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YUSUF KANLI > The Gülen tactical maneuver

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Everyone says that Turkey’s absolute ruler Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become a cunning politician who has been doing politics as if he is playing a game of chess. Nothing is coincidental. Every step taken by himself, as well as by all members of “his” Cabinet and all top executives of “his” Justice and Development Party (AKP), is calculated in advance. Thank God, naturally some road accidents cannot be avoided.

Pennsylvania-resident Fethullah Gülen Hodja turned down the invitation weeping and crying in front of the cameras, declaring that it is his last wish to be buried back in Anatolia next to the grave of his mother. Still, the invitation from Erdoğan for Gülen to return to Turkey was one that will most likely have long-term results.

First of all, was not the prime minister aware that Gülen had no intention of returning to Turkey, not only because of possible persecution in Turkey but more because of the “global nature” the Gülen movement has acquired over the years? Why should Gülen return to Turkey and become a much revered but “local cleric,” while his presence in Pennsylvania provides him with international clout? Gülen was an İzmir imam decades ago, but his brotherhood has acquired global dimensions over the years. Would he now return to Turkey and be relegated to the status of a local imam? Obviously no…

Secondly, in the absence of Gülen, the Turkey organization of the Gülen fraternity fell into the hands of second or third-generation Islamists, and the elders who started the movement have long being sidelined. Gülen’s return would be good fortune for those sidelined and bad fortune for the newcomers. Would they want Gülen to return to Turkey?

Thirdly, over the past decade Erdoğan has grown from a local politician, into a national leader, and then into absolute ruler of the country. He has done that with a merciless strategy of head on confrontation and eradication of all possible adversaries. He has successfully replaced pluralistic democracy with a majoritarian democracy understanding and elevated himself to the status of “Mr. Know All” who has the right to make the last call on all issues, including how many children a family should have.

Would he now want an Islamist Hodja with global clout to return and to settle in a mansion on the Bosphorus or in İzmir? Would he want to see people turning to Gülen to check whether he approved the policies of the government? Would he want to have an “ultimate ruler” to dictate to the “absolute ruler”?

Why then did Erdoğan make that public appeal to Gülen, asking him return from Pennsylvania? First of all, he wanted to show “friends and foes” that while he is here and will stay on, Gülen is back in Pennsylvania. Gülen may talk on many issues of the country and even upset the government, but though all legal cases against him were dropped and he no longer faces persecution, he has no intention of coming back and engaging himself in efforts aimed at transforming the country into a conservative and religious society.

Secondly, Erdoğan demonstrated with the invitation that he is on good terms with Gülen, and thus made members of the fraternity fearing a rift with government happy.

The end result is that Erdoğan might have just prevented the possible return of Gülen.

June/18/2012

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