Monday, July 25, 2016

Dissection of the relationship between Gülen & Erdoğan

Translated from French, :

Middle East Eye provides a profile of Fethullah Gülen, its network and its conflictual relations with Turkish President Erdoğan.

July 25, 2016
Jillian D'Amours
July 25, 2016

TORONTO, Canada - Following the coup attempt on July 15 in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan quickly denounced the person he believed to be behind the insurgency.

The Turkish president said repeatedly that the coup leaders received orders "Pennsylvania", referring to rival the Justice and Development Party leader (AKP), Turkish religious living in the United States Fethullah Gulen.

In the days following the failed coup, Ankara has officially asked the US government to extradite Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

"When we hand over the terrorist mastermind living in Pennsylvania, everything will be clear," said Erdoğan at the crowd in Istanbul on Saturday following the coup.

Gülen, meanwhile, denied any involvement in the attempted coup, accusing Erdoğan of using it as a pretext to attack him and his supporters. "It's ridiculous, irresponsible and wrong to claim that I have something to do with this horrible failed coup," said the monk in a statement released Tuesday.

"I urge the US government to reject any attempt to misuse the extradition proceedings in order to conduct political vendettas. "

However, major questions remain about the involvement of Gülen and the role of members of güleniste movement, also known by the name of movement Hizmet (service), in recent events.

Who is Gulen?
Fethullah Gulen was born in 1941 near Erzurum in north-eastern Turkey. It became known as Muslim preacher and intellectual in the 1970s, calling for interreligious dialogue, modern education and activism based on faith.

"The Gülen movement is different from other Islamic movements with its emphasis on the importance of ethics in education, the media, business and public life," wrote Gürkan Çelik, author of The Gülen Movement: Building Social Cohesion through Dialogue and Education , a work that has a very positive assessment of the ideology and activities of Gülen.

The Gülen movement told oppose the use of Islam as a political ideology and presents itself as a moderate force advocating cooperation and dialogue.

He is active in the fields of education, dialogue, humanitarian and media in more than 160 countries worldwide, according to the Center for Studies on Hizmet, a nonprofit organization based in London and affiliated with Gülen.

Several non-profit organizations affiliated with Gulen, including the Foundation of Journalists and Writers of the Turkish and the Alliance for common values, have been created, and the movement also organizes seminars and conferences. Gülen millions of followers worldwide, though the exact number is unknown.

But beyond the establishment of schools, charities and non-governmental organizations, supporters of Gülen also have a "dark side", recently wrote Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol.

The reports and media investigations showed that gülenistes were behind a "secret organization within the state, a project that continues for decades to establish a bureaucratic control over the state," Akyol wrote.

Last year, Ankara has hired the law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP to investigate the global activities of the Gülen movement and exposing his alleged wrongdoing.

"The activities of the Gülen network, including its infiltration of Justice and the Turkish police and political lobbying abroad, should worry all who care about the future of democracy in Turkey", said to time the founding partner Robert Amsterdam .

Turkey has officially registered the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization in May.

"We will not leave alone in this country those who divide the nation", said Erdogan at the time."They will be brought to account. Some fled, some are in prison and judged now. This process will continue. "

"A very bitter divorce"

However, relations between Erdoğan and Gülen has not always been as explosive.

Erdoğan was close to Gülen for decades and the two leaders were opposed to the secular Kemalist forces in Turkey.

They also shared the goal of transforming Turkey into a state whose essence would be a "Turkish nationalism with a strong conservative religiosity," said Ariel Salzmann, associate professor of Islamic and international history at Queen's University in Canada.

Erdoğan and Gülen were "partners seeking to take power for decades," Salzmann said.

These leaders shared the same opposition to the Kemalist forces in Turkey for many years and, even if it is not launched himself into politics, Gülen supported the AKP - and has mobilized its supporters - when the party was founded and later came to power.

The members of the Gülen movement have also been linked to two notable cases in Turkey: the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations, which focused on alleged attempts to overthrow the government of the AKP and Erdoğan.

The Ergenekon case has led to the arrest of Ahmet Sik, a journalist who wrote a book about the Gülen movement and the alleged his influence in the Turkish security forces. Critics say the Ergenekon case was only a pretext to target dissidents.

"It's a modern Islamic brotherhood," said Salzmann to Middle East Eye on the debut of the relationship between Gülen and Erdoğan.

"They had common interests and were complementary in many ways," said Salzmann.

The links between Erdoğan and Gülen began to fray when supporters of Gulen in the police and justice "have become too independent," according to Salzmann, and they are aggravated when Gülen himself criticized Erdoğan for his handling of the Gezi park demonstrations in 2013.

Later that year, Erdoğan said that Gülen and his followers tried to bring down his government through a bribery investigation involving several officials and business leaders with ties to the AKP and led to the resignation of ministers of the AKP.

The government also accused members of the Gülen movement have tapped government officials.

Since then, Erdogan has repeatedly stated that Gülen runs a "parallel state" in Turkey and its government suppressed the Gülen-affiliated institutions, including the popular newspaper Zamanand Bank Asya.

"I think the idea that there would be someone who would question [Erdoğan], which was slightly disagree with him, with his ideas and methods led to this confrontation, which resulted in the decision State control of all entities linked to Gülen, "said Salzmann.

"It's really a very bitter divorce," she added.

güleniste Education Network

Gülen extended its influence significantly by establishing schools in Turkey and by progressively public and private academic institutions in other countries.

According to the university Bayram Balci, these schools have the same goal: "creating new modern elites capable of modernizing Muslim societies."

"The movement is very modern. They provide a modern and generally very secular education, but at the same time conservative, "said Balci at MEE , likening supporters of education linked to Gülen abroad to the Jesuits, known for their missionary work.

"They are elitist, modern, mysterious and they travel around the world to spread their values," he said.

Balci, an expert on the influence of gülenistes institutions in Central Asia and the Caucasus, toldMEE that Gülen had chosen to focus on the expansion of its movement in the region after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990.

At the time, countries such as Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries were more open to foreign influence - and in particular, Turkish "he explained.

The movement is also linked to about 150 charter schools - public schools that are managed by the private sector - the United States, although many of these schools deny any link with alleged Gülen or güleniste influence on their operations.

"This refusal of affiliation is not unique to these schools under contract," said Joshua Hendrick, a professor at Loyola University in Maryland and author of Gülen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World .

"What is and is not an affiliate [...] with the Gülen movement has always been something without direct response from those who were asked this question. "

Hendrick told MEE that since these schools are technically public, they must offer the programs established by the districts in which they operate. Schools do not engage in direct religious teachings, but all offer Turkish language option and give students and parents a chance to make a trip sponsored by Turkey.

"They are much more Turks in what they are trying to present as an alternative. This falls under their Muslimness and their Turkish identity, "said Hendrick.

The Gülen movement aims to accumulate and influence, said Hendrick, in order to create social change in Turkey in the long term. However, gülenistes prefer to use their influence to support political actors rather than participating themselves directly in politics.

In the US, individuals affiliated with Gülen also extend beyond charter schools, and they can be found in the media, finance, retail, catering, law, accounting, businesses and even farms, said Hendrick.

"Schools are the element most blatant and so anchor of the community, but in no case [this influence] is not limited to schools," he said.

Behind the coup?
While Erdoğan has consistently dismissed the alleged Gülen sympathizers in the police, judiciary and the media, the Turkish army was "the last bastion remaining gülenistes in Turkey", recently wrote Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at Harvard University.

He said Erdogan was preparing to purge the army of officers gülenistes, meaning they "had a pattern, and the time of the attempt [coup] accredits their involvement."

However, a violent coup is not a usual tactic of gülenistes, according to Hendrick.

"Whatever we want to say about the Gülen movement, he is not incompetent organizationally. They have the capacity to play the long game, be patient, be clear about their objectives for their constituents ... and the disorganization and fragmentation of it all, poor planning and the speed with which the coup was crushed seem curious, "he said.

"This does not look anything like their procedure. "

At the same time, Salzmann says that Gülen has become a "lure" Erdoğan used to justify the repression of all opposition perceived in Turkey and greatly limit freedoms.

Since the attempted coup, the Turkish government introduced a state of emergency for three months, during which he will suspend the European Convention on Human Rights.

Turkey banned the university to leave the country, closed hundreds of schools, suspended the annual leave of three million civil servants and arrested, dismissed or suspended at least 50,000 policemen, soldiers, judges, teachers and other professionals.

Impact "cataclysmic "
Erdoğan then repressed all that is linked to Gülen in Turkey, it was him until now difficult to close similar structures outside the country, according to Balci.

"It's hard to outlaw movement and its schools while you have supported them for over twenty years," he said.

"In Central Asia, for example, schools have started to form new elites in 1991, when the USSR collapsed, so for twenty years or more, many people went to these schools in perfect legality. "

Yet Hendrick added that if Erdogan could prove - in accordance with high legal standards to the international level - that Gülen was indeed responsible for attempting to overthrow his government, the impact on gülenistes activities around the world would be "cataclysmic ".

"It would immediately become what his critics said it was and is for 40 years," said Hendrick.

"Knowing that there is conclusive evidence that the organization operating in their country tried to overthrow their business partners, I do not see how that host country [the US] may continue to allow this entity to operate .

"It would be cataclysmic for their future on the existential level if this was correct. "

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Peter Birkenhead's Post

This post appeared in my Facebook timeline at the end of a week when social media has been aflame with the killings of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile and six police officers in Dallas. Here is a description of slavery as seen by generations that followed.

Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re going to hunt you. We’re going to trap you. We’re going to tear you from the arms of your mother and call you cargo.

We’re going to beat you. We’re going to put you in a crouch under an all-day sun and deform you. We’re going to forbid you to read. We’re going to lash your skin with salted leather if you read. We're going to rape your daughter if you read, or if you ever dare to stand up. We’re going to tear your son from the arms of his mother, and we’re going to burn you alive if you look for him. We are going to kill you.

We’re going to kill your children. We’re going to leave your daughters to die in the mud after birthing our children. We’re going to crush the bones in your children’s hands with the weight of great buildings. We’re going to brand your children like beasts, raise great buildings on their backs and call them lazy. We’re going to celebrate those buildings as our accomplishment.

"The Half Has Never Been Told"
by Edward Baptist p. 22
We’re going to write laws in those buildings that make it impossible for your grandchildren to enter them, or vote, or read or keep a family together. We’re going to mock them for not being able to do those things. We’re going to kill them. We’re going to dare your grandchildren to vote, or love, or read. We’re going to pull their bowels from their bodies or drown them or hang them when they try to do those things. We’re going to tell stories of their ignorance and wickedness when they don’t try.

We’re going to kill your great grandchildren. We’re going to taunt them with dreams. We’re going to tell them what to dream, then mock them for dreaming those dreams. We’re going to shackle their hands with their bootstraps. We’re going to flail our arms and ball our fists and redden our faces in roaring incomprehension that they don’t have jobs, or know the value of an education.

We’re going to burden them with our fear. We’re going to drop the unmeasurable weight of our failures on them and laugh when they bend their spines. We’re going to insist they straighten up. We’re going to laugh at their names and erase their faces. We’re going to steal their expressions of pain and call them our own. We’re going to force them to deform themselves, to take the shape of our nightmares, to swell to the size of demons and make us fear for our lives instead of theirs. We’re going to sigh about this on occasion.

We’re going to pretend to not understand your great grandchildren. We’re going to wonder what their problem is, and then we’re going to kill them. We’re going to kill them by crooking our fingers. For putting their hands in their pockets. We’re going to wish we didn’t have to kill them, though, so that should count for something. We’re going to kill them yesterday, today and tomorrow. We’re going to hunt them, we’re going to trap them, and then we’re going to kill them.

And we’re going to want you to get over it.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Vox video "How Clinton’s nomination could improve politics"

Vox video...
"How Clinton’s nomination could improve politics"This one's worth keeping...

Monday, July 4, 2016

Bigotry is the New Racism

Prejudice again shows its ugly face. The vocabulary changes (discrimination, segregation, racism, xenophobia, bigotry) but the core issue remains the same -- too many people cannot believe that all humans are in the same boat and mankind are all alike. Our differences are less important than our similarities. If my life has a theme it is confronting that demon and doing all I can to disable it. 

My blogging life repeats that tune like a broken record. (I travel that trail so often it sometimes bores even me.) So Britain's vote to leave the EU, the rise of Donald Trump, a political shift to the right in many countries and the displacement of more millions since World War Two (economic migrants, refugees, political and religious groups escaping persecution) have combined in a global pandemic. Here, then, is a blog post I compiled in 2004, updated as needed. 

Discrimination is alive and well, everywhere

Here is an essay by a smart young man practicing law in New York published in one of the better weblogs of 2004 which has now vanished. Here he reflects on the challenges that some Jews encounter when they move to Israel from some other part of the world. Ironically the prejudice they find there echoes antisemitism. The essay is worth reading in full.
"With second and third generations now born in Israel, the Indian Jews have gradually come to feel accepted in their new homeland." 
But this is nothing new, I have heard the same sentiment expressed to me by second generation Indians in Britain and those from the USA and this seems the norm for the cycle of immigration/ acceptance into most Western countries for such immigrants. It is only to be expected that Israel would replicate the same structure, with its attendant problems as well as opportunities. The powerful integrative factor of a common religious background and an ethnic-based nationalism would be centripetal influences that don't exist in the same way for Indian immigrants to other countries and where acceptance is carved out along different axes of identification. The thrust of Mandalia's inquiry to me seems misplaced as it seems to assert that Israel should somehow be different; when there is no reason why this should really be the case and his plea for tackling racism seems slightly inappropriate juxtaposed to the phenomenon of Antisemitism elsewhere.
I have spent my adult life looking at discrimination in its many forms and trying to figure out how to overcome it. The challenge started sometime in my teens when I came across Gordon Allport's The Nature of Prejudice.  I was too young to realize that what I was reading was about to destroy to foundations of much of what I had been spoon-fed growing up in the South in the fifties. By the time I reached the college classroom and learned in a sociology class that a first-generation African from the bush could, with the right environment, grow up to be an engineer or physician, my universe of racial prejudice was entirely destroyed.

I was a ripe convert for the civil rights movement and found myself taking part in picket lines and sit-ins. I learned early how easily one's peers could dismiss your acquaintance when you were willing to stand for certain principles. Character development was, for me, a product of on the job training.

Later, during a tour of Korea, hosted by the Army Medical Service Corps, I learned first hand that Koreans were no less prone to prejudice than we were. Not only did they discriminate among GI's of color (which they had learned, of course, from the military itself, watching how military units were segregated by color during the Korean conflict) they were also able to discern among various Asian racial groups, pointing out those who looked Chinese or Japanese or Korean, even among their own population! I learned that their Declaration of Independence began "We declare ourselves to be an independent nation and an independent race..."

My sad conclusion early on was that prejudice in all its forms seems to be an inborn characteristic of mankind. I reared my children with deliberate efforts to vaccinate them against the poison of prejudice, but sometimes I sense that the lesson is still not learned.

I do understand at a visceral level how tough the battle can be to stay clean of this bad thinking. Sometime in the seventies white people were politely but firmly invited out of "the movement" as black leaders were able to say in so many words "thanks but no thanks; this is our issue, not yours" which, when you think of it, is another form of the same thinking.

I could go on for hours about this subject, but nothing would be added to the store of knowledge that would change any minds. I can only point to others who are still manfully fighting the demons and hope that in time the landscape can change for the better. 

More from the Head Heeb 
(Great pseudonym for one Jonathan Edelstein, now vanished from the web.)

Unrelated to the topic above (but maybe not) is another essay that describes jury selection in Eighteenth century England. For anyone interested in history, particularly the history of law and juries, this is one of the blog host's passions. The historic foundations of the jury can make us very glad that the law is able to become more resilient with the passing of time...
Finally, anyone whose name, address or occupation didn't match the list provided to the prisoner was ineligible to serve, even if the mistake was as minor as a name misspelled by one letter. This was a time when the law was still highly formalistic and the concept of "harmless error" - an error so trivial as to have no legal significance - had not yet been developed. It was during this era that a defendant accused of stealing a duck was acquitted because he had been caught with a drake, and William McAndrew was dismissed from Crossfield's jury panel because he lived in Lower Thames Street instead of Lower Thomas Street.
Until now I never looked at that link cited above, just the single line quoted in Edlestein's post. 
I wonder now about the status of the Israeli Jews tagged Bene Israel.
...I met Yuval Abraham at a party, again in Mumbai. Yuval was a 37-year-old engineer whose family had returned to the subcontinent from Israel. As a Jew, he had always dreamed of living in the Jewish state, and in 1999 he and his family emigrated to the Negev Desert town of Beersheba. However, within two years they were back in India. Life in Israel was not as rosy as they had imagined. Yuval explained: "In India, we have never experienced any discrimination from Hindus or even Muslims. As Israel was a Jewish state, we thought our lives there would be even better. In fact, it was worse. Forget army service and suicide bombings - what really upset me was the racist attitude of other Jews. In Israel, if you are not a white Ashkenazi [European Jew], you're treated like a second-class citizen." 
As an Indian (although Hindu) who had visited Israel, I could understand his sentiments. On my latest trip, in 2003, I shared a taxi from the airport to Jerusalem with British Jews. I was to be dropped off last because I was the only one staying in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
"Don't you feel scared living there?" asked one female fellow passenger. "No, not really," I replied. I listed the reasons why I didn't stay in the Jewish half of the city: I was stared at; constantly stopped by soldiers for no reason; ignored in bagel shops; shouted at by bus drivers; blanked whenever I asked for directions. 
Yuval belonged to the Bene Israel (Jews from the state of Maharashtra), who form the majority of the 50,000 Indian Jews who, it is estimated, live in Israel. There were two main migrations of India's Jews to Israel. The first came with the almost simultaneous partition of India and Palestine in 1947 and 1948, which led to the creation of the religiously exclusive states of Pakistan and Israel. In Palestine, the estimated 750,000 Palestinians who were forced out of their homes or who fled were replaced by Jews from across the world. From India came the Bene Israel, who were joined in smaller numbers by the Cochin Jews of Kerala and a few Baghdadi Jews from Mumbai.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Remembering Alvin Toffler & Newt Gingrich

This week the passing of Alvin Toffler intersects with mention of Newt Gingrich as a possible vice-presidential pick for Donald Trump. Most people will never connect those two dots, but I have had more than the usual awareness of both of these men (and blogged as much about ten years ago) so I decided to visit my old blog and update what I wrote at that time. I have omitted some of the inactive links and added a video that some will find interesting. At the suggestion of a friend I looked at an article in Commentary magazine, Americanism [hyphen] and Its Enemies and made the following notes.
I read the article. No, that's not quite right. I scanned the article, because the word Americanism is for me one of those buzzwords without meaning that I avoid using, and normally would avoid reading about. The word is a kind of Rorschach of North American English, evoking for both speaker and listener a host of undefined notions that each of them considers normative, although neither of them gets around to defining plainly.
[Apparently Joe Carter of the Outpost (now gone) wanted to illustrate the power of the Long Tail, a meme and corresponding article in Wired Magazine that I had blogged about previously. I was happy to participate, not because the subject grabbed me, but because I felt I was taking part in a technological spectacle. Here was my submission for that symposium.]
As I read over the essay, I revisited a few scenes from my past that the title helped me remember. I'm sure none of what I have to add to this discussion will be germane to any thread, but I will write it out all the same, mainly for my own amusement.

Scene one...
Even before he came up with the "Contract With America" my Congressman was Newt Gingrich. I had occasion to write him a couple of times and he graciously replied. The man is very, very smart. He is the only public person I have heard make reference to Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock. That impressed me. Anyway, he mentioned he was working on an idea for either a book or something that had to do with "American Civilization." I know that is not exactly the same as Americanism but it's close enough. I didn't get around to responding to Mr. Gingrich, but if I had I would have argued that his phrase "American Civilization" made use of not one, but two buzzwords, and perhaps he could find some clearer way to express his ideas. I had in mind that there were a good many people in Central and South America who might object to his proprietary use of those words when he was really talking about the USA and something less than a Civilization. Moreover, there are populations in the USA who might take umbrage at being denied a dissenting opinion in his grand vision. I was thinking here about descendants of slavery, North American Indians and a few other minorities that have since emerged from various closets.

I knew where he was going, of course. He was articulating the Conservative agenda that would later make him Speaker of the House, and the phrase "American Civilization" had such a wonderful ring that he had to find out where it could take him. I never heard much about the topic, but we sure heard a lot about Mr. Gingrich as time went on.

Scene Two...

One of my college teachers opened a class on State and Local Government by first laying the foundation of politics in the early days of our history. Before he got into the particulars, he made certain that we grasped the idea that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was the cornerstone of everything that has developed in our political and social development. He used the phrase intermittently throughout the quarter so we could never lose track of it. Massachusetts Bay Colony. It has an irresistible ring. You know when you hear it that you are hearing something important. Do a Google search with those three words and you will want to stand up and salute the monitor.

And here is where my memory and this essay converge. There is an undeniable historic connection between church and state. But my take on the connection is not the same as that of Mr. Gelernter. He frames the connection in negative terms, defining Americanism in terms of (as the title suggests) its adversaries. My take on the impact of Puritanism has more to do with how we interpret prosperity.

The Puritan view of prosperity was straightforward. God loves us and wants to see us happy. When we do His will, then He will bless us. Really bless us, materially. And if we fail to do His will, He will punish us. Really punish us. Materially. Therefore, those who are well off must be living right. And those who are poor must be failing in some way to please God, else He would be blessing them, not allowing them to be poor.

Tempered by the fires of Calvinism, the connection between hard work, prosperity and virtue took root and grew in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It set the tone for the future of the republic, and at some level most people want to believe it today. Oh, we have big hearts for the poor. Nothing is quite so satisfying as sharing our blessings with those who have not been blessed. But in the end, most people tend to measure virtue in dollars and cents. [The discerning reader may recognize here the seeds now called meritocracy, a popular justification for the heartless toxins of libertarian arguments.]

Our predilection to equate wealth with virtue continues to be the defining quality of our society alienating a great many people. We are a new nation. People who live in places where history is measured in millennia instead of centuries have a very different view of wealth. I prefer not to argue the point. I know that mine is a minority opinion. And I still think the word "Americanism" is a buzzword. But it pleases me to be able to participate in this symposium.


Since my friend Deborah White linked to this post I thought it prudent to check out some authority rather than trusting my own mortal memory of a distant class in political science. In fairness to the Puritans, the reader can consult a more charitable description of their view of prosperity than I have depicted. The Puritan Mind, now vanished, was a site is heavily documented from original sources and I have no desire to pick nits with someone who is clearly an expert on the subject.

Having said that, I stand with my original thoughts. I seriously doubt that the man on the street has any appreciation for the nuances of Puritan thought, or any notion that his everyday life is connected with that heritage. Just as one doesn't have to be either Jew or Christian to buy into what is popularly called "Judeo-Christian" traditions, neither does one need to understand Puritanism to subscribe to one of it's more dubious, if misunderstood legacies.

Here endeth my reflections of the past. 
And here is the video mentioned above, with the following description which appears at You Tube. Make of it what you will...
Uploaded on Jan 1, 2012
Toffler's writings call for abolition of the United States Constitution and the concept of national sovereignty. Toffler calls for a world government, which will be ruled by technocratic elites. There are entire subchapters in the book titled "the sub-elites" and the "super-elites." The Third Wave lays out a society similar to Huxley's Brave New World, but sprinkled with some Republican lingo. Toffler suggests religion should be replaced with loyalty to government and refers to religion in our current system as "cults." The book describes a society where abortion, homosexuality, and divorce are not only accepted but idolized. After all, Toffler proclaims the need to reduce world population which the aforementioned would indeed facilitate. Gingrich calls Toffler his mentor, which explains Gingrich's connection with the militant environmental movement.