Naqshbandi cult on the move to replace Gülen movement in education

A foundation known for its close ties to the Islamic cult of Naqshbandi has been organizing a knowledge contest on ethics and morality in Turkey's public schools. The Education Ministry's stance on the issue is said to be alarming as experts have been warning against the infiltration of religious orders into state institutions, as the Gülen movement did in the last decade.

Duvar English

TheTurkish Education Ministry has been allowing the followers of theNaqshbandi cult to organize various activities at schools, dailyCumhuriyet reported on Jan. 14.

Thedaily said that the cult had already infiltrated the Justice Ministryand Health Ministry and now was getting stronger in the EducationMinistry.

The İskenderpaşa wing of the Khaledi branch of the Naqshbandi Sufi order, whose “leader” is Nureddin Coşan, is organizing various activities at public schools by acting under the cover of front-company businesses and charities.

One of such activities is a knowledge contest named “Ufka Yolculuk” (Journey to the Horizon' in English), which is held by Server Yaşam Foundation. The contest's aim is to “make the youth be fond of good morality,” says Server Yaşam Association, which is known to be affiliated to the Naqshbandi order.

The first “Ufka Yolculuk” competition was held in 2013, with over 89,000 students registering for the competition, which awards the participants with various prizes such as gold coins. In 2014, over 174,000 registered for the competition, whereas this figure increased to 265,397 in 2015; to 369,712 in 2016; to 595,372 in 2017; to 695,026 in 2018; and 537,389 in 2019, as the Education Ministry encouraged the students in primary, middle and high schools across Turkey's 81 provinces to participate in the event.

This year's theme for the competition was “good manners” (“adap” in Turkish). A book written by Mahmud Esad Coşan, who was the İskenderpaşa movement's leader before his son Nurettin Coşan assumed the role in 2001, was shown as one of the reference books for the competition: “Sünnet Olmadan Ümmet Olmaz” ('Without the Sunnah, there is no Ummah' in English.)

Server Yaşam Foundation was established by Server Holding in 2016, whose chairman is Nureddin Coşan. The foundation is said to be a front-charity for İskenderpaşa movement to infiltrate into schools across Turkey. Coşan is not listed among the foundation's executives, but there are many other names who are known to have close ties to Coşan as well as the Islamic cult.

Experts have been warning against the infiltration of religious orders into Turkey's state institutions, as the Gülen movement did in the last decade. Cults that are close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are currently said to be in a serious effort to replace the vacancy in state institutions which is now available with the purge of the Gülen followers following the failed coup attempt of July 2016.