Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gulen schools here and abroad

There is now evidence of 122 related Turkish-run charter schools in 27 states: 101 in operation, nine scheduled to open in the fall of 2010, five charter school applications pending approval from various boards of education, and seven attempts which were denied, withdrawn, or are of an unknown status. Texas, Ohio, and California are the states most heavily impacted. See for the updated list. [Update 8/20/2010: The count is now up to 145]

The characteristics of the schools can be found HERE.

There is no doubt that – despite some positive reports about these charter schools – they do indeed exhibit certain oddities. But one of the things yet to be determined is if there are any less-than-honorable intentions on the part of the tight-knit groups of individuals who are running the schools.

To conclusively answer that question, it would be important to investigate all possible rationales. While doing this, it seems wise to consider these two things: the profound shift in Turkey’s global role after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and Turkey's relationship to future U.S. access of Middle East energy sources.

Processing clues about possible intentions can be found by learning about the schools set up by the Gulen movement in other countries. After doing a great deal of reading, I have no answers but I do certainly have a lot of questions. I invite you to join me in trying to figure out what is going on, and offer you eight sources of information to give you additional things to think about:

1. “Georgian Labor Party protests opening of Turkish schools,” April 27, 2010, Trend News Agency (Wikipedia: “…the biggest private news agency in Azerbaijan, Caucasus and Central Asia.”)

“The Georgian Labor Party protested the opening of Turkish schools in Georgia. The party's Political Secretary Giorgi Gugava called the mass opening of Turkish schools in Georgia, "the dominance of Turkey in the Georgian educational system," and noted that these schools aim to spread Turkish culture and fundamentalist religious ideas.

“Gugava said the process is headed by Turkish religious leader Fetulla Gulen, whose activities are banned in his motherland…”

2. “Turkish Schools Coming Under Increasing Scrutiny In Central Asia,” April 26, 2009, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Wikipedia: “a broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress than provides news, information, and analysis to countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East…”)

“…The first so-called Turkish schools in Central Asia were founded in the mid-1990s. Turkish educational institutions there -- as well as in countries from Russia to North America -- were set up by the Gulen movement led by Turkish Islamic scholar and author Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is a Sunni Muslim who advocates tolerance and dialogue among different religions…

“Yet, Turkish educational institutions have come under increasing scrutiny in Central Asia. Governments as well as many scholars and journalists suspect that the schools have more than just education on their agendas..."

3. “Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam,” May 4, 2008, The New York Times

“Mr. Kacmaz (pronounced KATCH-maz) is part of a group of Turkish educators who have come to this battleground with an entirely different vision of Islam. Theirs is moderate and flexible, comfortably coexisting with the West while remaining distinct from it. Like Muslim Peace Corps volunteers [NOTE: Gulen's followers call themselves the Hizmet Movement; hizmet means service, duty, etc.], they promote this approach in schools, which are now established in more than 80 countries, Muslim and Christian…

“…The model is the brainchild of a Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen. A preacher with millions of followers in Turkey, Mr. Gulen, 69, comes from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam. He has lived in exile in the United States since 2000, after getting in trouble with secular Turkish officials…

“Moderate as that sounds, some Turks say Mr. Gulen uses the schools to advance his own political agenda. Murat Belge, a prominent Turkish intellectual who has experience with the movement, said that Mr. Gulen “sincerely believes that he has been chosen by God,” and described Mr. Gulen’s followers as “Muslim Jesuits” who are preparing elites to run the country.

Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor at the University of Utah who has had extensive experience with the Gulen movement, offered a darker assessment.

“The purpose here is very much power,” Mr. Yavuz said. “The model of power is the Ottoman Empire and the idea that Turks should shape the Muslim world...”

NOTE: The school featured in the article above is PakTurk. It has the same identifying features of the Gulen charter schools in the U.S.: students participate in the usual assortment of math and science competitions, including Turkish Olympiads!

4. "Central Asia: Fetullah Gülen's Missionary Schools" by Bayram Balci, 2002, published in a newsletter produced by the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM). Excerpts:

  • “The movement obtains much of its support from young urban men, especially doctors, academics and other professionals.”
  • “These schools can be said to focus on modem [robotics] and scientific education. Religious matters are completely absent from their curricula.”
  • “The movement's schools are managed by Turkish and national administrators and teachers.”

As far as the religious mission of the schools goes, Balci further explains:

  • “His [Gülen's] community, or cemaat, is designated as the Fethullahci movement, alhough [sic] its members do not appreciate this term. Basically, Fethullah Gülen's ideas serve to accomplish three intellectual goals: the islamization of the Turkish nationalist ideology; the turkification of Islam; and the Islamization of modernity.”
  • “No one knows exactly the size of Gülen's enormous community of followers and sympathizers, but most agree on an average es­timate of 3 million members…The movement has grown in part by sponsoring student dormitories, summer camps, colleges, universities, classrooms and communication organizations.”
  • “…Nurcu missionaries never openly or directly proselytize.”
  • “Their hocaefendi, or "respected lord", Gülen advocates two main ways of spreading Islam, tebligh and temsil.”
  • “They are not allowed to pronounce the name of Gülen or Nursi, nor are they permitted to spread Nurcu literature, at least not openly.”
  • “…the most important aim of the cemaat is to spread the message without expressing it directly.”
For more extensive information, read “Fethullah Gülen’s Missionary Schools in Central Asia and their Role in the Spreading of Turkism and Islam,” Balci’s 27-page article which appeared in Religion, State & Society (Vol. 31, No. 2, 2003).

5. "Rising Islamist movements challenge secularism in Turkey," , October 21, 2009, Worldfocus (Wikipedia: “…an American newscast focused on international news and reporting…produced by WNET and distributed to U.S. public television stations by American Public Television.”)

This is a 6:04 minute news report where one Turkish sociologist draws similarities between the Gulen Movement and the Evangelical Movement.

6. "Turkey, from Ally to Enemy," July/August 2010, Commentary Magazine (Wikipedia: “…a monthly magazine on politics, Judaism, social and cultural issue founded by the American Jewish Committee in 1945.”)

“Whereas Iran’s Islamic revolution shocked the world with its suddenness in 1979, Turkey’s Islamic revolution has been so slow and deliberate as to pass almost unnoticed. Nevertheless, the Islamic Republic of Turkey is a reality—and a danger.

"The story of Turkey’s Islamic revolution is illuminating. It is the story of a charismatic leader with a methodical plan to unravel a system, a politician cynically using democracy to pursue autocracy, Arab donors understanding the power of the purse, Western political correctness blinding officials to the Islamist agenda, and American diplomats seemingly more concerned with their post-retirement pocketbooks than with U.S. national security. For Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it is a dream come true. For the next generation of American presidents, diplomats, and generals, it is a disaster…”

“…With the independent press muzzled and almost all print and airtime dedicated to his agenda, Erdogan upped his campaign against both the political opposition and the military. Whereas the Interior Ministry would once root out Islamists and followers of the anti-Semitic Turkish cult leader Fethullah Gulen, the AKP filled police ranks with them.

7. Sibel Edmonds Deposition, 8/8/09: Part 3 of 5 (17:30 minutes long)

According to Wikipedia, Edmonds is a Turkish-American former FBI translator and founder of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). Edmonds gained notoriety following her firing from her position as a language specialist at the FBI's Washington Field Office in March, 2002, after she accused a colleague of covering up illicit activity involving foreign nationals, alleging serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence which, she contended, presented a danger to the United States' security.”

At 8:06 – Edmonds’ testimony about Fetullah Gulen begins. She explains that Gulen has established more than 300 madrasas in Central Asia.

At 12:52 – Edmonds explains that she is aware that Gulen has set up schools in the US (recalls Texas and Virginia), but does not know more about them.

8. The Turkish Olympiads

Whether in the U.S. or abroad, students from the Gulen schools are encouraged to acquire Turkish language and cultural skills (singing and dancing), then to attend their annual regional Turkish Olympiads which feed into an international event. From the official Web site of the International Turkish Olympiad: "...from our land the power of the Turkish language would spread throughout the world. Watch the propaganda piece produced by Samonyolu TV: "hayal edin" (hayal = n. dream, fantasy, etc., edin = v. obtain, acquire, etc.).
9. “The Educational Philosophy of Fethullah Gülen and Its Application in South Africa", a paper posted on Fetullah Gülen’s website which was presented at a 2007 conference entitled "Muslim World in Transition: Contributions of the Gülen Movement." An explanation of the motives and a description of the Gulen schools' template of operation. This item added on 8/20/2010.

QUESTION: Why are states funding
charter schools which are entwined in all of this?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your informative facts, this gives us parents more resources to make changes.

Sunni said...

All you have said are facts.The education system should be made simple,practical and informative.Theory and Practicals should go side by side.

The Perimeter Primate said...

TERRORIST PKK TARGETS GÜLEN MOVEMENT’S SCHOOLS IN HAKKARI, September 24, 2010, Today’s Zaman (a Gulenist publication)

The Perimeter Primate said...

‘The preacher across the Atlantic’; November 1, 2010; Hurriet Daily News

About a "new book 'The preacher across the Atlantic,' a must-read in order to understand the place of the Fethullah Gülen movement (or brotherhood) in the spread of political Islam in Turkey and the inner workings of the movement..."

The Perimeter Primate said...

Pakistan-Turkey - a journey from ‘brotherhood to strategic partnership’

ISLAMABAD, Dec 10 (APP): From the love of Pakistanis for Kamal Ataturk to the Turks’ affection for Jinnah - the brotherly relationship is ready to witness a shining era as Pakistan and Turkey have entered a new world of strategic partnership with signing of 17 Memoranda of Understanding in different fields.With ‘Ataturk Avenue’ in Islamabad and ‘Jinnah Jadesi’ roads in Ankara, the two capitals have got a new strategic dimension with the recent official visit of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to Turkey.

The signing of 17 MoUs by the two countries has been regarded as a “turning point” to mutually benefit from each others’ potential in the fields including health, education,agriculture, infrastructure, housing and media.
Turkey also offered to build schools and hospitals in Pakistan’s flood-affected regions within six months..."

The Perimeter Primate said...

‘Turkish schools important for northern Iraq’s future’; 10 December 2010

Dlawer Abdul-Aziz Ala’Aldeen, minister of higher education of the Kurdish Regional Administration in northern Iraq, has expressed appreciation for Turkish schools in the region, explaining that they have helped improve economic, trade and political relations between Turks and the region...

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a child who currently attends one of the so-called Turkish charter schools you describe, I can certainly attest to the fact that the schools do, in fact, offer a few Turkish related extra-curricular activities. Turkish lanquage and an annual trip to Turkey are two that I know of. In no way does the school "push" or try to "entice" children to participate in these activities - they are simply another option for students to enrich their education and certainly not a requirement.

In regard to the comment that Turkish religious beliefs are being somehow subliminally inscribed into the minds of our children is absolutely false. My son has 7 teachers, and with the exception of one, the rest are white. I'm extremely hands-on with my son. I'm in the school regularly, I work with him daily on his homework and I'm involved in school activities. In no way have I ever felt the subliminal infiltration of the Turkish beliefs or religious standings. I'm a staunch Catholic and would never tolerate the "brainwashing" of my child.

I can't say enough about the education my son is gaining from this school... his exposure to technology, multi-sensory learning techniques and the wonderful teachers who remain so committed to his education doesn't compare to the public school system. I could go on for hours disputing some of the accusations made and could list dozens of amazing accomplishments and attributes of his school; however, I can only urge parents to do their homework and not to believe everything you read and hear.