Muhammed Fethullah Gülen (born 27 April 1941) is a Turkish Islamic scholar, preacher, and a one-time opinion leader (as de facto leader of the Gülen movement: an international, faith-based civil society organization once aligned with Turkey's government, but since then outlawed as an alleged "armed terrorist group"). Gülen is designated an influential Ottomanist, Anatolian panethnicist, Islamic poet, writer, social critic, and activist–dissident developing a Nursian theological perspective that embraces democratic modernity, as a citizen of Turkey (until his denaturalization by the government in 2017) he was a local state imam from 1959 to 1981. Over the years, Gülen became a centrist political figure in Turkey prior his there being as a fugitive. Since 1999, Gülen has lived in self-exile in the United States near Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
Gülen says his social criticisms
are focused upon individuals' faith and morality and a lesser extent toward political ends and self describes as rejecting an Islamist
political philosophy, his advocating instead for full participation within professions, society, and political life by religious and secular individuals who profess high moral or ethical principles and who wholly support secular rule, within Muslim-majority countries and elsewhere. Gülen founded the Gülen movement
(known as the hizmet,
in Turkish), which is a 3-to-6 million strong, volunteer-based movement in Turkey and around the world. (All Hizmet's schools, foundations and other entities in Turkey have been closed by the Turkish government following the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt
.) Along with the movement's participant's (Gülenists') individual piety and/or ethical conduct, they promote education, civil society
, and religious tolerance
initiatives and establish social networks
. These networks self-describe as originating spontaneously, their constituent local entities functioning independently from each other, existing, in the aggregate, as leaderless activist entities
. "I really don’t know 0.1% of the people in this movement", Gülen has said. "I haven’t done much. I have just spoken out on what I believe. Because it [Gülen's teachings] made sense, people grasped it themselves." "I opened one school to see if people liked it. So they created more schools." Inasmuch as the movement includes individuals with advanced theological training serving as "imams" and spiritual counselors on the macro level, with these individuals' identities remaining confidential (reflecting such positions' technical illegality in Turkey, under the formerly Kemalist laws there outlawing religious orders
), some observers argue that the movement thus includes a clandestine aspect. (Full article...