Goals of the Gulen Movement
Page created June 2010; last updated Sep 2013
What exactly does the Gulen Movement hope to accomplish by establishing organizations and schools in over a hundred countries around the world?
What is the purpose of the 140 charter schools that the movement is running in the United States?
What does the Gulen Movement hope to accomplish inside Turkey?
These questions have been difficult to answer mainly because the Gulen Movement goes to great lengths to disguise its goals. Gulenists would like their movement to be seen as a civic movement, or social movement. They prefer this description because it minimizes controversy.
Outside observers, however, have noted that the movement appears to have political, religious and economic goals.
STRATFOR Global Intelligence Special Report, Aug 23, 2010
"Islam, Secularism and the Battle for Turkey's Future"
“Inside Turkey, the Gulen Movement follows a determined agenda that aims to replace the Kemalist elite and transform Turkey into a more religiously conservative society. Outside Turkey, Gulen presents itself as a multifaith global organization working to bring businesses, religious leaders, politicians, journalists and average citizens together. Whatever its public relations moves, the Gulen movement is at base just one more player jockeying for power in Turkey."
Irish Times Jan 28, 2010 Ethiopian schools put Turkey on curriculum
"Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor at the University of Utah, who has co-edited a book on the Gulen phenomenon, describes the movement as the most powerful force in Turkey and says its main goal has been the 'Islamisation' of Turkish society." ..... “'When the schools became successful, they decided to expand them and use them to generate international legitimacy [by stressing] that they are not Islamic but rather humanitarian with the purpose of building bridges across different cultures.' ..... Yavuz argues that there is a wider agenda as manifested by its increasingly global reach. ..... 'The movement, which is rooted in selective vision of the glorious Ottoman past, has its own imperial vision of turning Turkey into a global power,' he says."
Ozge Girit Heck's 2011 doctoral thesis from the University of Iowa included a study of the Gulen-affiliated Chicago Turkish World Festival, for which she interviewed both Kemal Oksuz and Hakan Berberoglu of the (Gulenist) Niagara Foundation. Heck noted that "With the support of the AKP government, the Gulen Movement hopes to spread this view of a social conservatism... The organizers of the festival, Hakan and Kemal, openly advocated for a more conservative Turkish culture that supported traditional Turkish values and embraced an Ottoman-Islamic vision of society."
A 2008 Reuters article entitled "Turkish Islamic preacher - threat or benefactor?" quoted Hakan Yavuz, a political scientist at the University of Utah, on the Gulen Movement: "It is a political movement ... and it has always been political. They think power is very important. They want to train an elitist class which will then turn Turkey into a centre of the religious world, Islamise the country."
In his 2009 Master's Thesis in Anthropology at the University of Arizona, Ufuk Coskun noted that "There also seems to be some truth to secularists’ claims that the Gulen movement is attempting to infiltrate Turkish government offices, in order to gain influence."
Bayram Balci's article "Fethullah Gulen's Missionary Schools in Central Asia and their Role in the Spreading of Turkism and Islam" (Religion, State and Society, Vol. 31 No. 2, 2003) describes the secretively missionary nature of the Gulen Movement's schools in the former Soviet republics of central Asia.
Berrin Koyuncu-Lorasdaği (The Prospects and Pitfalls of the Religious Nationalist Movement in Turkey: The Case of the Gülen Movement, Middle Eastern Studies, 46(2):221-234) says "...the Gulen movement basically has two goals. The first concerns raising a new type of generation, a ‘golden generation’ of modern Muslims who are deeply spiritual and close to God and equipped with values such as faith, love and a belief in knowledge and science. They will be able to compete scientifically and build a new world by taking account of national and global developments. .... The second goal of the movement based on educational activities is a global intention to introduce the long history of Turkish culture to the world and to spread Turkish identity in two ways: firstly, by directing people who live in European countries to raise their children in the ‘Turkish way’, and secondly, by establishing a pan-Turan ethnic politics in Central Asian countries which stresses pride in Turkicness. In short, the aim is to create a morally superior and scientifically competitive Turkic world."
In his 2009 PhD Thesis "Globalization and Marketized Islam in Turkey: The Case of Fethullah Gulen" (University of California Santa Cruz) Joshua Hendrick discusses in detail the political and economic goals of the Gulen Movement:
"In addition to regular visits by AKP dignitaries including Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, GM institutions in the US are regular hosts of very influential people in American politics.
"After attending a number of these events a senior confidant of Fethullah Gulen who is a Zaman columnist and original member of the GYV contradicted his friends by explaining, 'All these activities show that a very powerful Turkish lobby is being established in the US. This new dialogue, which will open a new page in Turkish-US relations, is as important as Turkey's EU bid.' "
"In the interests of simultaneously promoting Islam, Turkey, and GM-affiliated Turkish businesses, the Rumi Forum locates sponsors and hosts events that specifically target people of influence in the DC area and among national political representatives. Its efforts are supported by the efforts of the American Turkish Friends Association (ATFA) in Fairfax, VA; which also works in conjunction with numerous other GM-affiliated institutions from the Istanbul Center in Atlanta, to the Turkish Cultural Center in New York City, to the Niagara Foundation In Chicago. These institutions, together with Houston’s Institute for Interfaith Dialog, the Raindrop Foundation, and the Gulen Institute, sit at the center of the GM’s American network, and serve as models for new institutions in college towns and major cities around the US."
Hendrick's thesis is a very worthwhile read for understanding in detail how the Gulen Movement works towards these goals.
However, the single most perceptive statement about the Gulen Movement's aims is that of Aydin Ozipek, who wrote in his 2009 thesis: “...the primary objective of the Gulen Movement is to increase its share of power.”
The specific question of how the publicly-funded Gulen charter schools in the United States serve the Gulen Movement's agenda is addressed here on our companion site.