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VVD questions subsidy for Gülen movement

10 July 2008 - According to the VVD, the municipality has awarded a 23,400-euro subsidy to the Islam and Dialogue Foundation, which is related to the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. Critics call the Gülen movement sectarian.

In a NOVA documentary last Friday, Professor Erik-Jan Zürcher, an expert on Turkish society, said that the Gülen movement very actively encourages its followers to get a diploma and to make a career for themselves. It would also be very apt at adopting the Dutch discourse of dialogue and integration.

However, he also said that the organisation turns its members into 'servile followers' who have to accept their leader's message as absolute truth. These are not characteristics that are helpful if one wants to get ahead in a democratic society, he said.

Zürcher further said that the Dutch government "far too easily gives money and facilities to representatives of immigrant groups who know how to push the right buttons".

In a response to the NOVA documentary, the Islam and Dialogue Foundation does not deny its connections with the Gülen movement. "In these uncertain times in which violence seems to cast a shadow over the relation between Muslims and others, we consider Mr Gülen's contribution a historic opportunity for peace".

The VVD wants the municipality to screen applications for subsidies submitted by religious organisations more thoroughly. The party not only criticises the subsidy for the Islam and Dialogue Foundation, but also a 40,000-euro subsidy for a Whitsun festival, which was used in part to organise eight church services.

Earlier this month, Gülen won Prospect Magazine's election of today's top public intellectual, a poll in which over half a million people participated. The victory has been explained as evidence of his skill at mobilising his estimated 5 million followers.

"Unusually for a pious intellectual, he and his movement are at home with technology, markets and multinational business, and especially with modern communications and public relations - which, like a modern televangelist, he uses to attract converts", the Prospect comments.

Image: Gülen visiting the Pope in 1998 (from


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