Turkish NBA star's basketball camp cancelled after 'consulate threats'

US mosque cancels basketball camp by NBA star Enes Kanter after Turkish consulate threats
3 min read
25 July, 2019
Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter says his youth basketball summer camp was cancelled after threats from the Turkish consulate, which opposes his links to exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Kanter is a persona non grata in Turkey due to his links with Gulen [Getty]

A children's basketball camp hosted by a Turkish basketball star was cancelled on Wednesday after threats from the Turkish consulate in New York, the basketball player said.

The Islamic Centre of Long Island was to host the summer camp, which would have been the 34th in a series of free basketball camps hosted by NBA player Enes Kanter for young people this year.

But Kanter said on Wednesday the Islamic centre had decided to cancel the camp after "threats" from the Turkish consulate in New York.

"I am so hurt that the Islamic Centre of Long Island has decided to cancel the camp after the Turkish Consulate in NYC threatened the mosque, sent out their goons and encouraged people in Turkey to call and leave threatening messages," Kanter said in a letter shared on social media.

"I am even more disappointed in the mosque for not calling the police on these thugs. I hope in the future the communities in America realise they have freedom and do not have to bow down to dictatorship."

Kanter has regularly attracted media attention in both the United States - where he plays for the Boston Celtics - and Turkey due to his political stance.

The basketball player is a self-avowed follower of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric whose Hizmet (Service) movement runs civil society projects, schools and interfaith initiatives worldwide.

While Gulen has faced some controversy in the US over charter schools operated by the movement, he is a much more contentious figure in Turkey, where he is accused of running a decades-long scheme to infiltrate all arms of the government.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the faith leader ordered the country's 2016 coup attempt and has repeatedly demanded his extradition from the US, while jailing thousands upon thousands of his suspected followers at home. 

The Hizmet movement - known in Turkey as the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation FETO - is designated a terrorist group in Turkey.

An outspoken critic of the Turkish president, Kanter has expressed fears that if he leaves the US he could be killed or captured for his affiliation with Gulen. Turkey officially issued an arrest warrant for Kanter two years ago.

Kanter's family "disowned" him after he refused to disavow Gulen following the coup attempt three years ago.

"Today, at the age of 24, I have lost my mother, father, brother and all my family. My relatives do not want to see me again,” he wrote on Twitter at the time. "On the road to my teacher, I have sacrificed my mother, my father, my brother and entire family. 

"For this Hizmet not just one Enes but 1,000 Eneses would sacrifice themselves. May my God take from my life and give every second of it to my teacher [Gulen]."

Despite disowning his son, Enes' father Mehmet Kanter was last year indicted by the Turkish government on charges of being a "member of a terrorist organisation".

He is currently on trial and could face up to 15 years in prison.

Long Island Congresswoman Kathleen Rice came out in support of Kanter on Twitter.

"This is shameful. My office is working with [Kanter] to find an alternative location nearby that can host his camp," she said on Wednesday. "These kids deserve this opportunity."

Kanter made headlines earlier this week in Turkey after a video featuring Gulen went viral.

In the video, Gulen appears before his followers, sipping a cup of Turkish tea. 

The Hizmet leader then says that the leftover tea should be given to Kanter.

In a Tweet after this incident, the basketball player replied that he was "not worthy".

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