surface.

The government wants to close up all of your schools in Turkey that belong to Hizmet.

Our schools have been widely appreciated so far and won prizes. If Turkey is a state of law, we do not expect anything to happen to them. Otherwise Turkey will be the loser.

Some Hizmet schools in Central Asia were closed down. Is the long arm of Ankara responsible for that?

Turkish government is using whatever argument is likely to succeed in a given geography. They are using contradictory slanders, such as saying “they are American agents” in the ex-soviet geography, “they are fundamentalists” in the US, or “They are making your children lose faith” in Muslim countries. They are following an utterly pragmatist method. But this only serves breaking down Turkey’s bridges of friendship and damaging the international relations of the country. Turkish paranoia is thus being exported abroad.

One of the previous US ambassadors once described you as “The second most important person in Turkey.” How do you see yourself.

I seek forgiveness from God. Those somehow familiar with me know that I never wished to be known in my life. I never tried to have personal interests, material or spiritual. You can check my lifetime of 76 years. If this movement has any accomplishments to be applauded, they must be ascribed to the so many volunteers.

Will this movement be able to continue its existence after Fethullah Gülen as well?

People who did not even share our worldview at one percent degree gave their support to us. Our common idea has always been human values. People I never met made donations to our schools and hospitals in Africa. They were rich people from whom we had not expected anything. Every night I go to bed, I think that I will probably never be able to wake up again. But I do not have the slightest anxiety about the future of this movement.

Are you planning to return to Turkey.

I miss my country so much. I am an emotional person. I have relatives and friends in Turkey. I did not come out of this tree-trunk. My brother passed away short time ago; I could not attend his funeral. Previously, I also could not attend to the funeral of another relative of mine. 60 years of my life passed in Turkey. As an emotional person, I have an attachment to places and things. The village of Korucuk, the graves of my father, grandfather, and grandmother, the dormitories of Bozyaka and Yamanlar where I resided for years and bear thousands of memories for me, my books there... all of them begin to materialize before me and I cannot hold back my tears. If I return, some high level people in the state can use it for their evil intentions.

Can you imagine your making peace with Erdoğan?

We did not start this fight. For this reason, they need to take the first step for peace. If Erdoğan says one day, everything I said in those public meetings were only lies and slanders, then I consent to make peace.

Is there anything that makes you happy nowadays in spite of everything?

I never felt long-term happiness. I was warranted to arrest after every military coup in Turkey. But in spite of all, what I am presently experiencing is worse. The best side of the recent developments is diamonds’ clear separation from coal. Now the world can give a meaning to this movement.

Erdoğan says that Muslims discovered America before Cristopher Columbus. These words made many Americans laugh. What do you think about this remark?

After all, the issue of finding out what was discovered when is scientists’ job. There are people who make remarks like “Who is this Einstein?” or “What merit can Edison have?” So they say that we Muslims knew all such things in the fifth century. It is not correct to say only Muslims may have succeeded at doing this or that.

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