Gülen, Fethullah

Gülen, Fethullah, 1941–, Turkish Islamic leader, founder of the Gülen movement, an educational, religious, and social Islamic organization that supported the Justice and Development party (AKP) in Turkey and has a worldwide following. Gülen began as an imam, becoming an important religious figure in the 1970s. He then turned to writing, education, and interfaith dialogue as a way to promote his ideas, which include a moderately conservative Islam and free-market economics. The movement now has an estimated three million followers, with some 1,000 Gülen-inspired schools, many in the United States, as well as numerous mass-media outlets and businesses. Gülen immigrated to the United States in 1999. He was tried in absentia on charges of trying to overthrow the secular Turkish government (on the basis of videotapes in which he appeared to advocate an Islamic government) and acquitted in 2008. Tensions between the Gülen movement and the Turkish government of Prime Minister Erdoğan developed in 2012, when the prime minister began to regard the movement as a threat to his power. Subsequently, Erdoğan targeted the movement's private tutoring schools, and a law closing them was passed (2014), but it was annulled (2015) by the constitutional court. In 2013 Erdoğan accused the movement of being behind a Turkish investigation of corruption in his government. Arrest warrants for Gülen were issued in 2014 and 2015; he was accused, among other things, of leading an armed terrorist group and seeking to overthrow the Turkish government. In 2016 his movement was formally declared a terrorist group by Turkey. He and it later were blamed for the attempted Turkish coup that July, and the Turkish government subsequently called for his extradition and pressured foreign countries to close or end his movement's control of its schools.

See study by J. Hendrick (2013).

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