Islam is compatible with democracy, ‘Islamic state’ is an oxymoron, Gülen writes in Le Monde

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Fethullah Gulen sits in a room at his compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. He has lived in exile in the United States since the late 1990s. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for last year's failed coup and is seeking his extradition. Bryan Thomas for NPR

US-based Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen has said there is no incompatibility between democratic and Islamic values, adding that an “Islamic state” would be an oxymoron.

Living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, Gülen has been declared an enemy of the state in Turkey by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Some may view the negative example Turkey presents under Erdoğan as evidence of an incompatibility between democratic and Islamic values. But that would be an erroneous conclusion,” Gülen wrote in French daily Le Monde on Monday.

“A state is a result of a contract among humans, made up of humans, and it can neither be ‘Islamic’ nor ‘holy’,” Gülen said, “Therefore, the phrase “Islamic state” is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. Similarly, since there is no clergy class in Islam, theocracy is alien to the spirit of Islam.”

For decades Turkey has been considered by experts to be the only “working democracy” in the Islamic world and has been repetitively referred to as a model nation for Middle Eastern countries.

“President Erdoğan has corrupted Turkey’s once-promising democracy, co-opting the state, seizing businesses and rewarding cronies,” Gülen said.

After a corruption scandal reached the close circle of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, he declared Gülen and the Hizmet (or Gülen) movement inspired by him an enemy.

“In order to consolidate enough of the public behind him to make his power grab, he has declared me and Hizmet movement participants the enemy of the state, blaming us for every negative incident in the country in the recent past. This is a textbook example of scapegoating,” Gülen wrote.

The Erdoğan government also accuses the Gülen network of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, although the movement strongly denies any involvement.

Following the failed coup a massive crackdown targeting Gülen followers was launched by the government, leading many to flee Turkey and seek asylum in European countries.

“As new residents, they must abide by the laws of these countries, help find solutions to problems of those societies and lead an active struggle against the spread of radical interpretations of Islam in Europe,” Gülen said.

“Turkish democracy may be in a coma due to the current leadership, but I remain optimistic. Oppression does not last for too long. I believe that Turkey will one day return to the democratic path.”

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