Fethullah Gülen calls himself a man of moderation and tolerance. “Inter-faith dialogue” is one his movement’s trademarks. He and his followers go to great lengths to reach out to believers of other religions and their leaders. When you go to his English-language web site, you see the words “understanding and respect” right underneath his name.
The Gülen movement’s rhetoric and activities have won Gülen plaudits as an exemplary Islamic scholar who tries to build bridges between different faiths. Over the last decade, he has assiduously cultivated ties with Jewish and Christian leaders, and his efforts have yielded praise for his inter-faith activities and tolerance (details here). According to his web site he has met Pope John Paul II (although the details are murky) and received an award on tolerance from UNESCO (actually from an outfit based in the Romanian ministry of education, loosely affiliated with UNESCO).
It is a massive understatement to say that these activities are at odds with Gülen’s sermons and writings prior to his move to the United States, which contain vitriolic passages against Jews, Christians, the West, and the U.S.
Consider this entry titled “Jews” from the mid-1990s, which we translate in full:
“Even though they have lived in exile here and there and have led an almost nomadic existence, Jews have been able to maintain their racial characteristics with almost no loss. Moreover, the Jewish tribe is very intelligent. This intelligent tribe has put forth many things throughout history in the name of science and thought. But these have always been offered in the form of poisoned honey and have been presented to the world as such. For instance, Karl Marx is a Jew; the communism he developed looks like a good alternative to capitalism at first sight, but in essence it is a deathly poison mixed in honey.
Ibn Taimiyya says “some Batini doctrines exhibit substantial Jewish influence” and puts forth much evidence on this subject. Judaism was represented under Islam among the Jews in Medina and the surrounding areas during the time of our Master and among the Sabaʾiyya during the time of thepatriarchal caliphs and is represented today in various nation-states. It would not be an exaggeration to say that “the purpose behind the creation of such a people is to be the coil spring for human progress.” Just as God unleashes the hawk to evolve the sparrow’s capability for flight, with the Jews He keeps humans alert and under tension. From a different perspective, we can look at Jews as humanity’s vice-urging self [nefs-i emmâresi].
Jews will maintain their existence until the apocalypse. And shortly before the apocalypse, their mission of acting as the coil spring for humanity’s progress will come to an end, and they will prepare their end with their own hands.
Their incurable enmity to Islam and Muslims aside, these people, which look with scorn upon even their own prophets and killed many among them, will finally end up in the position of Nazis and will look for a place to hide in the four corners of the earth. Nevertheless, since dwelling on the true causes and motives related to this topic will both oppose the business of truth and result in raising undue passions, we shall let this pass for the moment. Yes, until Islam comes to be represented to the desired extent, it seems like luck will favor the Jews for some time still.”
(This entry is from his book Fasildan Fasila-1 [“From Chapter to Chapter,” vol. 1], published in 1995 according to Gülen’s bio. The original text in Turkish can be found here. The translation and the footnotes are ours.)
This is by no means an exceptional passage. Produced just three years before Gülen’s departure for the U.S. in 1998, this and other similar passages reveal Gülen to have been an inveterate anti-Semite at the time.
His views on women, Christians, and Americans were not much better. To justify wife-beating, albeit as a last resort, Gülen asked rhetorically: if it would do some good for one woman out of a hundred, why would Islam prohibit it? (He adds, helpfully, that the beating ought to be light and not on the woman’s face.) Of Christianity he writes that it has become perverted (sapıtmış), of America that it is “our merciless enemy” (aman bilmeyen düşman), and of Europe that it has a “sadist mentality” that wants to crush Islam. (Photocopied pages of the original Turkish books where these views are expounded can be found here.)
Predictably, discussion of these topics on his English site today have a very different character, stressing moderation, understanding, and the similarity among Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faiths (see an example here). Yet Gülen has never acknowledged and come to grips with his prior beliefs; he has never stated that he has changed his mind (if indeed he has); nor has he explained how he has apparently come to hold very different views once he settled in the U.S.
Moreover, these anti-Semitic rants can still be found in their Turkish original on web sites maintained by the movement. At the same time, the managers of Gülen’s official site have taken care to ensure that there are no direct links to the content with the most offensive language (as we describe in what follows).
This is the page that lists Gülen’s clickable oeuvre on his official web site in Turkish. Each one of the entries is a hyperlink that points to another page with the content of the relevant publication. Going down the list, one encounters Fasildan Fasila-3 and Fasildan Fasila-4. These are volumes 3 and 4 of the series in which the entry above is found. The list skips over Volume 1, where the entry on the Jews comes from; that volume is neither mentioned, nor linked to. (By contrast, his English-language bio does list Volume 1, but provides no links to content.)
To get to Volume 1, we need do a Google search for “Fasildan Fasila,” which takes us to another site with the full contents of all four volumes. This second site is clearly maintained by the Gülen movement. (See “© 2012 Fethullah Gülen” at the bottom of the page, and compare the logo on the browser tab with that for the official site; the domain is registered to an individual with an e-mail address hosted on fgulen.com, the same domain as Gülen’s official web site.) The anti-Semitic entry seems to have been digitized and uploaded on this site on May 5, 2004 – well into Gülen’s years of residence in the U.S.
Maybe Gülen has really changed his mind, and shed some of the offensive views he held shortly before he moved to the U.S. Even so, it is dishonest of him to present himself as someone who has long worked to foster peace, harmony, and tolerance between Jews and Muslims. He owes his followers, and the world at large, an explanation and apology. And clearly his devotees are still propagating these odious views, while taking precautions to insulate Gülen’s official persona, especially the one presented to non-Turkish audiences, from them.
When confronted with Fethullah Gülen’s own distasteful writings, Gülen’s defenders shoot back with accusations of propaganda and disinformation. For example, Dani’s twitter messages on Gülen’s views on women led to a newspaper column in Turkey interpreting the tweets as an attack by Ergenekon (an alleged organization aiming to overthrow the Turkish government)! The column was then promptly translated and featured on Gülen’s web site.
This is part of a pattern of deception and hypocrisy we have encountered repeatedly. In Turkey, Gülenist rhetoric is replete with democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Yet, as we have documented elsewhere, the movement is entangled in an astonishing range of misdeeds that run the full gamut from slander to the framing of perceived opponents.
Interestingly, Gülen’s writings from the 1990s also 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.
We have little doubt that the vast majority of Gülen’s followers have nothing to do with these tactics and would not condone them. But they are being ill-served by the movement’s leaders, whose own deception and hypocrisy are the movement’s worse enemy.
(Note: The Gülen movement has the habit of quietly editing or removing problematic content from their web sites, once these attract unwelcome attention. In case this happens with any of the material we have linked to above, here is a document that contains images of all the pages, as they existed as of November 5, 2012).
UPDATE (November 6): As we anticipated, the anti-Semitic entry from Gulen has now been quietely removed. Luckily, we had taken our precautions, and a screenshot of the entry can be found on p. 2 of this document.
 According to Wikipedia, “Batiniyya is a pejorative term to refer to those groups, such as Alevism, Ismailism, and often Sufism, which distinguish between an inner, esoteric (Batini) level of meaning in the Qur’an, in addition to the outer, exoteric level of meaning Zahiri. Batini ta’wil is the name given to the exegesis of the esoteric knowledge which rests with the Imam, or with the Shaykh/Pir in Sufism.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batiniyya.
 These are the first four caliphs that followed Mohammad.
 This term usually means “the part of self that urges vice.”