The Brooklyn Eyup Sultan Mosque, which is funded and operated by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), on Sunday denied religious services for deceased Turkish-American businessman Muharrem Atmaca due to his links to the Gülen movement, the TR724 news website reported.
Atmaca’s family contacted the mosque, scheduled the funeral prayer with imam Mehmet Aydın and informed their loved ones and the Turkish-American community. Yet, only half an hour before the prayer, someone from the funeral home called the grieving family and said they received a call from the mosque saying that they wouldn’t be able to conduct the prayer service “upon instructions from the Turkish Consulate General in New York.”
The family had to perform the funeral prayer in a small room in the funeral home.
Atmaca was a businessman who immigrated to New York 40 years ago. He was a well-known figure in the Turkish-American community due to his support for numerous philanthropic projects. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2020 and passed away on Friday.
“He was someone loved and respected by people with different worldviews,” Atmaca’s family said. “He has been donating to the mosque that refused to conduct his funeral prayer for years. It was a huge disappointment for us.”
Atmaca was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. following a prayer led by Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who inspired the Gülen movement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Diyanet-affiliated mosques and foundations around the world have been accused of acting as Erdoğan’s propaganda tools and involvement in spying on his critics. Through its foundation Diyanet provides funding and appoints imams, who are public servants on the government payroll, to the overseas mosques.