Soner Cagaptay, a Senior Fellow at one of America's most prestigious neo-conservative think tanks, published a couple essays today (here and here) defaming the Turkish Islamic philosopher and scholar Fethullah Gulen and the movement of moderate Sufi Muslims who are inspired by him. He labels Gulen and his followers as "ultraconservative," allies them with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, and contends that the AKP "has become increasingly authoritarian."
I would differ with Cagaptay on two points. First, my study of Gulen's teachings and my experience with those who are inspired by him indicates that their views are relatively progressive, tolerant and enlightened within the world of Islamic faith. Labeling them "ultraconservative" is a gross distortion. Second, while allegations of illegal wiretapping is a matter of great concern and should not be swept under the carpet, similar allegations have been made against the government in our own country almost on a daily basis since 9-11. There is no doubt in my mind that the current AKP administration is far less "authoritarian" than the administrations set up by no less than three military coup d'etat's since 1960.
Turkey suffers under a French model of church-state relations known as laicism which deprives the citizenry of liberty of conscience and uses the power of government to enforce secularity. The Turkish people would be much better served by the American model of church-state relations which both disestablishes religion and ensures the free exercise of religion.
For Americans to comprehend the situation in Turkey, they need only imagine what would happen if the military threatened to overthrow the government every time the first lady, in accord with her private religious convictions, wore a cross on her necklace in public.
For more detailed refutations of Cagaptay's allegations, check here and here.