Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gulenists, accused of orchestrating coup in Turkey, have been very active in Maine

Fehtullah Gulen, an influential imam who has lived in exile in the Poconos of Pennsylvania for decades, stands accused by Turkey's increasingly autocratic president, Recep Erdogan, of masterminding the recent military coup attempt in Turkey. Gulenists -- followers of Gulen and his Hizmet movement -- are being ejected from their jobs or rounded up by the tens of thousands, from journalists and teachers to military officers and police leaders as Erdogan seeks to snuff out what he calls a "tumor" on his nation.

Bizarrely, Gulenists have also been extremely active here in Maine. In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I have a commentary essay reviewing the vigorous cultural and diplomatic outreach programs Gulen's followers have been engaged in for the past four years in Maine, where they've attempted to open two charter schools and developed a bipartisan group of friends and allies in the legislature, governor's office, and among civic leaders.

The essay is a sequel to and update on this Press Herald story I wrote back in 2013, which revealed the Gulenist connections at the first proposed charter school.

Incidentally, I'm a fan of Turkish culture and the impressive cultural legacy of the Ottoman Empire, whose former territories I lived in for most of the 1990s. My most recent story from Turkey was this 1998 travel piece for the Christian Science Monitor from Cappadocia.

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