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Oklahoma City Thunder’s Enes Kanter will not back down from political backlash

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Exiled from family and homeland, Enes Kanter shows courage and calm through recent adversity

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

For voicing his political views, aspects of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Enes Kanter's personal life are ruled by incessant and harrowing controversy.

Since publicly disavowing current Turkish President Recep Erdogan, who Kanter labels "dictatorial," and instead affirming the ideology of provocative Erdogan-rival Fethullah Gulen, Kanter's world has shifted irrevocably.

Such choices have rendered the amiable 25-year-old a young man bereft of familial support and acceptance from his native country.

Disowned by his mother and father after pledging allegiance to Gulen —who Erdogan accuses of masterminding a failed 2016 coup to overthrow the Turkish government— during a Saturday flight layover, while hoping to promote his new charitable foundation, the NBA standout was instead held in a Romanian airport by officials and returned to the United States.

His passport cancelled by the Turkish government.

Frustrated, Kanter arrived in New York early Sunday morning and issued these comments regarding his ordeal:

"They said (Turkey's embassy) canceled my passport. They've been holding us here for hours. The reason behind it is just of course my political views. And, the person who did it is Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

During Erdogan’s recent visit with United States President Donald Trump, video surfaced of the Turkish leader’s security detail assaulting protesters outside of Erdogan’s U.S. embassy lodging.

This prompted Kanter to rehash strong words about his country’s leader:

"He's attacked people in Washington. He's a bad, bad man. He's a dictator. And he's the Hitler of our century. I will keep you posted guys, but just pray for us, and I'll tell you guys what's going on."

Unabashed remarks of this nature caused Kanter’s father, Mehmet to declare last summer, via Norman Transcript: "I apologize to the Turkish people and the president for having such a son. His statements and behavior trouble our family. I would not have taken Enes to the U.S. for the basketball camp where his talent was discovered had I known that it would come to this point.”

Certainly, the domestic rift created by Enes Kanter’s political leanings run deep. But who is Kanter’s mentor Fethullah Gulen, and why is his ideology met with such derision?

Gulen, a mislabeled political refugee

Gulen, 76, currently resides in exile at his Saylorsurg, Pennsylvania estate following a turbulent 2013 conflict with Erdogan which resulted in Gulen being hastily placed on Turkey’s most-wanted-terrorist list.

Though, contrary to his homeland vilification, Gulen is world-renown as a foremost Muslim leader whose “Hizmet” (service) movement espouses tolerance, altruism, education, and charity.

And even as the Turkish government continues to press United States diplomats to criminally extradite Gulen, all attempts have failed as no viable proof has surfaced to confirm the Imam participated in any alleged conspiracy.

Gulen staunchly denies any wrongdoing. And some feel Erdogan’s accusations spring from personal animosity.

Kanter, a man of conviction

While lesser men would fall under the heavy-emotional turmoil Kanter shoulders, for his part, integrity and belief has steadied Kanter’s path.

After learning of his parents’ rejection: Via Reuters

"Today I lost those who for 24 years I called ... my family ... My own father wanted me to change my surname. The mother who gave birth to me rejected me.

From now on my mother, father and siblings are (the)... devoted members of Hizmet."

Trivial with family and motherland lost, but Kanter’s 25th birthday was dampened by the above mentioned events. However, in his optimistic manner, Kanter announced that he will share his story via press conference on Monday.

Update: Earlier, Kanter appeared on CBS This Morning to detail his ordeal: