Interfaith Forum Ignores Islamic Immigration Questions

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Juicy Ecumenism, by Andrew Harrod, March 10, 2016:

“Just using that expression ‘illegal immigrants’ is a form of oppressing the stranger,” a “very painful…inappropriate language biblically,” stated Rabbi Gerald Serotta at a Fairfax, Virginia, February 25 panel before about 50 listeners. Like him, “Welcoming the Stranger: Refugees and Immigrants in Our Midst,” a presentation of the controversial Islamic Gülen movement‘s Rumi Forum, was uniformly uncritical towards current Middle Eastern refugee issues.

Serotta, an advisory board member of the leftwing rabbinical organization Truah, began the panel’s presentation of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theological perspectives on immigrants and refugees.  Love for the stranger “suffuses the Hebrew Bible” with 36 corresponding scriptural passages, he stated while repeating the talking point that “people are not illegal, they may be undocumented.” He noted Judaism’s forefathers like Abraham migrating in the Old Testament and concluded that the “reason why we are commanded to love the immigrant is because the immigrant is us. We have moved in history.”

Patricia S. Maloof, former United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Director of Refugee Programs, reinforced Serotta’s Old Testament teachings with references to the New Testament.  Hebrews 13:2 admonition to welcome strangers recalled Abraham’s meeting with angels in Genesis while the Holy Family itself fled to Egypt when King Herod’s Slaughter of the Innocents threatened infant Jesus. His discussion of any charity shown to the “least of these” being like loving Himself taught that “by helping the stranger we are seeing Christ in the stranger,” she said.

Pakistani-American researcher Naseem Rizvi completed the discussion of immigration in the context of “three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam” as “cousin religions.” Parallel to Moses and Jesus, Islam’s scriptures record the faith’s prophet Muhammad and his followers fleeing Mecca for Medina after an earlier group of about 80 Meccan Muslims had found refuge in Abyssinia’s Christian kingdom. “The Quran speaks of oppressed and weak people on Earth and suggests that they could migrate from their oppressed positions to another land of God,” she stated.

As Maloof herself once wrote in a 2003 book on Muslim refugees in the United States, “Muslim refugees share a fundamental understanding of hijra, or migration.” The “Islamic calendar begins, not at the time of the Prophet Muhammad’s birth or the first revelation from Allah, but at the time of hijra when he migrated from Mecca to Medina to escape persecution.” “In Islam, asylum is a right of anyone seeking protection,” she correspondingly claimed.

Yet the hijra understanding of Maloof and Rizvi misinterprets as a mere flight to freedom a migration remembered in Islamic orthodoxy precisely as the origin of an Islamic state that gave rise to a conquering civilization. As Indian-American Islamic commentator Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed notes, this “migration was a transitional line…from the position of weakness…to the position of strength” and exemplifies an understanding of migration serving Islam, not just individuals. While Rizvi’s presentation cited Quran 4:97‘s reference to migration, Quran commentaries describes this verse as addressing “those who wronged themselves by residing with the non-Muslims” and “acquiesced to living under an un-Islamic order.” She also quoted Quran 9:6, but this verse appears in context of, and immediately after, the Quran’s Verse of the Sword (9:5) with its notorious command to “kill the polytheists wherever you find them.”

Such Islamic canons raise the specter of Muslims migrating in the name of furthering a supremacist faith in a process called “settlement” or “civilization jihad.” As Maloof wrote in 2003, the “word Muslim literally means ‘submitter'” and “[f]or many of its adherents, Islam is a total way of life.” Yet her writing simultaneously argued that “Islam emphasizes the equality of all people” completely overlooking Islamic law or sharia doctrines of non-Muslims as second-class dhimmis subjugated by jihad, a concept whitewashed by the book. Rizvi’s statement that “Islam embraces people of different races, nationalities, and ethnicities” likewise did not address this religious repression.

Contradicting Maloof, Musab Hayatli, an Arab analyst of refugee rights, notes that it is “difficult, if not impossible, for countries wishing to adopt a shari’a legal system to adopt the UDHR” or 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Given Quran 4:11, he writes that under sharia a “woman can expect to be provided for, while men expect to inherit twice as much as the woman.” Concerning “restitution of property to refugees, for example, this would raise questions, such as what the implications are for the many female-headed households.”

Such critical inquiry apparently makes no impression upon Serotta, whose comments attributed concerns about Islam and its adherents to the “Islamophobia” previously condemned by him. What he deemed an irrational fear demonstrated the “tremendous need to counteract that xenophobia that gets stirred up every so often in American culture.” In an erroneous equation, he stated that the “Syrian crisis evokes very painful memories for the Jewish community” of past anti-Semitic influenced international denials of refuge from Nazism. Yet his concern for Jews conflicted with his past slander of Israel as a malicious destroyer of Palestinian olive trees while heading Truah’s predecessor organization that he founded.

“Some are giving in to fear, some are very misinformed,” Maloof similarly stated when discussing American opposition to Syrian refugee resettlement, a process she questionably asserted would entail strict security safeguards. Yet the Middle East’s oil-rich Gulf Stateshave refused to accept any Syrian refugees, citing precisely security concerns, a fact noted in an audience question, even though asylum in the region would be cheaper than abroad. Expressing her own embarrassment, Rizvi responded that Muslim-majority Middle East states “should be the prime states to welcome the refugees,” but “do not adhere to Quran as much as they should.” Yet Hayatli has written that, contrary to any individual asylum claim recognized by Islam, “there is no overtly stated obligation on the part of Islamic states, in shari’a at least, to provide asylum.”

Contrary to the naïve Islamophilia of Serotta and Maloof, Jews, Christians, and others wishing to exemplify Biblical precepts of welcoming strangers should temper humanitarianism with caution when approaching Islam. Unlike her fellow panelists, Rizvi actually cited no canonical references in Islam of Muslims welcoming strangers, but rather spoke of Muslims receiving refuge from non-Muslims, to the ultimate subordination of the latter. Even the Abyssinian episode cited by her denigrates Christianity, for in the Islamic account the ultimately not-so-Christian king professes an Islamic understanding of a Jesus who is not divine. As this indicates, a supremacist Islam claims to correct Judaism and Christianity’s corruption, notwithstanding Serotta’s previous claim that not just Christianity, but Islam as well, “are the daughter religions of Judaism.” As Europe is discovering, Muslim refugees might not just see themselves as supplicants, but also as religious missionaries waging various forms of nonviolent or even violent jihad.

Gülen Movement’s Atlantic Institute Infiltrates Maitland, FL Holocaust Center

20160208_GULENMOVEMENTTERRORISMFamily Security Matters, by Alan Kornman, Feb. 9, 2016:

The Atlantic Institute will be partnering with the Maitland Holocaust Center and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida on a special program entitled, Is History Repeating Itself? Jewish and Muslim Immigrant Experiences in America, scheduled for Thursday February 25, 2016 at the Holocaust Center, 851 N Maitland Avenue in Maitland, FL.

The Atlantic Institute is partnered with the Alliance for Shared Values which is openly affiliated with the Gülen Movements Hizmet social initiatives in the United States.  The Atlantic Institute on their website, praises Mr. Fethullah Gülen as their Imam and political leader.

Fact #1

Recently, FBI agents carried out raids at 19 Gülen Charter schools in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio as part of an “ongoing white-collar crime matter.” The investigations are still ongoing however, this is a clue the Atlantic Institute and the Gülen Movement are not all about interfaith peace and love.

Fact #2

IBTimes, Michael Kaplan reports on 10/29/15,  “Fethullah Gülen has been placed on Turkey’s most wanted terrorist list along with leaders of the Islamic State militant group…the Turkish government seeks Gülen’s extradition from the U.S.”  This is a clue there is a serious terrorist problem with the Gülen movement’s leader, Mr. Gülen.

Fact #3

The Middle East Quarterly reports, in 1999, Turkish television aired footage of Mr. Gülen delivering sermons which revealed his plan to implement Shari‘a Islamiyya (Islamic Law) using deceptive tactics.  This fact is a warning to Jews and Christians, approach Gülen franchises like the Atlantic institute with extreme caution.

In the sermon below, Gülen explains how he is an Islamic Law supremacist without fear or remorse.

You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers … until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this. If they do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads, and Muslims will suffer everywhere, like in the tragedies in Algeria, like in 1982 [in] Syria … like in the yearly disasters and tragedies in Egypt. The time is not yet right. You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it … You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey … Until that time, any step taken would be too early-like breaking an egg without waiting the full forty days for it to hatch. It would be like killing the chick inside. The work to be done is [in] confronting the world. Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all-in confidence … trusting your loyalty and secrecy. I know that when you leave here-[just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and the feelings that I expressed here.

To date, Huseyin Peker Executive Director of The Atlantic Institute in Orlando, FL has not publicly condemned these problematic statements from their spiritual leader Mr. Fethullah Gülen, the designated terrorist.

Interlocking Directorships

Coincidentally, Pam Kancher, Executive Director of the Maitland Holocaust Center, is also on the Advisory Board of The Gülen Movements Atlantic Institute.  One can only guess she didn’t do a Google search on the Atlantic Institute and Mr. Fethullah Gülen before partnering with them.  Perhaps it is this interlocking Board of Directorships that drives Ms. Kancher to blindly allow The Atlantic Institute to dictate their false narrative there is a moral equivalence between Jewish immigrants from the 1900’s to WW2 and the current Syrian refugee’s.

What The Gülen Movement Is Selling

The Atlantic Institute is promoting the February 25th event this way, “It’s difficult to imagine any political discussion today that does not include some mention of immigration. There are increasing concerns about border security, and ongoing debates about who we will allow in to our country and who we must keep out.  

For the Jewish community, particularly among Survivors and their families, this concern feels in some ways like their own history.  Jewish immigrants to America at the beginning of the 1900s and up to WWII era faced many of the same types of suspicions that Muslim-Americans, particularly immigrants, face today.

Jewish Persecution Has More In Common With The Syrian & Yazidi Christians

Joel B. Pollak, in his 11/17/15 article, Why Syrian Refugees Are Not Like Jewish Refugees in WW2, makes this compelling observation challenging the entire premise of the Feb 25th event at the Maitland Holocaust Center.  Mr. Pollak says, “Jews were singled out for persecution by the Nazis, not (initially) fleeing an ongoing war. If anyone has a unique moral claim that parallels the Jews of Europe, it is the Syrian Christians, Iraqi Yazidis, and other minorities being persecuted by radical Islamist forces in the Middle East. But that is not true of the broader wave of Syrian refugees. That is not to blame them for the war, but it does suggest there is a good moral case for distinguishing among refugees, rather than admitting all who wish to come.”

Conclusion

Publicly, the Gülen Movement and their franchises sell themselves as a peaceful interfaith group.  I’m sorry to tell you this, many American’s gladly buy into these wolves in sheep’s clothing Islamist interfaith partners because they sell coexistence and peace.  Like Mr. Gulen however, many of these Islamist interfaith groups have very close ties to the Global Jihad Movement.

Dig a little deeper into the Gülen Movement and you find FBI raids, Turkey designating Mr. Gülen a most wanted terrorist, and Mr. Gulen’s use of spycraft to violently spread strict Islamic Law after infiltrating governments power centers, as articulated in his sermon above.

The Atlantic Institute scored a big propaganda victory being invited inside the hallowed halls of the Maitland Holocaust Memorial Center in a deceptive effort to raise the status of Syrian refugees off the backs of persecuted Jews from the pogroms to the Holocaust.  I’m confident behind closed doors the Gülen movement and the Atlantic Institute are pleased how easily manipulated the Maitland, FL Holocaust Memorial Center’s leadership is.

If Pam Kancher, Director of the Maitland Holocaust Center, is sincerely looking to dialogue with a true Muslim reform group; I suggest she contact my friend Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).

Family Security Matters Contributing Editor Alan Kornman is the regional coordinator of The United West-Uniting Western Civilization for Freedom and Liberty. His email is: alan@theunitedwest.org

BOOK RELEASE: The Gulen Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and its Contributions to the Civilization Jihad

Center for Security Policy, Dec. 18, 2015:

ISLAMIC SUPREMACISM DOES BUSINESS IN U.S. VIA A TURKISH CULT:

GULEN MOVEMENT IS AN ENGINE FOR ‘CIVILIZATION JIHAD’

It has become increasingly apparent that the United States is not only confronting a violent effort by Islamic supremacists to impose the program they call shariah on the rest of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim, alike. Dangerous as jihadist terrorism is, America – and the rest of the Free World, for that matter – also face what amounts to a pre-violent assault.

The Muslim Brotherhood calls this stealthy, seditious effort to “destroy us from within” a “civilization jihad.” One of its prime practitioners in this country is the Gulen Movement, a cult/business empire led by a reclusive Turkish expatriate, Fethullah Gulen, who operates from within an armed camp in the Poconos.

This movement and its penetration of our country is the subject of an important new monograph published as part of the Center for Security Policy’s Civilization Jihad Reader Series: The Gulen Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and Its Contribution to Civilization Jihad in America. It is co-authored by two members of the Center’s senior leadership team: Vice President for Outreach Christopher Holton and Clare Lopez, Vice President for Research and Analysis.

As The Gulen Movement monograph makes clear, one of the most troubling aspects of this cult is its success in advancing the Islamic supremacist agenda – albeit under the guise of Turkish nationalism – via one of the fastest-growing networks of publicly funded charter schools in the United States.GulenMovmentcrop

Fethullah Gulen is wanted on multiple international arrest warrants issued by the regime of his one-time ally, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Here in the United States, government investigators are also looking into numerous allegations against the Gulen Movement involving: indoctrination, influence operations, salary-kickback schemes, visa system abuse and more.

In fact, the allegations against the Gulen Movement extend all the way to the U.S. Congress. In late October 2015, a USA Todayinvestigation revealed that the Gulen Movement had illegally funded more than 200 trips to Turkey for Members of Congress since 2008. It did so using false disclosure statements that concealed their Gulen sponsorship from both the legislators and the House Ethics Committee, which had been misled into approving member- and/or staff participation in the trips.

Thus, in spite of the Gulen Movement’s carefully projected image of harmony, interfaith dialogue, and tolerance, a far more troubling picture is beginning to emerge that the Center believes warrants a closer look. In praise of this new Center publication, Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney said:

In short, the Gulen Movement in Turkey, the United States, and worldwide promotes a far-more problematic program than its adherents would have us believe. It is not a benign cultural and educational institution, or even a billion-plus dollar commercial empire. Rather, it is a prime practitioner of civilization jihad, enabling the spread of the Islamic supremacism’s shariah doctrine under the banner of a Turkey that aspires to renew its role as the Caliphate of the Ottoman empire’s glory days.

U.S school districts, parents and students, federal, state and local governments, media organizations and academic institutions have clearly been successfully targeted by the Gulenists’ influence operations. It is essential that we expose the true nature and civilization jihadist ambitions of Gulen’s taxpayer-subsidized educational empire and the favors its parent movement has deployed – notably, via all-expenses-paid trips to Turkey. This monograph makes an important contribution to that end.

The Center for Security Policy is proud to present this monograph as a superb addition to its Civilization Jihad Reader Series. “The Gulen Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and Its Contribution to Civilization Jihad in America” is available for purchase in Kindle andpaperback format at Amazon.com. As with all of the other volumes in this Readers Series, this one can also be downloaded for free at www.SecureFreedom.org.

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For further information on the threats shariah poses to our foundational liberal democratic values, see more titles from the Center for Security Policy’s Civilization Jihad Reader Series at https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/civilization-jihad-reader-series/

Buy “The Gulen Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and Its Contribution to Civilization Jihad in America” in paperback or Kindle format on Amazon.

DF of the newly released monograph: Gulen_Final

 

Secretive Turkish Movement Buys U.S. Influence

Fethullah Gülen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa., last September. Reuters

Fethullah Gülen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa., last September. Reuters

By :

HOUSTON — The secretive religious and political movement inspired by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen has become a potent, and surprising, force in a set of obscure races for the House of Representatives, as Gülen sympathizers around the country donate tens of thousands of dollars to an overlapping set of candidates.

The movement, whose leader draws intense interest from Washington to Ankara from his compound in rural Pennsylvania, has long involved itself in American life, organizing in particular around a group of charter schools and Turkish community institutions. Started in Turkey as a moderate Islamic movement in the secular 1960s and 1970s, the movement — also known as Hizmet, roughly meaning “service” in Turkish — runs schools, businesses, and media outlets around the world. There is no formal membership: Affiliates say they are “inspired” by Gülen and many groups aligned with him deny any official affiliation.

But the movement’s agenda, in Turkey, has clarified in recent months. Gülen — who left Turkey for the Poconos in 1999 following charges that he was attempting to undermine the Turkish state — broke bitterly with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year over a corruption investigation that has rocked Erdogan’s party and that the prime minister has blamed on Gülen and his followers.

Here in the United States, meanwhile, Gülen’s allies have been stepping up their involvement in U.S. politics, emerging as a force in districts from South Texas to South Brooklyn. Liberal Democrats like Yvette Clarke, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Al Green, and conservative Republicans like Ted Poe and Pete Olson have all benefitted from donors affiliated with Gülen in one way or another.

Leaders in the movement deny that there is any top-down organization of the donations (or, indeed, that the Gülen movement has any organization at all), but the patterns of giving suggest some level of coordination in a community beginning to flex its political muscle. Gülen himself reportedly told followers in 2010 that they could only visit him in the Poconos if they donated to their local congressman, according to the Wall Street Journal, though Gülen has denied the comment.

The donations, taken together, comprise significant totals for some U.S. House members in relatively safe seats. For instance, people connected to the Gülen-inspired charter schools donated $23,000 to Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in October 2013 — a large sum considering Jackson Lee has raised just more than $130,000 this cycle in individual contributions, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Read more at Buzz Feed

Turkey’s Gülen Movement: Between Social Activism and Politics

[Left: Fethullah Gülen, from Diyar Muhammed, via Flickr; right: Prime Minister Erdoğan, from World Economic Forum via Flickr.]

[Left: Fethullah Gülen, from Diyar Muhammed, via Flickr; right: Prime Minister Erdoğan, from World Economic Forum via Flickr.]

By Bayram Balci:

Since its election in 2002, the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP), under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has transformed Turkey. The reforms initiated by this conservative government with Islamic roots have amounted to a passive revolution—they have profoundly altered Turkish society, modernized its institutions, and strengthened its economy, which is now the sixteenth-largest in the world in terms of GDP.

Yet it would be a mistake to attribute the many successes that have enhanced Turkey’s role as a major regional and international player to AKP leadership alone. Erdoğan’s government has enjoyed support from a number of political organizations as well as from influential religious and social forces within Turkey. The most invaluable, but also the hardest to assess, is a movement that plays a fundamental role in Turkey’s social and religious life: the Gülen movement of Fethullah Gülen, referred to by the terms cemaat or hizmet.

The AKP and the Gülen movement established an alliance in 2002 based on a common desire to push back the central role of the military in the country and create a new, more conservative, and more Muslim Turkey. Each brought different skills to the task—Erdoğan and his AKP colleagues were experienced in political activism and electoral politics, while the Gülen movement used education and social activism to promote its objectives. This alliance was not without disagreements, but until recently common interests outweighed differences.

During the past few months, however, tensions have deepened between Erdoğan and the Gülenists in the realms of both domestic and foreign policy, causing speculation that the alliance is headed for a fundamental break. There can be no doubt that rifts have emerged over a variety of issues, from the rising power of the Gülen movement to the increasingly authoritarian actions of the prime minister. But talk of a complete break may well be premature.

THE GÜLEN MOVEMENT

Fethullah Gülen emerged as a religious authority in Turkey in the 1970s, and little by little he became the spiritual leader of a vast community that now boasts an estimated 3 million sympathizers. Gülen, who moved to the United States in 1999, encourages his disciples to become modern, moderate Muslims. An adherent of free markets, he champions the Islamic faith and the spirit of capitalism. He is also a nationalist, seeking to boost Turkey’s influence and prestige abroad.

Gülen relies heavily on education to transmit his ideas, and he has formed a network of hundreds of schools and businesses worldwide. This network is active on every continent, including in the United States, where his sympathizers run approximately 130 charter schools, mainly in Texas.

He focuses his efforts on educating new generations and promoting the emergence of elites who are simultaneously pious, modern, patriotic, committed to globalization, and comfortable with economic success. Like the Jesuits and other missionaries who trained Turkey’s republican, Kemalist elites to value secularism and follow a Western path through the schools they founded at the end of the Ottoman Empire, Gülen aspires to use education to help forge new generation of Anatolian, conservative elites (or counterelites) that might play a key role in creating a modern, more openly Islamic Turkey.

Read more at Carnegie Endowment For International Peace (H/T Patrick Poole, @pspoole)

Protesters want Turkish Islamic cleric ousted

bildePocono Record, By Jenna Ebersole:

Protesters waved Turkish and American flags, chanted and played Turkish songs Saturday afternoon at a second peaceful protest this summer against Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen in Saylorsburg.

But this time, rather than scrambling for a place to stand after police told them they could not block Mount Eaton Road in July, protesters’ plans were more sophisticated.

A sound system and stage area gave speakers a platform, while portable toilets and coolers of soda for sale were available on the same field where they held their last protest several miles from the retreat center where Gülen lives.

Gülen has made his home in the Poconos since the 1990s and is a controversial, but well-known figure in Turkey. Supporters say he promotes living in harmony with people of different faiths and has inspired people around the globe, while critics treat his “movement” with suspicion.

The property owner at T&R Farm Shack declined comment Saturday, but representatives collected $10 per car and directed traffic as more than 100 protesters filed into the area with the enthusiasm they also brought in July.

Most of the protesters were Turkish American and many wore shirts with the Turkish flag and depictions of national secular hero Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The protesters repeated earlier accusations against Gülen, arguing that he is connected to the government now leading Turkey and is seeking to Islamicize the country. Speakers also discussed charter schools affiliated with the movement across the U.S. and said Gülen is using American tax money to spread his message.

Umit Dikkaya came from New York City and joined friends. She wore a shirt proclaiming that she is proud to be from Turkey.

“We’re here to expose the reality about this Gülen movement,” she said.

Retired Admiral Turker Erturk came to speak from Istanbul and said he wanted to be part of the peaceful protest.

“I think our mission is to send a real message to the American people,” he said, exposing Gülen.

He spoke to the crowd, leading a chant of “We are Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers.” Attendee Sevtap Schreffler, from Washington D.C., translated his words and said the chant references Atatürk but demonstrates solidarity with all who fight for democracy.

A tattoo of Atatürk’s signature decorated Schreffler’s arm. She said to her, Atatürk represents freedom of religion and feminism.

“Gülen hates Atatürk,” she said. “They want to do away with everything he did.”

Representatives for Gülen released statements Saturday, once again countering each accusation and calling Erturk a well-known Communist in Turkey.

Sharon Higgins, of California, told protesters she has done extensive research on Gülen-affiliated charter schools in the U.S. She has said she favors public school districts against the privitization of education with charter schools.

The statement from the center said the schools are not religious and each began as an individual grassroots effort.

At the protest, Turgut Gozlev wore elaborate clothing and walked quietly with a large flag. He smoked a cigar while explaining he was born in Istanbul, but has lived in the U.S. for 45 years. He came from Philadelphia for the protest and said Gülen must go.

“I do miss Turkey,” he said. But, “this is my country. My children were born here.”

Also see:

American Gets Targeted by Digital Spy Tool Sold to Foreign Governments

Turkish-web-site-660x450

Screenshot showing a web site in Turkey where malicious code was stored for a phishing attack. The right-hand window shows the page’s hidden HTML code, which reveals a malicious Flash component embedded in the page, waiting to download to computers that visited the site.

By Kim Zetter:

The email appeared to come from a trusted colleague at a renowned academic institution and referenced a subject that was a hot-button issue for the recipient, including a link to a website where she could obtain more information about it.

But when the recipient looked closely at the sender’s email address, a tell-tale misspelling gave the phishing attempt away — the email purported to come from a professor at Harvard University, but instead of harvard.edu, the email address read “hardward.edu”.

Not exactly a professional con-job from nation-state hackers, but that’s exactly who may have sent the email to an American woman, who believes she was targeted by forces in Turkey connected to or sympathetic to the powerful Gülen Movement, which has infiltrated parts of the Turkish government.

The email contained a link to a web site in Turkey, where a malicious downloader file was waiting to install on her computer — a downloader that has been connected in the past to a spy tool purportedly sold exclusively to law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous because she’s concerned about retaliation, sensed the email was a fraud and did not follow the link. Instead, the email was passed to researchers at digital forensics firm Arsenal Consulting, who set up a honeypot to visit the Turkish web site and obtained the downloader.

Though investigators didn’t obtain the file that the downloader was supposed to install, analysis of it showed that it was the same downloader that has been used in the past to install Remote Control System (RCS), a spy tool made by the Italian company Hacking Team and sold to governments. A digital certificate used to sign the downloader has also been used in the past with Hacking Team’s tool.

“It was the first hint that this was connected to Hacking Team and RCS,” Mark. G. Spencer, president of Arsenal, told Wired.

Hacking Team asserts that it sells the RCS tool only to law enforcement and government security agencies for lawful intercept purposes, but it has reportedly been used against activists and political dissidents in Morocco and the United Arab Emirates and possibly elsewhere, an issue for which Hacking Team has been severely criticized.

The company touts in marketing literature that the tool evades encryption and bypasses antivirus and other security protections to operate completely invisibly on a target’s machine.

The RCS tool, also known as DaVinci, records text and audio conversations from Skype, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk and MSN Messenger, among other communication applications. It also steals Web browsing history and can turn on a computer’s microphone and webcam to record conversations in a room and take photos. The tool relies on an extensive infrastructure to operate and therefore is not easily copied and passed to non-government actors outside that infrastructure to use for their own personal spy purposes, according to a Hacking Team spokesman.

Spencer says there’s no definitive proof pointing to who is behind the attempted hack of the American woman, but notes there is circumstantial evidence that warrants further attention.

“We have an email, a purported sender, and a target all critical of the Gülen movement. We have professional malware launched from a server in Turkey. You can take it from there,” Spencer said.

Read more at Wired