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Hizmet Movement Accused Of Influencing Coup Attempt In Turkey


With us now to talk about in the man Turkey says was behind this coup is Joshua Hendrick. He's a professor at Loyola University who has written a book about Gulen. Welcome to the show.


MCEVERS: This is a man who hasn't lived in Turkey for a long time. He lives in a small town in Pennsylvania. What does that tell us about how big and pervasive his following is inside Turkey?

HENDRICK: It's a little bit of a challenge to give a specific number. There's no card-carrying identification that says, I'm a member of the Gulen movement. Estimates range from a quarter million to 4 million adherents in Turkey and around the world.

MCEVERS: And so how would you describe him? He's called a cleric. He's called the head of a charity. Who is he?

HENDRICK: Fethullah Gulen is a religious community leader. While working as a religious teacher in the early part of his career in the 1960s, he developed a following of primarily young men. His teachings offered a focus on modern sciences, on professional economic pursuits that were argued by him to be completely parallel and harmonious with the teachings of Islam.

MCEVERS: Fethullah Gulen and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan at one time were allies. How did that happen, and then how did they eventually come to differ?

HENDRICK: They are two different brands of Islamic political identity in Turkey that share far more in common in their worldview than they do not. Where they united, more specifically domestically, has to do with removing the military's capacity to act as an oversight force over Turkish government.

When that obstacle was perceived by both to have been handled, they then turned on each other, and it's been proven over the past two years that the AKP is far more powerful and has effectively purged members of the Gulen movement from a variety of institutions to the last stronghold of Gulens within the Turkish state - was in the Turkish judiciary and then in segments of the military, which then...


HENDRICK: ...Leads to the allegations that he was behind the coup.

MCEVERS: So if you look at the purges now - such high numbers of people being purged from the ranks. What does this mean? I mean the government is saying these are terrorists; these are people who attempted to take our lives. What is your sense of this?

HENDRICK: I have no problem intellectually seeing how the Gulens could be pointed to as the perpetrators of this event. I also, however, knowing Turkey can see how that is a very neat and tidy scapegoat that does provide rationale for a cleansing and a purging of a variety of state institutions that so far have made things somewhat difficult for Erdogan to realize his full goals.

MCEVERS: How do you think these purges inside Turkey will affect Gulen's movement?

HENDRICK: If this coup was perpetrated by the Gulen movement, which there's certainly enough circumstantial things to point at that would lend credence to that, it was so ill-conceived and is so antithetical to their collective identity that I view it as being cataclysmic to not only their activities in Turkey but around the world.

Their whole collective identity has to do with advocacy for interfaith dialogue, for conflict resolution, for democracy. This event flies in the face of all three of those things, and thus it really would prove what many of the Gulen movement's critics have been saying for some of which over 40 years that they are wolf in sheep's clothing, a Trojan horse waiting patiently until their time to strike.

MCEVERS: Turkish state media says Turkey has now sent a formal request to the United States to extradite Gulen. Will this happen, do you think, and does this put the U.S. in a difficult position?

HENDRICK: Absolutely puts the U.S. in a difficult position. Will it happen? There's been lip service to that for years. The burden of proof will be on the Turkish state to provide the evidence required for extradition for somebody who holds a permanent residency in the United States, which Fethullah Gulen has since November of 2008.

MCEVERS: That's Joshua Hendrick. He's assistant professor of sociology and global studies at Loyola University, Maryland. Thank you very much.

HENDRICK: It's my pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.