I fully expect that my comment left at Town Hall: 140 Characters at a Time, a Twitter town hall with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, will not be published, and will be quite surprised if it is. In either case, I've decided to make it into a blog post here.
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I would like Secretary Duncan to issue a public statement explaining his views on the 131 charter schools being operated by the Gulen movement. Each year, since 1999, members of this extremely controversial, cult-like religious group out of Turkey have opened several new charter schools. The enrollment of these schools currently exceeds 35,000 students.
Why does the U.S. Department of Education continuously permit these schools to conceal their religious affiliation from parents, school board members, and authorizing agencies?
Despite overwhelming silence from our public officials about this phenomenon (occasionally punctuated by denials uttered by the operators of the schools), it is indisputable that these American taxpayer-supported schools are the U.S. portion of schools started around the world by this religious group with questionable ulterior motives. Satisfaction will not be found by interviewing the school operators because they have vowed to abide by Gulenist principles of obedience and secrecy, and are not at liberty to discuss such matters with outsiders in a frank and open way.
A mountain of evidence has been uncovered by concerned members of the public:
Such evidence will be continuously compiled and broadcast to Americans via online vehicles while we wait for our leaders to insist on public transparency in this regard.
As Ilhan Tanir, a former member of hizmet, now Hurriyet Daily News journalist, wrote in 2009 (boldface added)*:
"Let's not kid ourselves: [any representative] from the movement, in essence, cannot respond to some of the tough questions that come from outsiders."
"...the movement sees itself many times as self-righteous and blessed in every occasion, and surrounded with miracles...Most of the time, the state of self-righteousness in the movement is so apparent that one can witness it in any discussion one engages with its members. Apart from the details, it is almost impossible to convince or make sense to the members on many issues, especially those that relate to the movement. Though this shouldn’t come as a surprise, because as we all know that as long as one believes that one is following the quasi-sacred decrees, the work one does must be also sacred and cannot be understood by outsiders. And amid this detachment, the movement justifies any conduct to achieve its ends at any cost. For instance, if passing school entry test questions to the movement’s pupils is a justifiable way to ride into any kind of school that is important to attend even it can be done for years, even if it means usurping the rights of other pupils. But again, others are just others."
* Hizmet is the term Gulen movement members use to refer to themselves.
To acquire a basic understanding of the Gulen movement is time-demanding and mentally challenging. One reason for this is because the phenomenon is unfamiliar, unprecedented, and complex -- not to mention the language barriers which prevent Americans from accessing a great deal of available written information. In addition, the movement intentionally employs secrecy and other strategies to keep things murky and below the radar of the general public (= outsiders).
Suggested reading materials for newcomers seeking to increase their Gulen movement-awareness:
- 11/1999: “Islamic Scientific Creationism: A New Challenge in Turkey.” National Center for Science Education report, http://ncse.com/rncse/19/6/islamic-scientific-creationism
- 5/2006: “Keeping Secrets.” by Fethullah Gulen (from Gulen’s Pearls of Wisdom), http://en.fgulen.com/pearls-of-wisdom/639-keeping-secrets
- 6/2006: “What is the Reason for the Persistence of Darwinism in the General Culture of the Masses Though Many of Darwin’s Hypotheses Have Been Challenged and Even Disproved?” by Fethullah Gulen (one of Gulen's teachings against the Theory of Evolution), http://www.fethullahgulen.org/questions-and-answers/2129-what-is-the-reason-for-the-persistence-of-darwinism-in-the-general-culture-of-the-masses-though-many-of-darwins-hypotheses-have-been-challenged-and-even-disproved.html
- 2008: “The Rise of Political Islam in Turkey.” RAND Corporation (pg. 53 lists the movement's four 'legs' of organized activities: education, media, interfaith dialog [and Turkish cultural] activities, and business organizations), http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG726.html
- 3/2008: “Turkey's survival of the fittest; the Islamic anti-Darwinism movement in Turkey is being helped by an unlikely source.” International Relations and Security Network (Zurich), http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?id=54183&lng=en
- 12/2008: “The Fethullah Gulen Movement.” Global Politician, http://www.globalpolitician.com/25355-fethullah-gulen-turkey (excerpt: “Fethullahci are often loath to declare themselves openly as such.”)
- 2/2009: “Gulen Movement: Turkey’s Third Power.” Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst, http://tool.donation-net.net/Images/Email/1097/Gulen_movement.pdf
- 4/2009: “Turkish schools coming under increasing scrutiny in Central Asia.” Radio Free Europe/Radio, http://www.rferl.org/content/Turkish_Schools_Coming_Under_Increasing_Scrutiny_In_Central_Asia/1616111.html?page=2&x=1
- 5/2009: “Behind Turkey’s Witch Hunt.” Newsweek, http://www.newsweek.com/2009/05/15/behind-turkey-s-witch-hunt.html
- 6/2009: “The Gulen Movement.” Center for Strategic & International Studies event (audio and transcripts), http://csis.org/event/gulen-movement
- 7/2009: “What do the Gulenists want to accomplish?” (Part 1) Hurriyet Daily News (this publication is a major English-language Turkish newspaper not operated by the Gulen movement; Today's Zaman, another major Turkish newspaper, is operated by the Gulen movement), http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=what-do-the-gulenists-want-to-accomplish--i--2009-07-06
- 7/2009: “How do the Gulenists change the rules?” (Part 2), Hurriyet Daily News, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/english/opinion/12047857.asp
- 10/2009: “Rising Islamist movements challenge secularism in Turkey.” video report by Worldfocus (produced by WNET New York, distributed by American Public Television), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjjY750wTs0
- 8/2010: “Islam, Secularism and the Battle for Turkey's Future.” STRATFOR Global Intelligence, http://www.brighteningglance.org/islam-secularism-and-the-battle-for-turkeyrsquos-future.html
- 8/2010: “Objectives of charter schools with Turkish connections questioned.” USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-08-17-turkishfinal17_CV_N.htm
- 8/2010: “Turkey: Politics of Identity and Power.” Congressional Research Service report, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/R41368.pdf
- 10/2010: “Turkey: Gulen Movement Taking PR Beating in Arrest Row.” Eurasianet, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/62090
- 11/2010: “The 'Global Imam' through American eyes." Milliyet (a major Turkish newspaper), English translation @ http://watchingamerica.com/News/77701/the-%E2%80%9Cglobal-imam%E2%80%9D-through-american-eyes/
- 11/2010: “How Turkey is Changing.” Hurriyet Daily News, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?msg=commentsaved&n=how-turkey-is-changing-2010-11-08
- 12/2010: “Transnational Religious Nationalism in the New Turkey: The Case of Fethullah Gulen.” Baker Institute event at Rice University (webcast), http://edtech.rice.edu/www/?option=com_iwebcast&task=webcast&action=details&event=2363
- 3/2011 “7 More Journalists Detained in Turkey.” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/04/world/europe/04turkey.html?_r=1
- 3/2011: "U.S. charter-school network with Turkish link draws federal attention." Philadelphia Inquirer, http://articles.philly.com/2011-03-20/news/29148147_1_gulen-schools-gulen-followers-charter-schools
- 4/2011: "The fading masquerade: Ergenekon and the politics of justice in Turkey." The Turkey Analyst (Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Center joint program at Johns Hopkins University), http://www.silkroadstudies.org/new/inside/turkey/2011/110404B.html
- 4/2011: “WikiLeaks files detail U.S. unease over Turks and charter schools.” Philadelphia Inquirer, http://articles.philly.com/2011-04-04/news/29380536_1_charter-schools-fethullah-gulen-truebright-science-academy
- 5/2011: “What is Islam’s Gulen movement?” BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13503361
- 6/2011: "Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas." New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/education/07charter.html?_r=1
- 6/2011: "Texas Legislature To Launch Investigation of Charter Schools." CBS Dallas-Fort Worth, http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/06/29/texas-legislature-to-launch-investigation-of-charter-schools/
- 6/2011: “Some lawmakers have second thoughts about Turkey trips.” Austin merican-Statesman (TX), http://www.statesman.com/news/texas-politics/some-lawmakers-have-second-thoughts-about-turkey-trips-1548440.html
- 7/2011: "Records show glaring faults at school with ties to Turkish charter school network." The Times-Picayune (LA), http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/07/state_shuts_down_abramson_char.html
- 9/2011: "Turkey's Elephant in the Room: Religious Freedom." New York Times (does not mention Gulen, but describes policies being conducted by Turkey's current Gulen movement-backed government), http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/29/world/europe/turkeys-elephant-in-the-room-religious-freedom.html?_r=3
- 10/2011: "The Trouble with Turkey." National Review (does not mention Gulen, but offers an overview of the concerning political shifts occurring under the current Gulen movement-backed government), http://www.michaelrubin.org/10440/turkey-trouble