Gülen movement “must avoid becoming cult” – scholar

A scholar close to the Fethullah Gülen movement has warned the group risks developing the features of a cult if leaders take bad decisions in response to the pressure it is under.

In a blog post on Kitalararasi.com, Gökhan Bacık defined a cult as a group that begins “accepting views that cannot be explained with reference to the standards accepted in the outside world”.

In the present situation, Bacık said, with tens of thousands of group members jailed merely for belonging to the group and their dependents at home often in economic crisis as a result, there have been increasingly emotional and even mystical responses.

As an example, he gives a Twitter post by an anonymous user claiming to be part of the Gülen movement that appears to equate the movement itself to Allah, saying that the Turkish government has effectively declared war on Allah.

In another example, senior members of the group appear to be implying that Fethullah Gülen is practically infallible.

“The logic based on group sociology is clear,” Bacık said, “If a movement’s leadership can no longer produce new narratives and give answers to existing problems, it moves towards becoming a cult in order to stay on its feet.”

“Cult logic is based on a tactic of breaking the group’s base away from the world in order to continue on the road of the old order.”

If the movement does go down this route, however, it may become unacceptable and become seen as a security threat in the West, Bacık said.