The Main Characteristics of Gulen’s Religious Cult that Attempted the Failed Coup in Turkey


By Dr Aland Mizell:

The Gulen movement operates through secretive structures with government leaders, police, military, judiciary, university officials, bureaucracy, and representatives at district, provincial, and nation-wide levels who act both as insiders and decisions-makers steering the movement. They are accused of being behind the July 15, 2016 coup attempt when pro-Gulen military generals within the Turkish military killed more than 240 people and injured over a thousand. The incident has raised many questions about the cult leader’s personality. One of the questions is how do we know when a cult leader is evil, mentally insane, or a danger to others? Many of Gulen’s cult members have become his slaves. They have surrendered their soul to Gulen and thus become a life without a soul, because no normal person would use fighter jets, helicopters, and tanks to kill their own people to glorify a man. Undoubtedly, there are people out there who are cult leaders and who do great harm to others emotionally, spiritually, economically, psychologically, and physically.

From my studies of Gulen’s religious cult, early signs indicated, at a minimum, the need for caution, that this individual is dangerous, and that in all likelihood he will cause harm to others and be a threat to humanity. Having studied at length the life, teachings, and behavior of Fethullah Gulen and his cult movement, I think what stands out about Gulen is that he is pathologically narcissistic. Gulen has a deep-seated belief that he is special and that his followers are chosen ones who call themselves Sahabe, followers of the Prophet Mohammad; that he alone has the answers to all the world’s problems; and that he has to be revered. He demands perfect loyalty from his followers, overvalues himself, and devalues those around him; he is intolerant of criticism, and, above all, he does not like being questioned or challenged. Yet in spite of these less than charming traits, he has no trouble attracting those who are willing to overlook these features.

These personality traits stand out as the first warning to those who would associate with him and his movement. A list of some of the traits about Gulen’s cultic movement give us an idea as to their psychopathology to commit this failed coup attempt in Turkey. This is merely my personal conclusion based on my studies and the interviews that I conducted. If anyone knows of a cult leader who has these same traits, there is a high chance that he is hurting those around him and their loved ones emotionally, spiritually, economically, physically, and psychologically. Individuals should watch for and be cautious about these dangerous personalities, flee from them and avoid joining their cabal.

His followers’ excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to Gulen cause them to regard his beliefs as the way of Islam and his ideology and practices as the truth and law. Gulen is absolute truth, so that questions, doubt, and dissent are discouraged, slandered, and punished. The reason that he hates the President of Turkey, Tayib Erdogan, so much and tried to kill him is because of a power struggle. He wanted Erdogan to be loyal to him and his way of Islam. Gulen dictates in great detail how members should think, act, and live. For example, Gulen’s members must get permission regarding when to marry, what to study, when to change jobs,, what type of clothes to wear, who to talk to, where to live, where to work, whether or not to have children, how to discipline their children, how much money they should give back to his movement, what kind of house they should have, what kind of car they should drive, and what movies to watch. Gulen and his movement are elitist, claiming a special exalted status for himself, so that he is considered the Mehdi or Messiah, a special being. He believes that his movement is chosen by Allah and that Allah has given him and his followers a special mission to bring justice, love, and peace in order for his Golden Generation to create an utopian society. Gulen and his followers have a polarized “us-versus-them” mentality that causes conflict with the wider society.

They lie when they accuse Erdogan of polarizing the Turkish society. Gulen is not accountable to any authorities; he is absolute. Gulen teaches or implies that his are supposedly exalted ends that, therefore, justify whatever means he deems necessary. The result is that members participate in crazy behaviors or activities like the failed coup attempt, taping politicians’ private life, and having businessmen or secular military generals who were against him and his movement put in jail. Other activities include lying to family and friends, collecting money for bogus charities, which they deem fine because they are doing it for a cause to spread Islam and bring the world under the domain of the Gulen version of Islam.

Gulen induces feelings of shame and guilt in order to control members. Often, this is done through a form of persuasion, especially when he declared war on Erdogan and kept telling his people not to leave the organization and not to believe Erdogan. He admonished them that if they do, he will not forgive them, and Allah will punish those who leave the mission. He tells his followers that at the end in their role as Mohammed’s chosen ones, the victory will be theirs, and even if they die for the cause, they will be martyrs, and Allah will reward them with all good things in heaven, but that Erdogan and the Turkish people who do not support him will burn in hell.

Subservience to the leader requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and later radically relinquish their personal goals. Gulen’s followers are required to live and socialize only with other followers. The most loyal to Gulen are considered true believers and holy ones. They are enslaved to Gulen so that there is no life outside the context of the movement. Gulen indoctrinates his followers proclaiming that there is no other way to exist, and often they fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave the movement because Gulen has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can accomplish. He demands blind unquestioning loyalty, and obedience to his unlimited power. Because he has a sense of entitlement, he expects to be treated special at all times. He requires admiration from followers and outsiders indicating a great arrogance in his behavior or attitude. Significantly, he has an exaggerated sense of power that allows him to break the laws, such as ordering his followers in the military, police, and judiciary to join the coup to remove the opposition against him in Turkey.

Gulen is hypersensitive to how he is perceived by others. Publicly he devalues every one in Turkey’s leadership as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy. Gulen does not listen to others; communication is usually in a one-way form of dictates or orders. When Gulen is criticized, he tends to lash out not just with anger but also with rage, so that whoever criticizes him or questions his way of belief is called the enemy.

Gulen has answers or solutions to all problems. He is constantly assessing those who are a threat or those who do not respect him. Gulen hates to withdraw or fail publicly, again causing him to act out in anger when he does. He closely monitors and isolates his members from contact with family or outsiders. Gulen is using his schools, charities, NGOs, businesses, and preschools as a platform to disseminate his cult ideology and ultimately to control the world. For Gulen, war is cheating. However, it is acceptable to lie or to cheat when you are trying to save your life or to advance your cause. That is why Gulen is now partnering with those who are against President Erdogan and the AKP to bring them down. He has taken away from millions of followers the freedom to leave or to pursue life and liberty.

Cults are dangerous; they control, manipulate, and use those under their sway. This coup attempt showed how weak and insecure Gulen is in that he attacked those who opposed him with bombs and violence rather than in a democratic way or with reasoned debate. Internal deficiencies of Gulen’s cult produced defensive, paranoid, psychological warfare, as well as kamikaze behavior, rendering it resistant to self-evaluation. Gulen no longer advocates love, freedom, peace, tolerance, but rather hate, force, killing, and bombs against those who do not agree with him. He is no different than any other terror organization, such as ISIS or Boko Haram.

Gulen is among Turkey’s most wanted, with the country exerting a tremendous effort to obtain an international arrest warrant for him. He lives in a compound owned by his movement in Saylorsburg Pennsylvania, United States. The question is will America extradite this leader of a terror organization who killed more than 250 people? If America does not arrest or return Gulen to Turkey, the Turkish people will think America is harboring the leader of one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations. In my view, Gulen lost his credibility among the Turkish people and is the enemy of the Turkish state. Internationally many people question his motive now, so he is no longer an asset for American national interests; therefore, American cannot afford to lose its friendship with Turkey especially since Turkey is a member of NATO, and in light of its strategic location, the Syria crisis, the threats of Russia and Iran, and its being the only partner America has in the region. America should either turn in Gulen, or if not, send him to another country where Turkey does not have any strategic interest. Gulen’s cult is dangerous and its leader should be extradited to face justice. If the international community is serious about eradicating terrorism, they should not differentiate between my terrorist and your terrorist. The real characteristic of Gulen’s religious cult is that it is based on lies, and perhaps he has repeated them so often that he believes his own fabrications.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times and Kurdistan Tribune. You may email the author 

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