Thursday, April 26, 2018

OKC, Enes Kanter, and Why Turkey Is a Huge Issue

Enes Kanter at Game 5 (Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo)
Last night Enes Kanter appeared in a city he loves almost as much as the people of that city love him.

Enes Kanter came to Oklahoma City to watch his former team play basketball.

The Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of their playoff series in one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NBA.  Enes Kanter, OKC's good luck charm, sat courtside rooting for the Thunder, the former team he still loves.

After the game, the Oklahoma City media interviewed Enes Kanter. The star basketball player who now lives in New York City considers Oklahoma City his home in America, though he will always love his country of origin, the Republic of Turkey.

One question the media asked Enes might be overlooked by most Oklahomans today. Enes was asked by a reporter, "Have you made any ground in terms of getting your citizenship?"  

Enes is seeking to become a citizen of the United States.  Turkey canceled Enes Kanter's passport last year. 

That's not all. 

Six days after Enes' passport cancellation, the Turkish government issued an arrest warrant for Enes Kanter on May 26, 2017, accusing him of being a member of a "terror group." It was later revealed that Turkish prosecutors were seeking at least four years in prison for Kanter, maybe more.

So the fact Enes was in Oklahoma City to watch Game 5 of the Thunder vs. Jazz playoff series is a big deal - for Enes Kanter. And it should be a very big deal for all Oklahomans.

The friendly, fun-loving, irrepressibly delightful - one of the OKC's beloved "Stache Brothers" - would be in jail today were he in Turkey.

Or even worse.

Enes told the media last night that if he left the United States, Turkish officials might try to kill him. Listen to Enes Kanter's answer to the question from the media about whether leaving the United States before getting American citizenship would be "a bad idea." 
"Before I get citizenship? Yes. That’d be ugly. It wouldn’t be cool, especially before I sign my contract. Then, maybe go. If I die, at least let me get the money."
Oklahomans, are you listening? 

Enes Kanter is concerned - rightfully so - that the Turkish government might want Enes Kanter killed. Recep Erdogan, the brutal dictator who has taken control of Turkey as its President, says Enes Kanter is a member of a "terrorist group." 

I had lunch with the "terror group" to which Enes Kanter belongs this past Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

What a wonderful group of men and women. 

Since 2012 I've become friends with several Muslims in Oklahoma who are part of what is called the Gulen Movement. These Muslim men and women are from Turkey, but they are now political exiles from the country they love.

Enes Kanter is a follower of Gulen.

Fethullah Gulen, leader of this Islamic movement, is also an exile from Turkey. Gulen lives in Pennsylvania. President Erdogan of Turkey considers Gulen and those who adhere to the principles of Gulen to be Turkey's number one enemy

What are the principles Gulen believes in?
Dialogue. Democracy. Dignity.
The President of Turkey wants all followers of Gulen, whose movement is also called Hizmet, to be imprisoned as "terrorists." 

That includes Enes Kanter. 

When Kanter was detained in Romania last summer at the request of Turkish government officials, my Muslim friends in Oklahoma City called to see what I could do to help. I reached out to our U.S. Senators, and both Senator James Lankford and Senator Jim Inhofe were instrumental in bringing Enes back home to Oklahoma City.

Though President Erdogan couldn't apprehend Enes, the President of Turkey has since arrested tens of thousands of Turkish citizens, had many who those who opposed him brutally tortured or murdered and has effectively ended the freedom of the press in Turkey.

At the luncheon Tuesday, I heard the heartbreaking story of the editor of the largest newspaper in Turkey. The Turkish government came into his offices, took control of the newspaper, and the editor and his family barely escaped with their lives. 

The editor who escaped believed in individual freedom and liberty in the Turkey where he worked. But in the Turkey where Erdogan rules, there is now no freedom.  Turkey has turned into a society that tries to squash anyone who falls out of step with the ideology of the President.

Wake Up, Oklahoma. 

Realize that what is happening in Turkey affects us all. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the Dialogue Insitute of Oklahoma and the Hizmet  Movement

These are the good guys.

Yes, they are Muslim. Yes, I am an evangelical pastor. Yes, the United States is different than Turkey. But Muslim followers of the Hizmet Movement and Christians in the United States want the same thing for Turkey and the United States - true freedom. 

As I've become friends with Muslims who follow the principles of Gulen, I've realized that there is a difference in Islamic traditions. 
A KC-135 Stratotanker taking touches down at Incirlik AFB

When the world - and even President Trump - tells us that the President Erdogan of Turkey is our friend, recognize the politics that are in play. Incirlik Air Force Base, the most important American Air Force Base in Europe, is located in southern Turkey. Every President of the United States will tout friendship with every President of Turkey. It's a must. It's politics.

But President Erdogan is not the friend of the United States.

Enes Kanter and those who are his friends are the true friends of Oklahoma and the United States. 

Enes says it best:
"I hope people around the world will open their eyes to the human rights abuses in Turkey. Things have gotten very bad over the last year. This is not my opinion. We don’t know everything that is happening inside Turkey, but we do know some facts. Newspapers and media have been restricted. Academics have been fired. Peaceful protesting is not allowed. Many people have been imprisoned without any real charges. There are reports of torture and rape and worse." —Enes Kanter, The Players' Tribune, May 23, 2017
Oklahomans, get to know the Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma. 

These Muslims are our friends.

Kuaybe, Ersin, and Muhammet Ali Sezer have all taught me the best way to get to know one's true friends is to dialogue with them, for one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.


Rex Ray said...


“Who is enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The quick fix is for Enes Kanter to become a U.S. citizen, but I believe this link would be good in removing the bad guy in Turkey.

Christiane said...

Great post, Wade.

Turkey remains a NATO country, I believe, in spite of the heavy-handed Erdogan. When my father was alive, in his final years, he volunteered to tutor an young Turkish naval officer in conversational English. It worked well, because if they came to something that was confusing (an idiom, perhaps), they both spoke French and could work out the understanding of the phrase.

There is a NATO 'school' for officers in Norfolk VA, and my father was living in Va. Beach in assisted living at that time.

I hope Enes Kanter receives all the support and help our country can give him in order not to fall into harm's way from Erdogan and his henchmen. Maybe someday Turkey will return to being a REAL republic, but for now, life there sounds very difficult for those who love freedom.

RB Kuter said...

Turkey and its President Erdogan seem to be typical of many of the "dark-side" affiliates in which the US must practice a level of civility and diplomacy in order to maintain a thread of cooperation and keep some measure of communications open. Think of places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Myanmar, and even our old resident country, Thailand. All have significant incidents of policies bent on oppressing their own people, establishing dictatorial regimes, and removing freedom and democracy as a means of protecting their control. But most are in positions to be of strategic advantage in their regions for the US if we can avoid destroying all connections and hospitality links.

There are so many legitimate refugees like Enes Kanter throughout the world. I would hate to have to serve as one of the representatives of the United Nations charged with determining who has a legitimate claim to be considered as an authentic asylum seeker and who is not. We have known some who seemed to be legitimate but there were probably more who simply wanted a means to escape the poor conditions of their country for the more affluent promises of living abroad in a western country. Those compete with all of those foreigners who are trying to go through the very difficult legal channels of acquiring appropriate visa status. Rather than doing that, many just find ways to cross borders and enter some neutral country where they can make claims of being asylum seekers as a means of entering more prosperous nations.

These are the conditions that people like Enes Kanter must deal. He is one case in thousands where some small percent would legitimately be threatened if forced to return to their country but among many who would not. What a terrible place to find oneself. But like dealing with the panhandler asking for a handout on the street corner, we really need to exercise caution and prudence prior to being involved in accommodating them while not abandoning our duty to show God's grace in the process of deciding our response. Both are our responsible obligations.

Albert said...

Thanks Wade, great article.. There's a lot going on in Turkey, outside of one could even imagine..

Anonymous said...

I choose to post this as anonymous for many specific reasons. As one that cares for you very much, I feel obligated that you reconsider your position in this article. Loving others is a priority of any Christian, but condoning followers of any man, outside of Jesus Christ is dangerous. You generally will glorify Christ in your posts, even when writing a subtle support for another religion or non-Christian. There is no mention of Christ in this post, at all, and that is very concerning. With love Wade, I would encourage you to pray and reconsider this post and the implications of the post. Don't try to fit in with the big shots, in exchange for the proclamation of the Gospel.

To call them GOOD without knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior is wrong. You know we are only GOOD by the Grace of God, through Christ. I would never call them evil either.

Rex Ray said...

Anonymous who cares for Wade,

It seems you think it’s OK to help a Muslim in their own country but not here.

Wade Burleson said...


Thanks for your comment.

Rex Ray makes a valid point. Helping these Muslim friends of mine would be no different than Christians in Germany helping hide Jews from the Nazis in WW II. It's giving a cup of cold water in time of need. The purpose of this post is not to write about the Good News - it's to help a bruised and battered people who are exiles from their own country.

I understand your doctrinal point about nobody being good apart from Christ, but I speak practically and personally, not theologically.

Again, thanks for your comment.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christiane said...

for the anonymous who cares for Wade, who wrote this comment:

"You generally will glorify Christ in your posts, even when writing a subtle support for another religion or non-Christian. There is no mention of Christ in this post, at all, and that is very concerning."

I see the presence of Lord Christ in this post most definitely. I think sometimes people who set THEMSELVES above another human person forget that ALL people are made from the same soil and that they ALL have the breath of life breathed into them by God. In my own understanding, Jesus Christ was incarnated: He assumed our humanity to Himself in its entirety....... hence the saying in the early Church: 'what was not assumed could not be healed'

What I see in this post is the presence of compassionate caring, the kind of love for 'the other' for the SAKE of 'the other'. That kind of love is 'of Christ' in that there are those who love in that way who sacrifice much for the sake of others, expecting nothing in return. They simply want people to live and be strings attached, just a kind of healing love that wants only good for people.

I fear for many today who are using the term 'Christian' but who harbor great hatreds towards other human persons because those persons are 'different' from themselves. Wade has, in my own opinion, been a person who cares very much that people live and be well, and he has at times paid dearly for his support of those who were being persecuted.

I'm glad you care about Wade. But if you want to be reassured, look at how Wade sees 'the PERSON' and not the 'label' . . . that is what Our Lord taught us to do. It takes a holy humility to see beyond all the 'labels' we have put on 'the others'; but that is what Our Lord expects of us . . . of this I have no doubt. God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Woow brainwashing at its best. Do you even know how many people died in coup attempt that occured in 15th July 2016? 254 innocent civilian lives all thanks to Gulen's traitor army man in the ranks. These Gulen guys are angel faced devils. Trust me you dont want them in your country.

RB Kuter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RB Kuter said...

RB Kuter said...
Anonymous: thanks for introducing a different perspective on things. It's tough to know who and how to support these days. We all have heard the rhetoric about Islam being a "peaceful" religion. I know it is often argued that only a few fanatical Muslim extremists pose the threat to the world. Personally, I don't buy it.

I believe that there is an Islamic conspiracy for the globalization of Muslim domination. The violent Islamic terrorists are fools. They do nothing other than awaken the awareness of the world to their antics and foster strong opposition to their cause. They do not pose the greatest threat.

The more stealth movement of populating targeted areas with the purpose of establishing a dominant Muslim population and eventually infiltrating the political infrastructure so as to gain control and establish a Muslim culture and political control is the reality of what is occurring. This conclusion is not simply based on the conjecture of an "Islam-phobia" conspiracy theorist. One only has to objectively assess what is happening in Europe, Asia, and northern cities in the USA to verify the legitimacy of this proposal. To reject this conspiracy as being a reality is like rejecting Hitler's pursuit for world domination after he invaded Poland saying, "That's all I want. I'm a peaceful leader."

My opinion is that we should at least be aware of this as an intentional Muslim strategy. We Christians have a "conspiracy" to see the world dominated by followers of Jesus Christ. But our methods are different than that of the Muslim. Rather than seeking to dominate an area by moving outside Christians into an area, increasing the number of Christians by having more babies to be raised as Christians (although, admittedly some Christians do adhere to that strategy), Christians' strategy is to win the hearts of the indigenous people to Christ. We seek to proselytize non-believers by introducing them to Christ and their being led by God's Holy Spirit to surrender control to Him.

Muslims do not gain domination by winning the indigenous people to Islamic ideology with their Koran message, but instead, populate an area with an influx of outside Muslims and reproducing through having large Muslim families. Once dominating an area they pressure those resistant to their cause and ideology to accept it. Those insisting on rejecting submission are killed or more often, simply relegated to being lower class servants with no civil rights. Absolutely no intent of being "inclusive".

I am convinced that this Islamic strategy is the greatest threat. The naiveté of well-meaning people of peace contributes to the success of their strategy. Our sense of inclusiveness and hospitality increases our vulnerability, but beware.

Though saying this, know that I have many Muslim friends in other countries who I sincerely love. It is my obligation as a child of God to love them and the presence of my Father's Holy Spirit in me compels me to make myself vulnerable to being scammed and taken advantage due to becoming susceptible to those wolves whose intent is to dominate the sheep. If a Muslim family moves next door, I will befriend them, seek to establish a loving relationship with them and portray to them the love of Christ.

The bottom line of my personal perspective is to love while praying for a sense of wise discernment that is available from my heavenly Father. We cannot afford to be blindly optimistic as to all those posing as smiling intruders who have no other agenda than to become part of our existing society. It is a very complex, challenging world in which we live.

Anonymous said...

This is the same Anonymous person.

I know Wade has a heart for the entire world, regardless of religion, sexuality, sin, addiction, race, identity, gender, etc. He is the greatest example of love for all humankind I have ever encountered.

I fully believe that Wade deeply cares about Enes Kanter and his eternal destiny. I know that Wade is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ and that NO ONE can come to the Father, but through Christ. I know Wade wants to be all things to all men that by all means he may save some.

Wade has a STRONG influence to the beliefs of many evangelicals. It is a gift from God that he is able to reach so many people with such great influence with the Gospel.

It is with that understanding that I get concerned with a post like the one written. The post seems to come across as Wade being supportive of the Gulen movement and calling it good. To some people, if not many people, that seems to condone the Muslim religion, and say that all is ok with them and their doctrine. That was my point of concern.

Wade clarified that the intent of the post was not theological, but my encouragement to him is to think about the overall implications writing a post, such as this, has on others.

I do not think negatively of him at all, I love him deeply and I know he will continue to reach many people with the Gospel. I said a couple of things that may have been a bit assumptive, and for those things I apologize. I do not however change my position that the post should be reconsidered.

I believe we have the obligation to love Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, and so on, but I very cautiously walk the line to never show that I am supporting their belief system, but that Jesus Christ is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Rex Ray said...


Talking of helping Jews to avoid being captured by Germans in World War ll, a family in Holland hid a Jewish couple in their home a long time in a secret room.

From time to time soldiers searched their house. The woman became pregnant, and they knew neighbors would hear the baby crying, so they had a baby also. When the war was over, the Jewish couple went to America and provided the family to come also.

Many years later we met their son, Dirk Shutter, while working with ‘Volunteer Christian Builders’ on several trips. He helped in sheet rocking our present church.

When they first came over, they were told how good ‘water melons’ tasted. When they ate their first one, they thought it was awful. (His mother had boiled it in her wash pot.)


WOW! You hit the nail on the head about the goal of Muslims. I believe the ‘battle of Armageddon’ will be ‘Muslims against the rest of the world’.


Thanks for such a nice comment. You’re one that pours oil on troubled waters.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, anonymous, for the comment.

I respect disagreement and dialogue and appreciate your kind words. We may not agree on this particular issue, but I sure do admire the way you present your views.

Every issue you raise, I've gone through numerous times in my own mind. I landed on the position I think best for the awful situation in Turkey. Men, women, children are being imprisoned, tortured, and in some cases killed.

In civilization, that's not good, no matter the country, religion, or people involved.

Anonymous said...ülen-13504.html

This is just one of many articles but there is a ton of research out there on the mysterious Gulan trying to figure out exactly what this guy is trying to accomplish and where he got all his wealth. Let’s just say he can afford to live in a heavily armed compound and fund political lobbying with govt sanctioned charter schools? . Neither Erdogan or Gulan are good guys. In fact, they used to be partners in politics. Beware what you promote.

Wade Burleson said...

If by good one means imprison, torture, and persecute opponents, then Erdogan is not good. I can vouch for the fact, however, that Gulen does not imprison, torture, and persecute opponents. He's FOR Israel as a nation (got him in trouble with Erdogan), and promotes education and dialogue. He's called a "liberal" by Muslims. Give us more liberals.

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