BFP Exclusive: Fethullah Gulen’s New Controversy in the Netherlands

By Peter Edel

In no country has the Fethullah Gülen movement become more of a political issue than in The Netherlands. A television item in 2008 resulted in questions in parliament to the Minister of Social Affairs about a possible negative influence by the movement on the integration of Turks in Dutch society. Subsequently the movement was investigated by the Dutch intelligence organization AIVD. The AIVD did not recognize a threat to Dutch society.

Later on the government assigned academician Martin van Bruinessen to write a report on the activities of the Gülen movement in The Netherlands. Van Bruinessen presented much relevant information, but in his conclusion he considered that the movement did not present a danger to integration. The minister went along with this conclusion, resulting in the continuation of subsidies by the government for the Gülen movement. Many disagreed with this position. Probably to limit further suspicion the Gülen movement announced the closure of dormitory schools, which were especially seen as a threat to integration.

Subsequently media and politics became silent about the Gülen movement for some time. However, recently a new controversy developed. It started when the current Minister of Social Affairs, Lodewijk Asscher, announced the investigation of three Turkish religious organizations: Süleymanci, Milli Görüs and Diyanet. Member of parliament for the Socialist Party (SP) Sadet Karabulut was among the ones who wondered (through twitter) why the Gülen movement was not included in this probe.

On the 30th of March the situation gained momentum when the Dutch opinion website joop.nl revealed that Minister Asscher would be present at the launch of Zaman Vandaag, a new weekly magazine which is part of the Gülen movement. Joop.nl also pointed to the negative remarks about integration by Zaman Vandaag editor-in-chief Mete Öztürk during an interview with a Belgium based Magazine. 

Last Friday the Dutch news show Nieuwsuur revealed that small dormitory schools of  the Gülen movement are still active in the Netherlands and that young children are intensely confronted there with the ideas of Fethullah Gülen. The isolated character of these places once again lead to the question of whether the Gülen movement is harmful with respect to integration. Nieuwsuur also revealed that Gülen sympathizer Köksal Gör, a Turkish member of the Dutch liberal party (VVD) who is active in local politics, was managing these small dormitory schools.

There were several consequences. The VVD asked Köksal Gör to resign from his position as local administrator and Minister Asscher made a statement that he had reconsidered his decision to be present at the launch of the weekly Zaman Vandaag. He also said that not three, but four Turkish organizations will be investigated, suggesting that the Gülen movement will be a target of a new governmental investigation. A statement on the website INS Platform of the Gülen organization shows that the followers of Fethullah Gülen in the Netherlands are far from amused by the developments last week. Explainable, since the subsidies to their movement by the government may be at stake in the near future.

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