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article imageOp-Ed: America harbors powerful Islamists like Fetullah Gulen Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Dec 31, 2013 in World
Philadelphia - An Islamist cleric who runs a vast media empire and school system can challenge Turkey's Prime Minister from his secure compound near Philadelphia. Why does America harbor Fetullah Gulen, and how did he get his visa?
Many Turkish people are poor, struggling just to pay their electric bills this winter. They eat soup and bread and rarely splurge to buy tea for 1 lira at the local outdoor cafe. Often they work long hours for little money and few benefits. If they are not a member of the ruling Islamist Ak Party, they have little hope of a better job, especially in the government. Those who dare to speak out against Prime Minister Erdogan often end up in prison, including journalists, academics, writers, ex-army generals, and even musicians.
Many of these Turks, who are politically persecuted, dream of coming to America to start a new life in the Land of Freedom and Opportunity. However, the emigration visa process is difficult and costly. A stack of papers (written only in English), that would challenge an American teacher to fill out, must be completed. At least $2000 must be paid just for the application fees, and various interviews must be held at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara. But if a Turk doesn't have a job or home in America, or at least $10,000 in the bank, he can give up hopes of being accepted. How much of this difficulty in obtaining an emigration visa is because Turks are issued I.D. cards that automatically list their religion as "Islam"?
If America is so afraid of Muslims emigrating, why does it open wide its doors to powerful Islamist clerics like Fetullah Gulen? He was accused of attempting to establish an Islamic state in Turkey in 1999 and somehow managed to flee to America where he directs his vast empire of T.V. stations, newspapers, and even private schools—from his well-guarded, compound-like estate near Philadelphia.
"Gulen has at least 30 million followers, mostly in Turkey," a Turkish man told me. "He has people in the police, judiciary, and even the secret service. No Turkish journalist would dare write anything negative about him. His followers say they are practicing 'hizmet,' or Muslim community service, but they have other agendas."
Indeed, Gulen, a sweet-looking, grandfatherly man who wears a white prayer cap, regularly broadcasts his Islamist T.V. shows (such as Samanyolu TV) into Turkey. His newspaper, Zaman, (published in Turkish and English) is heavily biased toward Islamist thinking. And Gulen is powerful enough to challenge Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan after Erdogan began closing down his private schools in Turkey. Gulen's name and comments have been in the world news lately as the corruption scandal and protests rock Erdogan's Ak Party government.
According to some Gulen investigators, "Gülen’s writings from the 1990s contain detailed discussions of how to deal with the Christian world when Muslims are weak and not yet able to vanquish their opponents. 'Make sure you disguise your real thoughts and feelings from them,' he advises his followers; 'if you let yourself known, you will only cause them to triumph.'"
BBC investigated Gulen and observed that he takes large donations from his followers and makes strict rules for teachers in his schools, such as no smoking, alcohol, or divorcing. BBC also observed that in 1999 Gulen spoke these words in Turkey (not long before he left for America):
"You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres. You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey."
BBC also noted that "Several of Hizmet's most prominent critics have been jailed in Turkey, sparking claims that it has become a sinister controlling force in its native land. A police chief who wrote a book on Gulen's influence on the police and judiciary was jailed, as were two Turkish investigative journalists. One of the journalists, Ahmet Sik, shouted during his arrest: 'Whoever touches them burns!'"
However, his official website calls him a "pious peace advocate and scholar." The 72-year-old continues to rule his empire from his Pennsylvania estate, which was picketed by activists this summer.
America should rethink its emigration policy and not let visas to America be bought by power and money. Many poor, politically persecuted Turks would like a chance at the freedom Gulen enjoys. Gulen should be more closely watched in America.
A young Turkish man  who studies English  holds the Turkish and American flags at an English  Speaki...
A young Turkish man, who studies English, holds the Turkish and American flags at an English "Speaking Cafe" in Izmit, Kocaeli
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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