Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has called on Muslims in the US to distance themselves from people linked to the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.
Speaking to a group of people at the Diyanet Center of America (DCA), in Lanham, Maryland, Yıldırım urged Muslims living in the US to stay away from schools and cultural centers affiliated with the Gülen movement.
“Don’t take FETO [a derogatory term coined by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to the Gülen movement] supporters among you and don’t allow them to mislead you,” Yıldırım said.
Gülen is an Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate whose decades-long commitment to education, interfaith dialogue and altruism has inspired millions in Turkey and around the world.
Erdoğan and his government launched an all-out war against the Gülen movement following corruption operations in December 2013 in which ministers and the son of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan were accused of having taken bribes from an Iranian businessman to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.
After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the corruption investigation was dropped.
Erdoğan publicly called on people not to send their children to Gülen movement schools, not to read or watch their media and not to put their money in Bank Asya. All were legal but were linked to the Gülen movement.
Penal courts of peace, which were established by the Erdoğan government in mid-2014, started to jail people and seize companies, media and schools linked with the Gülen movement from summer 2014 on.
Erdoğan also accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
The government has seized to at least 1,068 companies and 4,888 properties as part of a witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement.