A week after a Pocono Record story appeared on Fethullah Gülen, controversy and interest continued to swirl, both locally and internationally, around this enigmatic, revered and feared figure.
"Muslim radical lives in the Poconos — but it's not what you think," was published in the Pocono Record on April 18 and picked up by the Turkish media, including the newspapers Vatan and Zaman, and on Turkey's MSNBC.
The story looked at Gülen, the reclusive leader of a movement of some five million Muslims worldwide, who for the past decade has been secluded in ill health in Saylorsburg.
A torrent of e-mails hailed from as far away as Turkey and Kazakhstan. Views on the article differed, based largely on readers' views of Gülen.
While he is most identified with promoting interfaith dialogue and espousing a comparatively more tolerant, outward-looking form of Islam, he has been living in exile from Turkey following accusations that he sought political power there.
One writer, identifying himself as a Turkish citizen, praised Gülen and his followers for trying to establish peace between people of different faiths.
He added that Gülen's opponents had been trying to fabricate evidence about him "because if the Fethullah Gülen movement succeeds, then many problems will be solved peacefully, and those bad people will lose their authority which has been fed by fear and hate, for decades."
Many readers also cited a Gülen refrain: "A Muslim cannot be a terrorist and a terrorist cannot be a Muslim" and said that Gülen was the first Muslim leader to publicly rebuke the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
His detractors say this benign face masks the movement's political aspirations to take over Turkey. Gülen has said he has no interest in power.
Another reader, from Montreal, said he left Turkey because of the religious ideals of Gülen, which threaten that country's secular ethos.
"(He) is the most dangerous man in the world and regular Americans do not realize," he wrote.
While some lauded the report's "unbiased approach" to the subject, others thought it treated Gülen unfairly.
"You should review your writing and think you should apologize to Mr. Gülen," wrote one reader.
Gülen came to local attention after he appeared on the websites Family Security Matters and The Last Crusade, described as the "World's 'Most Dangerous Islamist.'"
The author, Paul Williams, and his photographer stood by their reporting — and assertions that Gülen's Ross Township neighbors told them they had heard automatic gunfire and seen helicopters overhead.
Two neighbors Williams used as sources said later that they personally had not heard or seen anything, although one added that his wife had seen helicopters going into the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center where Gülen lives.
Since then, Williams has also written about Gülen's connections to a network of Islamic charter schools in the United States which, he wrote, were promoting "education jihad."
He focused on a charter school, Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, in Minnesota, which had run afoul of authorities for being "radically Islamic and subversive in nature," Williams said.
The school was, in fact, sanctioned by Minnesota's Department of Education — for not having enough certified teachers on staff. The ACLU is suing the school for promoting religion with taxpayer money.
The schools also have no tie to Gülen.
The charter school's founder is Saudi, not Turkish, and there are more than 17 nationalities represented on its faculty, said spokesman Blois Olsen.
"I'd asked the client about (Gülen) and he said he never heard of that guy," Olson said.