Newspaper article International New York Times

I Want Democracy for Turkey

Newspaper article International New York Times

I Want Democracy for Turkey

Article excerpt

Turkey's president has wrongly accused me of instigating a coup attempt. Now he is cracking down on all his enemies.

During the attempted military coup in Turkey this month, I condemned it in the strongest terms. "Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force," I said. "I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly."

Despite my unequivocal protest, similar to statements issued by all three of the major opposition parties, Turkey's increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately accused me of orchestrating the putsch. He demanded that the United States extradite me from my home in Pennsylvania, where I have lived in voluntary exile since 1999.

Not only does Mr. Erdogan's suggestion run afoul of everything I believe in, it is also irresponsible and wrong.

My philosophy -- inclusive and pluralist Islam, dedicated to service to human beings from every faith -- is antithetical to armed rebellion. For more than 40 years, the participants in the movement that I am associated with -- called Hizmet, the Turkish word for "service" -- have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, a form of government that derives its legitimacy from the will of the people and that respects the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious views, political affiliations or ethnic origins. Entrepreneurs and volunteers inspired by Hizmet's values have invested in modern education and community service in more than 150 countries.

At a time when Western democracies are searching for moderate Muslim voices, I and my friends in the Hizmet movement have taken a clear stance against extremist violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks by Al Qaeda to brutal executions by the Islamic State to the kidnappings by Boko Haram.

In addition to condemning mindless violence, including during the coup attempt, we have emphasized our commitment to preventing terrorists' recruitment from among Muslim youth and nurturing a peaceful, pluralist mind-set.

Throughout my life, I have publicly and privately denounced military interventions in domestic politics. In fact, I have been advocating for democracy for decades. Having suffered through four military coups in four decades in Turkey -- and having been subjected by those military regimes to harassment and wrongful imprisonment -- I would never want my fellow citizens to endure such an ordeal again. If somebody who appears to be a Hizmet sympathizer has been involved in an attempted coup, he betrays my ideals.

Nevertheless, Mr. Erdogan's accusation is no surprise, not for what it says about me but rather for what it reveals about his systematic and dangerous drive toward one-man rule.

Like many Turkish citizens, the Hizmet movement's participants supported Mr. …

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