Muhammed Fethullah Gülen (Turkish: [fetuɫˈɫɑh ɟyˈlen]; born 27 April 1941) is a Turkish preacher, former imam, writer, and political figure. He is the founder of the Gülen movement (known as Hizmet meaning service in Turkish), which is 3-million to-6 million strong in Turkey and has an empire of affiliated banks, media, construction companies, and schools both in Turkey (which business entities and foundatoins have been closed down by the Turkish government by the thousands in 2017) and internationally. Hizmet’s most populous organization is a moderate Islamic advocacy group, Alliance for Shared Values. Gulen lives in exile in the United States, residing in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. He is sought by the Turkish government for alleged involvement in the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
Gülen is actively involved in the societal debate concerning the future of the Turkish state, and Islam in the modern world. He has been described in the English-language media as an imam „who promotes a tolerant Islam which emphasises altruism, hard work and education“ and as „one of the world’s most important Muslim figures.“ However, James Jeffrey, former American ambassador in Ankara, has claimed that the Gülen movement, aside from its „legal and visible“ activities, had infiltrated the Turkish armed forces, police and judiciary.
Gülen was an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before 2013. The alliance was destroyed after the 2013 corruption investigations in Turkey. Erdoğan accused Gülen of being behind the corruption investigations. He is currently on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list and is accused of leading what the current Turkish officials call the Gülenist Terror Organisation (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü, FETÖ). A Turkish criminal court issued an arrest warrant for Gülen. Turkey is demanding the extradition of Gülen from the United States. However, U.S. figures in general do not believe he is associated with any terrorist activity, and have requested evidence to be provided by the Turkish Government to substantiate the allegations in the warrant requesting extradition.
Gülen has been described as a Kurdophobic preacher. He was accused of being against the peace process which had aimed to resolve the long-running Kurdish-Turkish conflict. However, Gülen’s supporters dismiss this claim, citing his work with many Kurds.