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Cablegate: Rallying Support for the Hoca

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/27/2015

Classified By: Acting Consul General Stuart Smith. Reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d). This message was coordinated with Embassy Ankara.

1. (C) Summary: In a farewell luncheon for Consul General,
Istanbul Chief Rabbi Ishak Haleva noted that he is wrestling
with a difficult request from a local foundation for a letter
in support of Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish-Muslim spiritual
leader of a major Islamist lodge who is currently residing in
the United States. Haleva said that those who approached him
indicated that Gulen will soon seek to adjust his immigration
status in the United States, and needs the testimonial to
address the belief in parts of the U.S. government that he is
a "radical Islamist" whose moderate message cloaks a more
sinister and radical agenda. This concern apparently stems
in part from FBI documents that Gulen supporters received
through a recent FOIA request in the U.S.. Separately,
business contacts with links to Gulen confirmed the fact that
they are soliciting such testimonials at Gulen's personal
request, while Istanbul Legat was also approached by police
contacts with Gulenist links who asked that the bureau
provide a "clean bill of health" for Gulen. End Summary.

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2. (C) Foundation Approach: In his luncheon with the Consul
General, Haleva emphasized the quandary the Foundation
request had created for him. While he did not wish to
provide an open-ended "to whom it may concern" testimonial
that could be used broadly (text of the foundation's proposed
letter is in para 6), given his own lack of certainty of
Gulen's ultimate intentions, he also could not simply turn
the request aside, given the assistance Gulen has provided to
Turkey's Jewish Community in the past. While no final
decision has been made, Haleva indicated he is leaning
towards providing a more limited letter, addressed to U.S.
immigration officials (he asked that we provide the name of
an appropriate addressee), and limited to the community's
specific interactions with Gulen and his movement.
Subsequently, after learning that the Ecumenical Patriarch
and Armenian Patriarch had been similarly approached, but had
demurred, Haleva told Consul General that he was rethinking
whether even a limited letter is appropriate.

3. (C) Encomiums: Haleva's and his Orthodox and Armenian
colleagues' wary attitude is similar to that of much of
Turkish officialdom and of our best contacts among
conservative Turks with a deep knowledge of Islam and of
Turkish brotherhoods/lodges, but contrasts with the praise
Gulen has received in other quarters. Most notably, the
Vatican Nuncio surprised a visiting Congressional delegation
during a recent breakfast meeting here by not just
enthusiastically praising Gulen, but also presenting the
delegation's chairman with a book about him. (Gulen's
meeting with Pope John Paul II several years ago excited much
controversy in Turkey, with some rival brotherhoods/lodges
accusing Gulen of selling out while other pious Turks who
have been among our best contacts assessed the move as the
ultimate in hypocrisy.) Gulen has also attracted steady
interest among commentators. Some writers, mainly those who
write for the Gulenist daily "Zaman" or who teach at the
Gulenist Fatih University in Istanbul, or who have otherwise
identified themselves with his movement, assert that Gulen's
public message of "dialogue" is a more mature expression of
Islam. Given the Gulenists' penetration of the National
Police (TNP) and many media outlets and their record of going
after anyone who criticizes Gulen, others who are skeptical
about Gulen's intentions feel intimidated from expressing
their views publicly. Privately they note: (1) Gulen's
sharply radical past as a fiery Islamist preacher in the
1970's-1980's; (2) his ruthlessness in banishing people from
his more inner circles (Gulenists have admitted to us that
they are petrified of making a "mistake"); (3) his and his
inner circles' insistence that followers of Gulen mediate
their study of Islam totally through his writings, i.e. no
tolerance of dissent or critical thinking; and (4) the
cult-like obedience and conformity that he and the layers of
his movement insist on in his global network of schools, his
media outlets, and his business associations.

4. (C) Confirmation: The specific Gulenist concern about
negative U.S. attitudes towards Gulen apparently stems in
part from a November 2004 FBI report that Gulen's lawyer
obtained through a FOIA request. Three ranking Turkish
National Police contacts recently raised the issue in a
meeting with Istanbul legat, in which they also provided
material on Gulen and asked if the FBI could provide some
sort of "clean bill of health" for him. (Note: Legat
demurred, given the apparent intention to mount a public
relations campaign with such material.) In a separate
farewell call on the Consul General, Mustafa Gunay, Secretary
General of the Gulen-linked Business Life Association (ISHAD)
confirmed that a general effort is underway to solicit
testimonials attesting to Gulen's good character. He noted
that the initiative stems from Gulen himself, who is
concerned that some in the U.S. may doubt his good faith,
given a decision by U.S. immigration authorities this year
that for the first time denied him the right to travel
outside of the country.

5. (C) Comment: Given Gulen's public message of tolerance and
"dialogue," and his parallel effort to reconcile Islam and
science and modernity, a number of Western observers have
latched on to him as a Muslim teacher (or "hoca") who they
prefer to see as a voice of "moderate Islam." He has spoken
frequently against terrorism (although he is careful not to
explore the link between some readings of the Koran and
terrorist violence in the name of Islam). He has also acted
in ways which the Jewish community interprets as supportive
of its existence.

6. (C) Deep and widespread doubts remain, however, about
his movement's ultimate intentions. We have anecdotal
evidence of the pressure that the various circles of his
movement put on people they have drawn in, for instance
severe pressure on businessmen to continue to give money to
support Gulenist schools or other activities. We have
multiple reliable reports that the Gulenists use their school
network (including dozens of schools in the U.S.) to
cherry-pick students they think are susceptible to being
molded as proselytizers and we have steadily heard reports
about how the schools indoctrinate boarding students.

7. (S) These facts, when coupled with the Gulenists'
penetration of state institutions, including the TNP (as
reflected in Istanbul legat's meeting-- Ankara septel will
address the impact this development has had on police
anti-terrorism efforts), hint that a much harder line, a
sense of world-wide Islamist proselytizing mission, lies just
under the surface. In short, the Gulenists' efforts to mold
future generations through their international school network
(which exists throughout Turkey, Asia (e.g., Afghanistan and
Pakistan), and Africa, in addition to the U.S.) and their
documented effort to infiltrate not just Turkish business
circles but governmental institutions as well have raised
questions about whether their moderation would continue if
they gained a preponderant voice in Turkish Islam. Haleva's
caution thus appears well-judged. End Comment.

8. (C) Draft letter text (as proposed by the Gulenist
Foundation) but NOT/NOT accepted by the Chief Rabbi:

To Whom It May Concern:

As the world has been suffering from violence,
hostility, and tyranny, mankind became painfully aware of an
absence of an environment in which people can realize the
value of understanding of each other, passion, and

I would like to take this opportunity to talk with you
about Mr. Fethullah Gulen, who is a Turkish-Muslim scholar
and a spiritual leader of a global faith-based movement. Mr.
Gulen has influenced many people toward creating tolerance
and dialogue environment through which we can effectively
respond to world's troubles, including violence and tyranny.
To my knowledge he is one of the leading figures who can
bring people together to achieve what I called "world of
peace." Mr. Gulen emphasized the necessity of dialogue among

However, Mr. Gulen's ideas about tolerance and dialogue
are not restricted to Muslims but also extend to Christians,
Jews and members of other faiths. Mr. Gulen maintains that
there are more bonds bringing people together, even from
different faiths, than separating them. As one of the
founding members of the Foundation of Journalists and
Writers, a group that promotes dialogue and tolerance among
all social strata. Mr. Gulen has received welcome from
almost all segments of life. With this perspective of
dialogue he has visited and received leading Turkish and
international figures including Pope John Paul II, the
Vatican Ambassador to Turkey, the Patriarchs of Turkey's
Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian community, myself as
the Chief Rabbi of Turkey's Jewish community, leading
journalists, columnists, television and movie stars, and

I would like to thank you for taking your time to talk
to you about the mission of Mr. Gulen who dedicated himself
for the good of others regardless of their beliefs and
opinions, and embraced them.

Thank you very much for your attention, and I wish God
will help us on our mission to create peaceful world.

Ishak Haleva
Chief Rabbi of Jews Community in Turkey

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