Monday, February 3, 2014

How Does It All Start?

This is just an interesting anecdote from 2010. Evidently former Congresswoman Gabby Gifford was at one of these Gulenist gatherings in DC, when someone from the non-Gulenist Turkish press tried to figure out why.
I had a chance to talk with some of the congressmen and senators who participated at the reception. I asked Ms. Gabrielle Giffords, representative from Arizona’s 8th. District, why she chose to come to a Turkic community gathering, considering that there is a very tiny Turkic community in her district. Gifford turned and pointed out a young Turkish man who was standing next to her. According to the congresswoman, that young Turkish man had visited Gifford's district office several times recently and finally persuaded her to show up for the reception "even though I do not like to go such events," Gifford said, before responding my question and telling me that she never heard of Fethullah Gülen.
Recently I saw my own Congresswoman on a video of one of these gatherings in Chicago, and I just wonder. Does it work the same way? Does a young guy just keep showing up at the office until he gets you to a "dialogue"  or an awards ceremony?

How does it progress from there, I wonder. How does it go from a cameo at a reception to boarding a plane for Turkey with people you don't know very well but who are lately everywhere you go? And then the almost inevitable award? I wonder if anyone ever walks away from the podium wondering what they're all doing there.

Meanwhile it's all rather complex abroad.

There's no analogous situation here in the States; there's no other organization on this scale with this many secret entanglements and a membership that claims to have no formal connections to each other. Oh yeah, and 147 charter schools. 

1 comment:

  1. Suzy Hansen's account of getting tight w/the Gulenists from her article "The Global Imam."

    ...In April 2010, I went on a JWF-sponsored jaunt to Adana, a city in Turkey’s south, with a group of journalists who had, a month earlier, taken a trip to Senegal on the JWF’s dime. Our bus arrived at the offices of a local health care NGO; there, we were greeted by some 15 men in suits who proceeded to show us a film about hospitals they were sponsoring in Senegal and Congo. The film was set to melodramatic music and ended on an image of a small black child holding a red balloon with a crescent and star on it—the colors and symbol of the Turkish flag. We then visited a massive high school and a tutoring house in a poor Kurdish neighborhood; had lunch with a group of 20 businessmen who donate $12,000 per month to Senegal; stopped by the local Gülenist newspaper offices; and listened to a panel about media and Turkish society. Everywhere we went, we were given some sort of trophy or vase or sweet.

    The last event on the agenda was billed as a “dinner,” but, when we arrived, I realized it was more of a convention sponsored by a TUSKON-affiliated group. About 400 people—almost all of them men—were seated at dinner tables in a ballroom. A large stage and screen had been set up at the front. I was seated at one of the only female tables, a half-empty one. Another film with maudlin music boomed to life.

    Suddenly, I heard my name. The woman next to me pushed me to get up. Stunned, I stumbled to the front of the room, and found myself shaking hands with some Turkish businessman while I accepted another gift, cameras flashing. I suspected that, someday, this photo would pop up in a Gülenist brochure, with me heralded as another of the movement’s many sympathizers. I turned, exasperated, to a JWF representative. He laughed at me. “Oh, no, now you’re part of the movement too!” he joked. “It might ruin your career!”

    At that moment, I viscerally understood why the Gülenists make so many people in Turkey uncomfortable. It wasn’t a question of their religious beliefs, or even their earnest, if perhaps overdone, sense of Turkish patriotism, which sends them to Texas and Senegal to promote their culture. No, it was something else: something about the way they have gone about accumulating and wielding power, while setting up what many Turks see as a parallel society...

    A 2008 Rand report ("The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey") called TUSKON the "fourth leg" of the Gulen Movement.

    Search and you'll find tons of Niagara Foundation and TUSKON links.