In my last article, I said “This will be the last article (for now) on Donna Garner.” Fortunately, I had put the words “for now”, because she has lately written the worst article ever she could write on current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen, whose name is arbitrarily used within the newly-coined concept of Gulen Charter Schools.
Embellished with so-called fact and figures, this article, entitled “Gulen-Led Coup: Turkey Falls to Islamists”, is one of the most biased, prejudiced and misinformed articles I have ever read about Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gulen. Since the number of experts on Turkey is very scarce here in the US, those articles, like the previous ones by Donna Garner, don’t generate the rightful reaction it should, because most people are not even aware of the wrong information within these articles. The number of mistakes in this latest article far exceeds the ones in Garner’s previous articles. Despite citing several sources, Garner’s some of claims cannot be found in these sources. It seems to me that Garner has made certain deductions out of some sources, but what is going on inside her mind is a mystery, because to come up with such conclusions out of those sources require a different sort of processing in the brain!
To make long story short, let’s begin our journey on a claim-answer format (my favorite) as usual:
Claim: Erdogan's own choice for commander has now been put in charge of the Turkish military.
Answer: I do not think that Garner knows any of the Turkish military practice or tradition. Established practices in Turkish military have been in use for a long time. For example, it is widely known that the prospective commanders in the army have already been determined until 2020 which means that Erdogan cannot put someone that he wishes. Besides, even in this situation, many journalists and columnists are saying that there are newly promoted commanders that Erdogan is not on good terms with. If a general stands on line, he will not let his soon-to-be promotion captured by another general.
Claim: Turkey's ruling party is the AKP led by Prime Minister Erdogan. He is a Muslim, believes in Sharia law... Erdogan was elected in 2003 and was recently re-elected in June 2011 because working in clandestine operations with the Gulenists, he has been able to control and coerce the Turkish masses through fear.
Answer: There are zillion points that I need to make on this funny claim. Let me put in a subtle way by dissecting her sentences:
- He (Erdogan) is a Muslim, believes in Sharia law.
- Being a Muslim means believing in Sharia law, right? Can we make a generalization here? Do all Muslims believe in Sharia? Are belief in Sharia (or appreciating it) and its adoption as a regime within a specific country the same things? Of course not. They are different from each other, like apples and oranges. A Muslim can still lead a religious life without observing Sharia in the sense of a regime. As for Erdogan, he is a pro-EU (European Union) person and his party (AKP) has made the most reforms en route to the EU. Does a follower of Sharia make such reforms in order to make his country join the EU? Garner becomes funnier day by day.
- …Erdogan was elected in 2003 and was recently re-elected in June 2011…
- Donna Garner skips an election here. Erdogan was re-elected in 2007 with more popular vote than in 2003. 2011 election marks Erdogan's third term in the Office. Moreover, when his party came to power in 2003, Erdogan was not a Member of Parliament (MP) because of the legal punishment he received in 1999. Upon the agreement of the main opposition party, Erdogan was subsequently nominated as a candidate and then he was elected as an MP in a mini-election that was hold in one city.
- [B]ecause working in clandestine operations with the Gulenists, he (Erdogan) has been able to control and coerce the Turkish masses through fear.
- This is the funniest but at the same time the most ignorant one by Donna Garner, who claims that Erdogan was re-elected because he had been able to control and coerce the Turkish society! That is pretty ridiculous, because Garner gives the readers the impression that Erdogan and his party (AKP) wins the elections through oppressing the masses as though there was no democracy and free elections in Turkey at all. Erdogan won the last election in a landslide with almost 50% of the popular votes. Unlike the United States where there are two major political parties, there were three major and 12 minor political parties and plus the independent candidates in the election. Moreover, the turnout of voting-age population in this Turkish election was 83%. In the latest US election in 2008, the US average of the turnout of voting-age population was merely 56.8%. Texas, where Donna Garner lives, was the lowest-participating state, not named Hawai (45.8%), in this 2008 election in which Obama was elected as the President of the United States. Garner absolutely does not know anything about the election stats as well as the nature of the elections in Turkey. She tries to make everyone assume that Turkey is under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein-like man.
On the other hand Turkish election system is based on secret ballot and open counting. How can you enforce someone to vote for the current government in this system? If there were to be such coercive action, AKP should have received at least 80% of the votes. When you arrive at a poll, there are people from all major political parties including a presiding officer. When the voting is over, the ballots are counted under the supervision of all representatives of the political parties.
As an expert on Turkey, I can confidently claim that Turkish democracy is experiencing its heyday after a long period of military interventions and coups that obstructed the development of democracy in the country.
Claim: Now Gulen/AKP/Erdogan have formed close alliances with Russia, Iran, Hamas, Hazbollah, and Syria.
Answer: I really need to learn about the source Ms. Garner used for this claim. She just lists the countries that have some problems with the US, Europe and Israel and she accuses Turkey of having close connections with those countries. Again she shows the glimpses of her ignorance, because everyone knows that Iran and Turkey are not in good terms right now. Besides, Turkey has bought a great amount of military equipment from Israel including some tanks. Despite the tension during the Flotilla, Turkey has never stopped her commercial and military relations with the US or Israel.
Claim: Under Erdogan, textbooks have been changed, Islam has been emphasized, and thousands of imams have been placed into positions as teachers and administrators in the schools.
Answer: The content of the textbooks have not been changed. But there is one real difference under Erdogan administration: since Erdogan came to power, all textbooks have been given free in elementary, middle and high schools in Turkey. In the last eight years, Turkish public school students have been enjoying the luxury of free textbook, a new practice in the history of Turkish Republic. Turkey also provided 24,000 free textbooks to Armenia.
There is no indication of emphasis on Islam within those textbooks. Garner goes further by claiming that thousands of imams have become teachers! If imams are teachers, then who else is leading the prayers in the mosques? The appointments of the teachers are done in a computer-automated system where the names of the prospective teachers are randomly selected in a huge pool of names. An imam with a diploma of religious school is not allowed to become a teacher, let alone being an admin, unless he graduates from the department of education at another four year college.
Same rule goes with the police as well. You cannot show any imam in a police uniform, as Garner alleged, in Turkey unless he graduates from the police academy which is open to all professions as long as you are successful in their tests.
Claim: During the two years leading up to last Thursday, Erdogan and his AKP party have put over 400 people on trial in hearings dominated by Erdogan-appointed judges, including 250 military personnel (almost 10% of their military senior commanders).
Answer: Erdogan-appointed judges? First please give me the answer of this question Ms. Garner: What is the percentage of Erdogan-appointed judges in the judiciary system? Is Erdogan the person who is in charge of the appointment of the judges? Please find the answers of these questions before coming up with any weird claims.
As for the arrested people, they were arrested because they were charged with serious crimes such as making plans to overthrow the current government, creating havoc in the country, deteriorating the relationships with Greece by crashing Turkish planes with the Greek ones and bombing a private museum at a time visited with school kids. Until now, the army generals have been the “untouchables” in Turkey. Therefore it is of vital importance to bring those people before the courts if they are guilty. If there were no crime at all perpetrated by these people, it would take real courage to put forward such indictments and arrest all these top-rank generals. Recently, we have been hearing some confessions from the top-rank military officials as well regarding the true nature of the claims.
Claim: Erdogan is a follower of Gulen.
Answer: In Turkey, almost everyone knows that Erdogan and Gulen come from different backgrounds. While the former played soccer in his youth and engaged in politics, the latter had a career as a preacher and imam and he had no political engagement whatsoever. Fethullah Gulen is respected by various people all coming from different walks of life. People, regardless of their political view and ideology, regard Gulen as a respected and influential person. Among his visitors in the US, you can count Turkish journalists, politicians, singers and TV celebrities with different worldviews. Erdogan, likewise, could feel respect to Gulen or he could also be esteemed by Gulen, but this never proves any connection.
People who admire Gulen could vote either for Erdogan’s party or any other party they wish, since half of the voters voted for Erdogan and his party. Yet this does not mean that half of Turkey is Gulenist.
Claim: In 2008 Endogan ordered the arrests of the people who were speaking out against this Gulen takeover.
Answer: First of all, the spelling mistake in the claim belongs to Donna Garner, who can’t even spell Erdogan’s name. In another paragraph, she spells Erdogan’s name as Enrogan. These three different spellings of Turkish Prime Minister’s name prove that Donna Garner was in a hurry when she began writing her article. She is pretty careless. I am not sure how we could seriously listen to the words of someone who can’t even spell a country's prime minister.
There is a very nice article about the imprisonment of those who allegedly made bad propaganda about Gulen. The article states that there are almost 30 negative books about Fethullah Gulen, but almost all their authors are not behind the bars at all. Here is the most striking excerpt from the article:
One of the most suitable people to satisfactorily answer this question is Ismail Arli, owner of Togan Publishing since 2003. Arli […] published a number of anti-Gulen titles. […] We asked Arli: “You are probably the one person to have ‘touched’ Gulen the most. What happened to you?” He has already responded, remarking: “If whoever touches him is screwed, it should have been me who would have gotten screwed first; I should have been in ashes by now because I have published the harshest material against Gulen. I have published the most derogatory books against him. Even the Cumhuriyet Publishing House is inspired by my cover designs. Nothing has happened to me so far.”
I guess Mr. Arli’s answer speaks itself. I do not need to add anything else.
In Donna Garner’s article, a number of claims also exist about Fethullah Gulen most of which are something prepared specifically for the “Western audience”. I especially emphasize the expression “Western audience”, since Turkish audience would not believe those claims. In order to defame Gulen in Turkey, a different language is used. For example, Gulen is depicted as a man of America in Turkey, because nobody in Turkey would believe the slander that Gulen is fundamentalist and jihadist. Yet it is a perfect fit for the US audience.
Let me present a couple of hilarious claims about Fethullah Gulen by Donna Garner:
Claim: Gulen has groomed his image to make him look as if he is a "tolerant" Muslim, but he is actually a follower of Sa'id-i Nursi, the founder of the Islamist Nur (light) movement.
Answer: Upon reading this claim, any person who does not know anything about Nursi or Gulen would think that Nursi represents the “intolerant” wing of Islam. However, all Sociologists accept that Nursi is known for his non-violent approach. Neither Nursi nor his followers have ever taken up arms or killed someone. Having spent more than two decades in the prisons, Nursi can be likened to Gandhi in terms of staying away from the violence and preferring the peaceful means. Fethullah Gulen, likewise, follows a similar way. There is no report of violent incident or act perpetrated by Gulen’s followers. On the other hand, when listing the intellectuals being influential on him, Gulen mentions a number of them including Nursi. That means Nursi is only one of the persons who had a lasting effect on Gulen.
Claim: Now the United States has a Muslim-friendly President in the White House who has appointed Dalia Mogahed as his Muslim advisor. Mogahed is a Gulenist.
Answer: What is your proof Ms. Garner regarding Mogahed’s being Gulenist? I really dont know how to answer such a baseless claim made in a helter-skelter manner. It looks like the mindset of people who are attacking Gulen is almost similar. Did not Peggy Littleton claim similar things about Obama Administration being described as Gulenist?! Please read the link if you have not tired of laughing at these silly allegations.
Claim: Gulen lives in eastern Pennsylvania with 100 followers who guard him and tend to his needs. His male followers try to blend into American society by wearing suits and ties, and they do not marry until age 50. Their spouses are expected to dress in the Islamic manner as dictated by Gulen.
Answer: The first part of the claim dates back to Paul Williams whose website (The Last Crusade) has mysteriously gone. I think he is busy with the lawsuit McMaster University filed against him. Actually Paul Williams, in his former website, refuted his own claim by publishing a video that talks about the untrue nature of Williams’ claims. There were no gunshots coming from Gulen’s residence. The local Pocono Record investigated the issue and published an unbiased article and consequently refuting what Williams and Garner claim. The neighbors also stated that they heard no gunfire or something similar. One neighbor named Hilda was even saying “They are very lovely people”.
Let us continue with the rest of the claim. Garner says Gulen’s male followers blend into American society with ties and suits. Do they wear something different when they are with Gulen? Pocono Record’s story does not say so. Not getting married until 50 is totally bizarre and absurd. It is untrue for Gulen’s male follower not to get married until 50. Let alone the whole community, Garner cannot show one single example of a follower who has not married until he is 50.
As for the spouses’ dress issue, this is again nothing but distorting the facts. If a lady prefers Islamic clothing, she does this to follow God’s order on this, not what Gulen allegedly “dictates”.
She also depicts Nurettin Veren as someone who is “next-in-command”, but Garner forgets the fact that Veren is now one of the most ferocious attackers of Gulen. He has anti-propaganda books on Gulen, but Garner cites Veren as if he is the right hand of Gulen.
I will not go into the details of Garner’s usual accusations of Harmony Public Schools (Harmony Science Academy) of Gulen Charter School, because in my previous four articles, I answered Garner’s fallacious claims, but looks like she keeps beating the same drum.
There are more things to say about Donna Garner and her baseless and unfounded allegations which qualifies for nothing but a series of flops. But, I do not have such spare time. These examples should suffice to state that Donna Garner now singlehandedly takes the sole lead to write inflammatory, biased, misinformed and unfounded pieces about Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Fethullah Gulen and her other favorite concepts such as Gulen Charter Schools.
I was calling Garner a sciolist, a mild term, in my previous descriptions, yet she is making a fast transition to being a charlatan. I have the gut feeling that Garner writes those pieces just because she has been told to do so. Otherwise nobody would dare to write such fallacious things and draw such faulty conclusions at the expense of tarnishing your own reputation.
What I am curious about is that she sends letters with those lies, misinformation and unfounded allegations to elected officials. Are the officials taking her seriously? If so, they should think twice before doing that especially after my refutations about her claims and assumptions. If an elected official impetuously acts on the basis of what s/he hears from Ms. Garner, s/he should feel the burden of that hasty decision on his/her conscience.
Donna Garner should feel the same thing in her conscience. If she has any…