Turkey has recently been shaken up by the tumultuous altercation between the globally active Muslim community-movement, the Gulen movement (GM) and the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) in power for over a decade. Both Western and local audiences have been stunned by the intensity of the clash, which peaked in the last couple of months.
Previously, most observers had wrongly assumed that these groups were inherent allies because of their faith-based worldview. In sharp contrast to this misperception, these groups came from entirely different pasts and political orientation, although they share a common interest in free market economy and cherished upward socio-economic mobility.
In fact, these two pious Muslim groups have not cooperated with each other with the exception of a five-year period during the first term of the AKP (2002-2007). Historically, they come from two different branches of Islam in Turkey. The leader, Fethullah Gulen, and his followers have never approved of – or stood close to – Necmettin Erbakan’s more radical Islamism, embodied by Milli Gorus (National Outlook).
Although the GM at large shifted their votes from centre-right parties to the AKP in the 2002 election, Gulen never truly trusted Erbakan’s tradition and his protege Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has served as the prime minister since 2002.