'It’s 10 times worse than military coup times,' Islamic scholar Gülen says

'It’s 10 times worse than military coup times,' Islamic scholar Gülen says

It’s 10 times worse than military coup times, Islamic scholar Gülen says

Fethullah Gülen gave a rare interview with daily Zaman on March 17. CİHAN photo

Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said the government’s pressure on his movement is “10 times worse” than the pressure experienced during the times of military coups, in a rare interview with daily Zaman on March 17.

“What we are seeing today is 10 times worse than what we saw during military coups. We are facing similar treatment [as during military coups], but this time it is at the hands of civilians who we think follow the same faith as us. This inflicts extra pain on us. All we can do is say, ‘This, too, shall pass,’ and remain patient,” said Gülen.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly accused the Gülen movement of orchestrating the corruption probes and leaked wiretaps against his government, and has launched a massive struggle to purge from the civil service its sympathizers, who he dubs a “parallel state.”

Gülen said it had become a “lifestyle” for him to live under oppressive military coup and surveillance conditions.

“I was sentenced to six-and-a-half months in prison on charges of ‘penetrating the state’ at the time of the March 12, 1971 military memorandum ... In the wake of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup, the authorities tracked me for six years, as if I was a criminal. Raids were carried out. Our friends were harassed. In a sense, it became a sort of lifestyle for us to live under constant surveillance in a coup atmosphere,” he said.

Responding to claims that he had been involved in ties with the military during the Feb. 28, 1997 “postmodern” coup, Gülen said he had tried his best to prevent the coup and appealed to political leaders to call for an early election to obtain a fresh mandate.

“Tension was building and everyone was searching for ways to save the country from this predicament [the impending threat of a military coup] with minimal damage. Like many others, I said early elections might be the cure. I suggested that early elections should be held under a new election law,” he said.

Gülen also discussed his alleged role in an alleged conspiracy to change the management of the Fenerbahçe sports club, in the light of a recent voice recording in which Prime Minister Erdoğan appears to attempt to get a candidate close to him elected as chairman of the club.

“It has been understood that this claim [the Hizmet movement taking over Fenerbahçe] is a farce,” said Gülen, adding that “the emerging trend of our time is to attribute every inexplicable event to the Hizmet [Service] movement and use it as a scapegoat.”

Gülen also rejected claims that his movement was behind a conspiracy against the military, as a result of which many officers were accused of attempting a coup and were sentenced to prison.

“They attempted to blame the movement for what they actually did. They convened Parliament to make a law for a single person. They could have acted with the same sensitivity with respect to these people [who were in prison due to the Ergenekon coup plot case] as well,” said Gülen, adding that legal decisions “should be respected” even “in critical times when you are subject to grave assaults.”

The Islamic scholar said he had forgiven “everyone,” but stressed that those who attacked his movement would be “turned upside down.”

“We forgive whatever wrong has been done to us. Let everyone hear this. But if any wrongdoing concerns religious or sacred values, the One [God] to whom those values belong will hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. Aggressors will be turned upside down when they least expect it. Indeed, we do not even want that to happen because the heart of a human being should be like a rose. Our words should also be like roses, so wherever they are heard they leave behind a nice fragrance,” said Gülen.

He also suggested that oppression and aggression were not part of his character and added that the attacks on his movement would be discovered to have been mistaken in the end.

“Let them indulge in oppression. Let them go on with oppression … Being on the receiving end of slander, aspersions and conspiracies has and always will be the destiny of those traveling this path. However, prudence and foresight undo such adversity. No conspiracy or slander can resist prudence,” Gülen said.

Recalling that almost all of his friends had acted with fidelity despite the government’s attacks on the movement, he added that he “would at least like to say I would expect certain people to be more than just friends when times are good.”