Saturday, December 21, 2013

Slow-motion coup unfolding in Turkey

When we looked in on Fethullah Gulen a year ago we speculated that American security services were grooming him for something special.

Recent goings on in Turkey draw into focus what that "something special" might be. Gulen is to be nothing less than the Washington-endorsed unifier of Islam and saviour of the Muslim people.

The wily Erdogan is now fighting for his political life. There are enough Gulen allies throughout his government that they know where the bodies are buried (sadly, this may soon prove to be more than a metaphor). Corruption allegations against Erdogan's inner circle will be a high bar for him to clear. What will most likely happen is that in his heavy-handed way Erdogan will over-react against his perceived enemies, public confidence in his government will erode, and Gulen-linked challengers for the leadership will emerge.

All of which seems quite an achievement for a pious man of peace who makes his home in the Pennsylvania hills an hour and a half west of New York City. When you read his "sermons"  they remind you of nothing so much as typical New Age self-helpy claptrap that could come from any crystal rubber working to cultivate a following.

It's not hard to see why his message of working hard in this life to get your reward in the next would appeal to the American authorities. If you get enough Muslim folks believing that, chants of "death to America" will be a thing of the past. His attitude towards big business is also welcome. Indeed, the humble man of God has a global business empire of his very own that spans banking, insurance, construction and much more. Unlike his philosophy for individuals, his businesses seem to operate with a view to making a profit in this world, not the next.

So the next few months will be interesting indeed for Turkish politics. Look for pro-Gulen candidates to emerge in time for the elections. Gulen himself will not directly dirty his hands in Turkish politics; he will stay put in Pennsylvania.

After all, he has bigger kebabs to fry; he has been anointed to unify ALL Muslims, not just the Turks.

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