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Hilmi Demir’s Book on Gülen Movement: A Roller Coaster Ride of Bias and Speculation

This is a report, prosecutors take action!

Hilmi Demir. Not an ordinary person. He has reached the rank of professor in the Department of Theology at Hitit University, specializing in the study of Kalam. He used to write columns in Türkiye newspaper. He has published books such as “Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Christian Gnostics and Islam,” “Abu Hanifah, the Founder of Sunni Orthodoxy, Foundations of a Just Society,” “Logical Structure of Evidence and Induction, Example of Early Sunni Theology,” “Salafis and the Salafi Movement, How Sunni is ISIS?” and a book titled “Imam Maturidi, one of the Leaders of Ahl al-Sunnah,” which he co-authored with Muzaffer Tan, as far as I know. On top of all this, he also has another book published on September 28, 2017. Its title is “Radicalization of the Gülen Movement, an Esoteric Cult Community.”

The name, publication date, and content of the book are important. Let’s look at the carefully chosen words in the title: “Gülen, movement, esoteric, cult, and radical.” Imagine what kind of image forms in the mind of anyone who has inkling in the fields of theology and social sciences and has a connection with the contemporary world when they see these concepts in the title. The answer to this question is hidden beneath the words “carefully chosen.”

Also, consider the publication date: September 28, 2017. It’s within the year following the fictional attempted military coup on July 15. There’s a year and two months between the two events. It’s possible that the book was written after the coup attempt. Who knows, maybe it was commissioned.

As for its content, just reading these sentences from the book’s introduction is enough to get an idea: “Until the true face of the Gülen Movement, which was perceived as a ‘religious organization’ in society, is revealed, how did it gather supporters from its early years, how did it influence people with what kind of discourse, taking advantage of which vulnerabilities? What kind of hidden messages were in its discourse? How did Gülen’s works actually reveal clues to his true intentions? How were these messages, these clues not noticed or taken seriously? And perhaps the most important question, how did many people who thought they were joining a religious structure become radicalized, fall into the trap of extremism that led to violence?”

It’s famous, they asked the camel, “Why is your neck bent?” And it replied, “Where am I straight?” Exactly the same, how can you straighten any part of these sentences? “What are the hidden messages, what is the true intention, who became radical, what do you mean by extremism?” Understanding and interpreting them are truly difficult. Of course, unless you’ve given your mind on rent. If you’re not putting blinders on your eyes and evaluating things from around the story the regime has laid out! If you’re acting as a “for sale pen,” doing the task given to you by someone else, then that record needs to be kept. Fortunately, we have a belief in the afterlife where all secrets will be revealed. I guess it looks like seeing which of these possibilities is true and confronting them will only be possible in the afterlife.

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Hilmi Demir

You might ask, why am I bringing up a book published 6 years ago now. Honestly, that wasn’t my intention. I happened to come across one of the recent tweets of Hilmi Demir, who is like a sworn enemy of the Movement and always writes something on Twitter. I haven’t written anything about him or what he said until now. I thought I should write to record history and sat down at the computer with that intention. But while trying to briefly introduce him, the words got extended. I don’t know which one is right, my mind couldn’t make my pen or my pen couldn’t make my mind listen, and this long introduction emerged before you.

Anyway, let’s get to it: Hilmi Demir says that after July 15, Diyanet (Religious Affairs Directorate) gathered them. He says, “Diyanet brought us together” when he expresses it. Who are these “us”? I don’t know. They could be some professors from the Faculty of Theology. Since Hilmi Demir is a professor of Kalam (Islamic scholastic theology), there could be professors of Kalam involved.

Diyanet officials asked, “What can we do about the movement?” They also shared their thoughts. It’s highly likely that the book I mentioned in the beginning emerged as a result of this consultation. Demir said there, “There are many videos of Gülen. These need to be turned into text. It could be a very valuable archive.” This proposal was rejected due to its high cost. Then what? “It’s been 7 years since then, I don’t know if that archive exists, but I created my own archive. I paid 2500 TL and bought a program. It directly converts sermons into text,” he says. Then he completes his sentence with a reference to Diyanet officials in a kind of sarcastic way, “So, the 2,500 TL they said was too expensive.”

What he described struck me as very odd. Why? Because all of Fethullah Gülen’s sermons and talks have already been recorded in the archives of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) since he started delivering sermons and coffee talks at Kestanepazarı Mosque in Izmir in 1967. There might even be sermons and Friday sermons from the ‘Üç Şerefeli Mosque’ in Edirne where he previously served. It’s unthinkable for them not to exist. If they aren’t recorded, then there’s a serious internal intelligence problem.

Secondly, during that period, Diyanet published a report about the Movement. The report’s title is “From Their Own Words: FETO, Organized Religious Exploitation.” Later, this study was turned into a book. When introducing this report/book, they said it was a “study of Fethullah Gülen’s 40-year religious discourse.” Diyanet said this themselves. So, where are these discourses? They are in their possession. Otherwise, could a report be published without listening to, reading, or watching the mentioned discourses? In fact, I read this report as soon as it was released. They provide sources for every single sentence they quote.

Thirdly, one of the reasons I wrote this article is because of the anger, hatred, and animosity that flow from every sentence he writes about the Movement, despite the evidence presented regarding the coup, and how, against the skepticism that befits a scholar and without seeing the wave of oppression that extends to women, babies, and children, he signs under the official state discourse. I have a suggestion for the esteemed Hilmi Demir: I wish you hadn’t spent exactly 2500 TL from your pocket. If you have the option to return the program, return it, and don’t waste your family’s, your child’s livelihood. You should go to the Diyanet (Religious Affairs Directorate) that gathered you. Ask them for the archive where they claim to have examined Fethullah Gülen’s 40-year discourses in written form. Or, it’s also a government institution, go to MİT (National Intelligence Organization), ask them. One of them will provide you with that archive. Instead of spending time on that, spend that time on working on those texts so that we can see and learn where the doctrinal errors are, which discourses make people radical, and where the danger of cult-like behavior lies.

Finally, I want to offer a warning and report to the prosecutors of the Turkish Republic. My warning is this: you are arresting, detaining, and imprisoning people who possess any of Fethullah Gülen’s books, who keep them in their libraries, under the accusations of being members of an organization, having connections with the organization, not severing their ties, and various unimaginable claims of reorganization and so forth. Look, there are video and cassette tapes belonging to Fethullah Gülen at the home of Hilmi Demir, an academic at the Faculty of Theology at Hitit University, along with written versions of these materials. God forbid, a person who reads those materials in the archive could soon turn out to be “radical.” They could fall into the trap of “extremism that leads to violence.” Beware! Do your duty on time!

As for my report: Esteemed prosecutors! This is a report. I’ve provided the address. You can at least find the home address. I’m eagerly waiting for the raid you will conduct in the early hours of the morning with anti-terrorism units, with machine guns in hand and cameramen filming, both at his home and workplace. I’ll be following it from the media. Let’s see if you will fulfill your duty! Or, I will report you for not doing your duty. To whom? Of course, to the judges’ judge!

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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