Current Trends in Islamist Ideology

The Gulen Movement in Azerbaijan

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Adjunct Professor, Azerbaijan University

Since gaining independence in 1991, post-Soviet Azerbaijan has been experiencing a broad-based Islamic revival shaped by both homegrown as well as foreign influences. The clash of these influences has generated an “Islamization” contest for the souls of the country’s population, the majority of whom are Shiite as well as ethnic Turks. This competition has unfolded between Shiite and Sunni preachers as well as between different Sunni movements, including traditional Azeri Shafei movements, Salafi Khanbali (Hambali) streams that have been “imported” from the Arab world, and Turkish Hanafi activists and organizations.

Of all the Sunni movements in Azerbaijan, the most influential is the Turkish Nurcular network that is now led by its dominant offshoot known widely as the “Gülen” or “Hizmet” movement. Named for its founder, the Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, the movement is a faith-based educational network that is enormously well-resourced and highly active internationally, especially in the Turkic world that stretches from Turkey into Central Asia.

In Azerbaijan, the Gülen movement has succeeded in reaching out to a diverse population, but especially to urban elites. It is different from other Islamic movements in that it promotes its religious teachings not through outright proselytization, but discreetly through its network of secular educational institutions, social media and business associations. Moreover, the movement has not become directly involved in the hotly contested disputes over the place of religion in post-Soviet Azerbaijan that have been generated by the country’s religious revival. Whereas Azeri secularists, Islamic activists and liberal human rights defenders have all traded barbs over Islam and “Muslim rights” including whether hijab can be worn in public spaces, the Gülen movement has largely remained silent on these matters.

Because of the Hizmet movement’s political quietism and its appearance of secularism, Sunni Islamists have repeatedly criticized it as “un-Islamic,” for introducing “innovations” (bida) into Islam, and for ignoring the problems that religious Muslims face. Alternatively, both Azeri secularists and Shia religious activists have accused the Gülen network of promoting a hidden Turkish-Sunni Islamist political agenda, of serving as political agents for Turkey, and of promoting Sunnism against Azerbaijan’s native Shiism. Such widely divergent appraisals have given rise to many questions and considerable suspicion about the Gülen movement and its aims. What makes the movement so different from the other Islamic movements operating in Azerbaijan? What is the Gülen movement’s agenda in Azerbaijan, and what is its relationship to affiliated Nurcular associations back home in Turkey and elsewhere internationally? Will the movement and its growing network continue to integrate with secular Azeri society, or is it following a hidden agenda with the aim of refashioning Azerbaijani society?

The Movement Today

The Gülen or Hizmet movement is a transnational network of institutions and individuals who follow the teachings of the Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen. Gülen himself is a follower of Said Nursi (1878-1960), a towering figure in modern Turkish Islam who established the Nurcular revivalist movement in post-Ottoman Turkey of the 1920s. Although Nursi never directly involved himself in political life, he was a hugely influential religious thinker. A fierce opponent of the secularist ideology of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Nursi was officially deemed an enemy of the state in 1935 and spent the next eleven years in prison.1 Evidently, the Kemalist authorities felt threatened by Nursi’s teachings and by the semi-secret, underground network of obedient followers that the preacher came to lead. Known as the Nur Talebeleri, or “followers of light,” Nursi’s followers formed themselves into a hierarchical organization that resembled the structure of a traditional Sufi order and soon became popularly known as the “Nurcu Movement.”

Nursi’s teachings are collected in his book, the Risaleyi-Nur. After his death, Nursi’s closest disciples in Turkish cities began to convene courses to study his philosophy. Soon, the movement became split between several of Nursi’s disciples, including teachers like Hüsrev Altınbaşak, Mehmet Kayalar, Hulusi Yahyagil, Zübeyr Gündüzalp, Mustafa Sungur and Mehmet Kurdoglu. These divisions have persisted with time. In 1950, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed a resolution to rehabilitate the literary heritage of Said Nursi, and this thereby effectively legalized the publication and translation of his works and the movement they inspired. However, official suspicions of the movement remained.

In the 1970s, Gülen Haci Effendi, a charismatic imam from the city of Izmir, began preaching Nursi’s ideas and calling for a revival of Islam in Turkey. Initially, the young imam had supported Zübeyr Gündüzalp’s Yeni Asiya movement, but Gülen ultimately broke with that movement, claiming it had become too involved in politics.2 Gülen’s missionary outreach soon attracted a loyal following that began to constitute itself into a close-knit, vertically-structured organization devoted to the study of Nursi’s ideas as well as Gülen’s written works. Since the early 1970s, this movement has formed a unique network within the broader Nurcular movement that is distinguished from other followers of Nursi’s teachings, the majority of whom are now led by another Nurcular teacher, Mustafa Sungur. According to various experts, what makes the Gülen movement different from other Nurcular movements is its clear hierarchical structure, its strict internal discipline, the secrecy of its laws, its openness to capitalism and avowedly pro-business stance, and its focus on working through media associations and businesses to develop the movement.3

The rapid emergence of this network in secularist Turkey in the 1970s aroused a great deal of suspicion. Turkish authorities began to scrutinize Gülen’s activities, and he subsequently moved to the U.S. where he now lives. His movement, however, remains enormously influential in his native Turkey and abroad. Through its business connections, the movement has accumulated enormous financial resources that it uses to support its social activities and public outreach in Turkey and elsewhere around the world.4
One analysis that drew from Turkish media resources showed that the Hizmet movement experienced a sharp increase in its total operating capital beginning in the mid-1980s: today, the movement’s total worth is estimated to be more than $50 billion and to comprise about 30 percent of the Turkish economy.5

Worldwide, the Gülen network includes branches in 115 countries and features over 500 businesses, 6 universities, over 700 schools, 14 journals, the widely read newspaper Zaman ("Time"), the global Samanyolu TV channel (STV), and two radio channels.6 According to a survey by the Turkish company Konsensus, Fethullah Gülen’s movement is now the second largest religious community in Turkey after the Alevis.7
Moreover, according to the High Command of the Armed Forces of Turkey, the number of Gülen’s followers reaches as high as 4 million people in Turkey.8

In Turkey, the Gülen movement, as with some other Nurcu movements, is a well-structured, hierarchical organization. Thus, a typical Turkish city-level cell usually consists of the following levels: shagirdlar (students), uy imams (groups of five students and their leaders), semt imams (an association of fives on the basis of the urban district or educational institution and their leaders), and bolge imams (head of district level.)9 Students are recruited and controlled at a local level by Nurcu abis (brothers) and by ablas (sisters). According to former members of this network, the movement possesses its own security service that is tasked with rooting out moles and agents of national intelligence and law enforcement services.10 The movement keeps a database of all its members, and the training of each new recruit emphasizes the need to exercise discretion in revealing their involvement with the Gülen network. Students are additionally instructed to respect and obey the network’s leadership.11

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the movement began to focus its international religious outreach and networking efforts in the newly formed republics of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and among the Muslim populations located in the Russian Federation.12 Like many other Islamic revivalist movements, the Hizmet movement met with formidable resistance in the secularist environments of post-Soviet countries. In part because of this, the movement has tended to conduct its international outreach in a secretive fashion, much as it did when it first emerged in Kemalist Turkey. Today, some researchers claim that because of governmental scrutiny in Russia and the CIS, the Gülen movement has formed a transnational network of semi-underground cells that are far larger than most estimates.13

The secrecy surrounding the movement has aroused considerable suspicion about its activities and ultimate goals. According to Mikhail Davidov, the movement’s underground network operates as a sort of intelligence service that collects information on political, economic, confessional and other dynamics in the Turkic-speaking regions and countries where the movement is seeking to spread its influence.14 Moreover, it has been claimed that the Gülen network works surreptitiously to infiltrate communities and the governments of Turkey and the CIS and promote its adherents to positions of power and influence.15 Because of these and connected fears, the movement has been banned in Russia and Uzbekistan by notoriously anti-Islamic authorities who see it as a subversive threat. Other Central Asian regimes have also been extremely wary of the Hizmet presence.16 Azerbaijan, by contrast, has always been more open to the movement, and it is in this post-Soviet country where the network has arguably had its greatest success and impact to date.

The Network in Azerbaijan

The Gülen movement established itself in Azerbaijan shortly after the country obtained independence from the Soviet Union. In 1992, Azerbaijan became the first country outside of Turkey where the movement opened its schools.17
The network’s first steps into Azerbaijan began with the official visit of the Zaman newspaper general manager Mr. Ïlhan Ïşbilen, who sought to initiate contact with Baku to launch the movement’s activities. Soon thereafter, Zaman began circulating in Azerbaijan, and the movement’s first school, STV and a number of other companies opened. In the meantime, the movement’s Güney-Doğu regional representative, Mr. Ali Bayram, visited the head of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Mr. Heydar Aliyev, who later became the President of Azerbaijan. Mr. Bayram distinguished himself by supporting the Nakhchivan region, which was then suffering from the Armenian blockade, and was able to gain the sympathy of President H. Aliyev.

After winning Aliyev’s support, the Gülen movement enjoyed real opportunities to expand its activities, and by 1993, the movement had actively begun building a network of educational institutions and businesses. For instance, according to the Islamic scholar Arif Yunus, once the movement “secured itself in the country,” it began “establishing a network of commercial entities that directed their revenues to the further propaganda of Nurcu ideas. These include the furniture, clock and confectionery manufacturers: Istigbal, Romanson and Ulker.”18 Today, the movement’s business network includes the educational company CAĞ ÖYRETÏM A.Ş., “NIL” stationary and book shops, the business association TüSÏAB, the Zaman printing house, Burc FM radio station, STV, and the Xazar TV, Support to Youth Foundation.

It should be noted that the movement’s media outlets are not explicitly religious. In fact, it is difficult to tell the difference between them and other secular media with an unaided eye. However, the Support to Youth Foundation is relatively more “religious” because besides its charity work and the courses it offers in English, computers and other subjects for children, it holds Arabic and Qur’an recitation courses, has a library full of Islamic religious books, including ones by Said Nursi and Fethullah Gülen, and a prayer room.

The movement’s rapid expansion in Azerbaijan and the official support it has enjoyed there has made the secular authorities in nearby Turkey nervous. In 1998-1999, high-ranking Turkish officials openly voiced their displeasure about the movement during a meeting with President Aliyev accusing it of having an Islamist agenda. Aliyev responded forcefully, however, denying the existence of a threat.19 There are now fourteen Gülen education institutions, consisting of Qafqaz University, a private school and twelve lyceums in Baku, Sumgayit, Aghdash, Mingachevir, Guba, Lankaran, Sheki, Nakhchevan, Ordubad and Sharur.20 It is worth noting that the head of the movement in any given country is also the head of the movement’s educational institutions; in Azerbaijan, the head is Dr. Enver Özeren, Chairman of the Board of CAĞ ÖYRETÏM.

The network in any given country is usually divided into three tiers or groups. The first group includes people who are closest to Gülen and the immediate circle of his most trusted and loyal followers. The second group includes those who work directly for the movement to achieve its larger objectives. The third group includes mainly sympathizers of the movement and they largely consist of journalists, business people, public officials, alumni of Hizmet schools, and friends. While this third grouping is not always formally a part of the network, the network does often mobilize it to pursue various ends.

In Azerbaijan, the central and coordinating point of the Gülen network is CAĞÖYRETÏM (see diagram below). The business association TÜSÏAB Azərbaycan Türk Sənayeci və Ïşadamları Beynəlxalq Cəmiyyəti(Azerbaijan Turkish Industrialists and Business People International Society) is also a focal point for the businesses affiliated with the movement. However, TÜSÏAB is first and foremost an association of Turkish businessmen in the Azerbaijan, and it should be noted that not all TüSÏAB members are a part of the Gülen movement.

In 2002, the Türk Ïş Adamları Dərnəyi (Turkish Business People Club) was established as an alternative non-Gülen business association. In 2004, it was renamed the ATIB (Azərbaycan Türkiyə Ïş Adamları Birliyi--Azerbaijan Turkey Business People Union) and started operating actively. The main reason for ATIB’s creation was that some of the large Turkish businesses not associated with the movement did not feel comfortable associating with the organization. A likely reason for the creation of ATIB was the scandal among non-Gülen Turkish business people in Azerbaijan caused by Prime-Minister Erdogan’s visit to Azerbaijan in 2003. The trip was reportedly arranged by Gülen associates without any prior consultation of others and, according to one media report, the movement’s involvement deeply upset other unaffiliated Turkish businessmen.21

All of the network’s Azerbaijan-based institutions and businesses work in a cooperative, mutually supportive fashion. For example, “elder” brothers and sisters encourage all members of the network, especially those who reside in “movement-run student dormitories” (ishik evleri), to buy from shops and eat in restaurants that belong to the network. Moreover, they are all also encouraged to watch only STV or Xazar TV, Xazar radio or Burc FM radio, and to read Zaman publications.22

One of the clearest indicators of the movement’s overall success is its ownership of television and radio channels. This is an enormous achievement in contemporary Azerbaijan. Since no group aside of the ruling elite has ever acquired as much independent influence in the Azeri media as the Gülen movement through media channels. The fact that the movement has both foreign and religious roots makes its media operations in Azerbaijan’s secularist and highly centralized environment all the more remarkable.

Since the arrival of the group in Azerbaijan, it has made a targeted effort to recruit the children of the country’s elite into their education institutions. It has also sought to involve young individuals who are likely to become the country’s future technocratic, business and political elite; they reportedly have enjoyed many successes in doing this. The Gülen movement’s combined message of moderate Islam and pan-Turkic nationalism appeals to many Azeris, especially the younger generation, who see it as an alternative to the secular Baku regime as well as “medieval” Salafi-Wahhabi Islam and Iranian-style Shiite Islamism.23

According to a number of sources interviewed for this paper, there are already several members of the Azerbaijani parliament from different parties as well as high-ranking officials in the President’s Office and other governmental bodies who are either affiliated or supportive of the movement. In addition to other public officials, the movement has, despite some setbacks, been successful in building a network of former alumni of its schools and friendly businessmen.24 Moreover, unlike in other CIS contries, Gülen schools have the support of the state in Azerbaijan and there are no official barriers to their activities. Some argue that the official acceptance of Gülen can be attributed to the movement’s overall integration into Azerbaijan’s secular order and its economic life, not to mention its clear contributions to Azeri society at large.

Still, official acceptance has not allayed Azerbaijani suspicions and concerns that the Gülen movement is harboring a hidden political agenda. In fact, the rise to power of an Islamist-oriented government in Turkey has stoked these popular fears in Azerbaijan. Many worry that the AKP’s success in Turkey, which has clearly been buttressed by the Turkish Nurcular and Gülen movements, could also inspire the movement’s Azerbaijan-based adherents. Between 2009 and 2010, several waves of anti-Nurcu media coverage and reports were broadcast in the Azerbaijani media and these were accompanied by several high-profile arrests of Turkish nationals on charges of spreading religious propaganda and extremism. Azerbaijan’s Shaykh-ul-Islam Haji Allahshukur Pashazade is also known for his critical statements about Nurcu ideology and its activities in Azerbaijan.25

The secularist Azerbaijani media has fiercely criticized the Nurcu network for brainwashing youth.26 From time to time, the media will feature the “confessions” of former Gülen members that expose what life is like within the movement. The programs show how young people are recruited, manipulated and then subjected to the strict control of abis or ablas. According to various reports, the movement has tried to bring youngsters studying in their schools into the ishik evi or yurd houses, which are large communal apartments capable of accommodating more than fifteen students and 3 to 4 abis or ablas.27 In these houses, the elder brothers and sisters teach lessons on the fundamentals of Islam and the works of Said Nursi and Fethullah Gülen. Distinguished students get promoted to the level of agabeys, or elder brothers, and they are then expected to recruit other young people.28 In exchange for their obedience and commitment to the movement, media reports indicate that the students have all their financial and career problems solved. The network pays for their education, provides them with housing, and helps to find them a job in Gülen-affiliated companies or in un-affiliated companies where network members are present.

It must be noted that the Nurcu activists who have been arrested in Azerbaijan are typically Turkish or Azeri youth who spread Said Nursi’s works; no direct affiliates of Gülen have ever been prosecuted. Furthermore, the Azerbaijani media’s coverage of alleged Turkish-Islamist conspiracies are associated largely with the Nurcu movement in general; they are rarely linked to Gülen’s network in particular. Indeed, there are other non-Gülen Nurcu activists who are not as well integrated into secular Azeri society and who are actively involved in religious missionary work, especially in the rural areas of Azerbaijan. For example, the Nurcu leader Mustafa Sungur also has a lot of supporters who receive lessons on Said Nursi's works in informal settings at private residences. Some distinguished students and followers of this particular network are sent to Turkey to continue their religious studies.29

Integration or Ulterior Motives?

Azerbaijan, like other former Soviet republics, has yet to overcome the Soviet legacy of “militant” secularism and secularism that shapes its official culture and also drives popular, anti-Islamic sentiments. The Islamic revival has thus generated an array of controversies over issues surrounding religion and public life. Given the opposing dogmatic views of religious and anti-religious radicals, Islam has emerged as a central theme of the public discourse over what kind of society Azerbaijan is to become.

Unlike many Islamic revival movements that have clashed with secular Azeri society, the Gülen movement has always portrayed itself principally as a social movement that seeks to integrate with the secular order, not overturn it. Indeed, the movement eschews political confrontation and it rejects pietistic withdrawal from society. Despite this, many Azerbaijanis remain deeply suspicious of the movement. They believe that its claims to seek integration are deceptive, and that the movement’s strategy is to use its financial, political and social capital to acquire more power and influence and then to “Islamize” legislation and civil society.30
At that point, Gülen leaders could plausibly undertake to change the structure of the regime itself.

In many respects, the secretive nature of the Gülen movement in Azerbaijan, its missionary-style tactics and use of secular schools to promote their teachings, as well as the movement’s disassociation from outright religious and political activism, resembles how it operated when it first emerged in Kemalist Turkey, at a time when it faced constant scrutiny from the government and public at-large. Now that Turkey is governed by an Islamist-oriented party, the Gülen movement has become increasingly politically active in Turkey. Likewise, a number of Azeri experts interviewed for this paper claim that the movement seeks “participation [in society] in the hope of controlling the state or shaping policies.” Moreover, they claim the movement seeks to temporarily “accommodate” the current order rather than to “integrate” with society over the long-term.

Despite such concerns, hard evidence of a hidden political agenda is lacking. Indeed, the movement’s leaders are already drawn from the country’s political elite and they openly support and cooperate with the Aliyev government. The government has little reason now to doubt the movement’s secular-orientation or its political loyalties. Moreover, in light of ongoing controversies generated by the Islamic revival as well as fears over growing Iranian influence and Wahhabi-inspired terrorism, the Gülen movement has successfully presented itself to secularist Azerbaijani officials as the most moderate and most politically acceptable strain of Islam. Indeed, when it first arrived in Azerbaijan, the movement’s faith-based identity was evident. Today, however, the movement’s members hardly display their religious agenda in public at all. There is, for example, no Religious Studies Department at Qafqaz University anymore; there isn’t even a prayer room. In other Gülen-affiliated institutions, there are no official religious ceremonies or events.

For a number of reasons, it is highly unlikely that Azerbaijani authorities will crack down on the Gülen movement. First, because of the movement’s rising influence in AKP-dominated Turkey, a crackdown on the movement in Azerbaijan would likely adversely affect the relationships between the two countries. Second, the movement is becoming more influential even outside of Turkey, influencing the Turkish diaspora in Europe, the U.S. and in other countries. Third, because Azerbaijan is predominantly Shiite, the movement is seen as a natural check on the spread of Shiite Islamism and of Iranian influence. Thus, Bayram Balci and Altay Goyushov have observed that the government consciously “gives its preference to Turkish Islamic influence than to local and Iranian dynamics of revival.”31 It is also seen as a bulwark against radical Sunni influences such as Wahhabism. The fourth reason is that the movement runs a successful network of educational institutions attended by the offspring of Azerbaijan’s elite, including influential government officials and oligarchs. Finally, there are substantial business ties between Azerbaijani officials, oligarchs and Gülen-linked enterprises.32

Despite Azerbaijani officialdom’s reluctance to criticize the movement, a number of independent opposition groups, both secular and religious, have become openly critical of it. Some liberals, for example, have complained about the movement’s closeness to the Azerbaijani regime, as well as its anti-democratic tendencies.33 As the social scientist Eldar Mamedov argues: “Many Azerbaijani liberals also fret about what they see as the Gülen movement’s hypocrisy and opportunism: amid an Azerbaijani government clampdown on the freedom of expression and assembly in 2011, the Gülen movement’s flagship newspaper, Zaman, ran a number of stories praising Azerbaijan’s ‘visionary leadership.’ This struck civil society activists as incongruous given the movement’s claims to support democracy in Turkey and elsewhere.”34

The relationship between the Gülen movement and Azerbaijan’s other major religious groups is also frequently tense. Shia activists complain that the movement is too passive and secular. The movement remained silent, for example, when the Shia led protests against the hijab ban in schools, and also when the government recently closed several mosques and tried to ban the athan, or traditional call to prayer, during the day. Thus, many Shia leaders see the movement as hypocritical and insufficiently pious; they accuse the movement of practicing taqiyya, or dissembling, for the sole purpose of acquiring power in Azerbaijan. It is frequently alleged that the primary motive for this is to advance both movement’s sectarian interests as well as the national interests of Turkey among Azerbaijan’s Shia majority and in nearby Iran.

Sunni Islamists in Azerbaijan have been especially critical of the Gülen movement. In Salafi-Wahhabi Internet forums, the Nurcu movement and Gülenists in particular are typically attacked as being “people of innovation” and “wrong” Muslims.35 By the Wahhabi standards of “pure Islam,” the movement’s Sufi orientation, its increasingly “post-Islamist” appearance and integration into the secularized Azeri society are seen as especially egregious transgressions of Islam. Despite this, the Gülen movement has sometimes been praised by Salafi-Wahhabi actors for spreading Sunni Islam through secular institutions, and thus for challenging the dominance of Shiite notions and traditions. Both Salafism and the Gülen movement are united in being relatively new to Azerbaijan, and surrounded with various stereotypes and myths.36 However, both trends have become integral parts of Sunni Islam in Azerbaijan displacing traditional “domestic” Sunni Islam of Shafi’i madhab. Moreover, as they both continue to challenge the dominance of Shiism, they are bound to become natural competitors for influence among religious Sunnis of Azerbaijan.


The Gülen movement has arguably emerged as the most successful movement in Azerbaijan’s unfolding Islamic revival. No other Islamic movement in Azerbaijan can claim such an extensive organization or level of influence in business, charity, lobbying and, above all, in the field of education. Moreover, the movement has managed to acquire this influence without revealing its ideological mission. This has, not surprisingly, generated considerable suspicion of its motives. And despite its reputation as a “post- Islamist” movement that seeks integration with society, it is nonetheless still widely perceived as having a religious-political agenda.

Notwithstanding the Gülen movement’s success, its flexibility, and growing prominence in Azerbaijani society, its future expansion in Azerbaijan will face some limits. In the view of the social scientist Eldar Mamedov, “the pluralistic nature of Azerbaijani society, which includes secular liberals, intelligentsia, Shiites, non-Turkic minorities, and, above all, the strong tradition of indigenous secularism . . .” are both important barriers to the movement’s expansion.37
Mamedov also argues that the movement’s emphasis on Turkism and Islam alienates certain groups, including the politically influential Baku-based and Russian-speaking secularized intelligentsia.38

Moreover, despite Azerbaijan’s Soviet past, Islam, and specifically Shiite Islam, remains an important part of its national and historical identity. This is especially true in the south of the country and in the rural parts of Absheron Peninsula. For the Gülen movement, operating in the more conservative Shia parts of the country ismore difficult than in other places. The well-established and politically influential institution of the Spiritual Board of the Caucasus Muslims and Sheikh-ul-Islam is another obstacle that inhibits the operations of all Sunni Islamic movement in the country, including Gülen. In order to gain mass support, the movement will need to facilitate the popular conversion of Shia Muslims to Sunnism and then to Nurcuism. The chances of this occurring are slim.

The Gülen movement’s approach of targeting the urban elite also undermines their influence among the rural, poor population, thus reducing the number of its potential supporters and members in Sunni-dominated regions of Azerbaijan.

Therefore, the Gülen movement in Azerbaijan is operating under constant pressure. Various actors with different agendas--some political, others sectarian--are scrutinizing the movement’s activities, and many are keen to roll back its influence. Azerbaijani society as a whole remains deeply wary of Islamism. And because of the Gülen movement’s secrecy, it is, and will remain, an object of suspicion. In the public’s view, the question of whether the movement seeks integration with Azeri society or to transform from within according to a Turkish-Islamist agenda remains largely unanswered. Given the movement’s historical flexibility and its extensive organizational structure in Azerbaijan, it could at least in principle and for the time being seek both ends.