New political tensions have grown between the United States and Turkey after the failed military coup attempt due to the claim that a Muslim cleric, who resides in Pennsylvania, was behind the plot. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated the belief that Fethullah Gulen, a former ally turned bitter enemy, who lives in exile, is the mastermind behind the coup attempt. Erdogan said in a televised speech, “I have a message for Pennsylvania. You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country.”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, also called on the United States to hand over the Muslim cleric who runs a charter school empire from his compound in the Pennsylvania Poconos. The prime minister stated, “Any country that protects Fethullah Gulen will be an enemy to Turkey.”
United States Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the attempts to involve the United States in the failed coup attempt. Kerry stated that, “Public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations.”
In response to the accusations that he is involved in the coup attempt, Gulen stated, “As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.”
Supporters of the cleric who are members of the Alliance for Shared Values on Developments in Turkey also denied Gulen’s involvement. The group released a statement, “For more than 40 years, Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet participants have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, peace and democracy. We condemn any military intervention in domestic politics of Turkey. Comments by pro-Erdogan circles about the movement are highly irresponsible.”
Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999 when he fled Turkey amidst accusations of extremist Islamist activities. The 75-year-old was a cleric for many years and has been described as one of the world’s most important Muslim figures. Gulen is the founder of a movement called “Hizmet,” a form of Islam that emphasizes service and education. Gulen has created more than 1000 charter schools across the United States and the world who specialize in math and science. Many of the schools in the United States have been investigated due to the controversy of the use of public funds for schools that are grounded in the Islam religion.
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