The Right Opinion

Pushing Back Against Stealth Jihad Charter Schools

Americans around the country are catching on to the Gülen movement.

By Arnold Ahlert · Nov. 13, 2012

Americans may not realize it yet, but Turkey’s regression from a secular democracy into an Islamic state may be based on an educational movement that has also taken root in America. Imam Fethullah Gülen and his Gülen Movement (GM) have had enormous influence in setting the increasingly Islamist agenda of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Much of this is due to GM’s vast empire of media entities, financial institutions, banks and business organizations. But the most critical component of this empire is educational institutions. In Turkey, 75 percent of the nation’s two million preparatory school students are enrolled in Gülen institutions. In America, GM runs the largest charter school network in the nation. Such an empire is slowly receiving the kind of scrutiny – and pushback from concerned Americans – that it deserves.

The principals and school board members of GM charter schools are primarily Turkish men. Hundreds of Turkish teachers have been admitted to the United States using H-1B visas, because the schools claim qualified Americans cannot be found. Moreover, an examination of federal tax forms and school documents reveals that GM charter schools tend to purchase a substantial portion of their goods and services from Gülenist businesses.

This symbiotic relationship is occurring in many areas around the nation. For example, a trio of GM schools in Georgia are currently in the spotlight because they defaulted on a $19 million bond issue. An audit revealed the schools improperly granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts for purchases like T-shirts, teacher training, and video production services from organizations with connections to school officials, or Gülen followers, or to businesses and groups with ties to the Gülen Movement. In some cases, bidding requirements were ignored. “I would just question how those vendors were selected when price in many instances wasn’t part of the decision making,” said Fulton County superintendent Robert Avossa.

In Texas, similar allegations have been aimed at the Cosmos Foundation, a charter school operator founded a decade ago by a group of professors and businessmen from Turkey. The group, currently using the name Harmony Schools, has become the biggest charter operation in the state, and while its primary mission is educating schoolchildren, it has forged ongoing relationships with a close-knit network of businesses and organizations run by Turkish immigrants. Some of those founders, as well as school operators, and many of their business suppliers, are followers of Fethullah Gülen.

Harmony receives more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds. When questioned how that money was spent with regards to awarding contracts, Harmony produced a list showing that local American companies had been awarded only 13 construction and renovation jobs over several years. On the other hand, a New York Times review of contracts since January 2009, totaling 35 contracts and $82 million worth of work, revealed that all but 3 jobs worth about $1.5 million went to Turkish-owned businesses. Such contracts included an $8.2 million deal awarded to TDM Contracting to build the Harmony School of Innovation during the company’s very first month in business. Such “good fortune” is in direct contrast to established local companies that claimed they weren’t awarded contracts, despite bidding several hundred thousand dollars lower.

One of those companies is Atlas Texas Construction and Trading, a Houston-based contractor with offices in Texas and Turkey. Atlas was awarded two contracts by Cosmos in Texas, the fairness of which was questioned by local contractors, who wondered why the company got both jobs when it was underbid by one company on one job, and four on the other.  Atlas showed up on a list of Gülen-affiliated companies in a 2006 cable from the American Consul General in Istanbul, released by WikiLeaks. In Louisiana, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the Abramson Science & Technology Charter School in eastern New Orleans is linked to a bribe offer allegedly made by Inci Akpinar – the vice president of Atlas.

Other possible sources of income for the GM movement were revealed in a 2011 report by the Philadelphia Inquirer. They revealed that the FBI is investigating a GM charter school employee kickback scheme, aimed at funding the larger GM movement.

Operators of Gülen-based charter schools stress over and over that their charters hew to state-mandated curriculums. Yet in Inver Grove Heights, MN, a substitute teacher named Amanda Getz claims the Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) maintained no separation between academics studied during school and Islamic studies afterward. She also claims she was instructed to take students in fours to the bathroom for “ritual washing” before lunch on Fridays (the Muslim holy day), after which, “teachers led the kids into the gym, where a man dressed in white with a white cap” led the students in Muslim prayers. She further revealed that while religious instruction is not part of the “school day,” most students stay after – perhaps because school buses don’t leave until the Islamic studies are over.

Concerned Americans have begun to push back. In Austin, Texas, a protest rally was organized in August 2011 against the Harmony School of Political Science in that city. Rally organizer Donna Garner cited Fethullah Gülen’s influence in changing Turkey from pro- to anti-American, the link between Cosmos/Harmony/Atlas Construction in Texas and Louisiana’s Pelican schools, as well as concerns regarding how “teachers who can hardly speak English and are fresh from Turkey will present such historically significant elements as the Holocaust, the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.”

In Tennessee last May, Gov. Bill Haslam allowed a bill that limits the number of foreign workers at charter schools to become law without his signature. According to the bill, if a school wants 3.5 percent or more of its staff to be hired from among the foreign workers in the H1B or J-1 visa programs (with an exception for language teachers), it can now be refused a charter to operate by chartering authorities. American Muslim Advisory Council board member Sabina Mohyuddin from Tullahoma, labeled it “an anti-Muslim bill shrouded in anti-immigrant language.”

Last month in Loudoun, VA, applicants behind the proposed Loudoun Math and IT Academy in that city were peppered with questions from residents who were concerned that the proposed charter has ties to the Gülen Movement. Access Point Public Affairs' Mindy Williams, who serves as the spokeswoman for the charter school applicants, along with School Board Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon and Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Janet Clarke, were met with a great amount of skepticism when they said they believed the school was not tied to Gülen or his movement. “I do think it’s very important that we’re absolutely sure there is no connection,” Clarke said, “but in all fairness, we can’t draw that connection when we don’t know quite yet.”

Perhaps they’re not looking hard enough. At an earlier meeting, it was pointed out that Ali Bicak is one of the founding members of Chesapeake Science Point in Maryland, which has alleged ties to the Gülen Movement and is ostensibly the school after which the Loudoun Math and IT Academy is modeled. Fatih Kandil, listed as an applicant for the Loudoun charter school, is a former principal of Chesapeake Science Point and was the director of the Horizon Science Academy in Ohio, which has also been accused of ties with Gülen. “There’s a trend here I’m hoping you see,” said meeting attendee Rachel Sargent.

There is also a trend of top charter school officials denying ties to GM or Fethullah Gülen, who has himself denied any association with these schools. A 2010 column by USA Today‘s Greg Toppo debunks that claim. After noting the rise of charter schools “established over the past decade by a loosely affiliated group of  Turkish-American educators,” and further noting that the school’s top administrators “say they have no official ties to Gülen,” and that “Gülen himself denies any connection to the schools,” he reveals that “documents available at various foundation websites and in federal forms required of non-profit groups show that virtually all of the schools have opened or operate with the aid of Gülen-inspired 'dialogue’ groups, local non-profits that promote Turkish culture.”

As previously reported, the most high profile news story about Gülen and the GM charter school operation was conducted by CBS’s “60 Minutes” last May. Despite their glowing story about a man “with millions upon millions of disciples who compare him to Ghandi and Martin Luther King,” and one who promotes “tolerance, interfaith dialog and above-all…education,” the network was forced to admit Gülen’s movement “does lack transparency: its funding, hierarchy, and ambitions remain hidden – leading our State Department to wonder in cables between Ankara and Washington if Gülen has an ‘insidious political agenda.’”

America’s track record in determining whether certain well-connected Muslims have an “insidious political agenda” is not encouraging. In 2001, shortly after 9/11, the former imam for the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, VA was invited to the Pentagon as part of the military’s Muslim outreach efforts following the attacks. Ten years later, that man – Anwar al-Awlaki, leader of “Al Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate," in the words of President Obama – was killed by a drone strike in Yemen. In 1999, Turkish television aired footage of Gülen delivering sermons to a crowd of followers:

"You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers … until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this. If they do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads, and Muslims will suffer everywhere, like in the tragedies in Algeria, like in 1982 [in] Syria … like in the yearly disasters and tragedies in Egypt. The time is not yet right. You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it”

Thirteen years later, it remains a real possibility that Fethullah Gülen and the GM believe conditions are “ripening” for their stealth jihad in America, using charter schools as their vehicle. Yet slowly but surely, more parents are becoming concerned about the kind of education their children are really getting, even as more journalists are beginning to look into the unsavory relationships – funded by taxpayer dollars – between these schools, and a network of Turkish-based businesses tied to the GM. More questions are also being asked about the possible exploitation of the H-1B visa system used to give Turkish nationals teaching jobs that might otherwise go to Americans. The time is right for a comprehensive investigation of the GM charter school system, and Imam Fethullah Gülen.

Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.

23 Comments

Lee in Phoenix said:

Democrats figured out a long time ago that if you have enough patience, you can shift an entire national value structure by slowly brainwashing the children within the taxpayer-supported educational system. Now our enemies are taking this easy approach to marginalizing conservatism to a new level.

Where, oh where did our professional journalists go? When they decided to abandon the truth in favor of the leftist political agenda and thus destroyed their own credibility, an unintended consequence was that even 60 Minutes is not taken seriously or even watched by more than a handful anymore. Ditto for ABC, NBC, CBS and the New York Times.

These used to be the people we counted on to shine the light on subversive activities, and now they're more interested in reporting on Justin Bieber's love life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 7:51 AM

The American in Columbus, Ohio replied:

Arnold,

Keep writing. This is crazy stuff and needs to be killed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 2:18 AM

Tarik Akturk in Somerset, Nj said:

What is exactly a "tie" with Gulen? If you say some sort of admiration or respect for someone makes you "tied" to this person, then, yes these guys should be considered as "tied" to Gulen as much as everyone is tied to anybody (thinker, artist, painter, teacher) he or she has a respect and admiration for. As long as they are not taking orders/instructions from Gulen personally, the connection we are talking about here is pretty much a connection of affection, which doesn't qualify as something that demands investigation. If they are acting with direct instructions from Gulen, then anybody claiming this should prove the direct connection.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 9:19 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

I noticed you didn't question if these schools and corporations are doing what they are accused of. As most liberals, or whatever you are, never search for the truth, only use meaningless assertions to downplay the seriousness of the situatiion. If your not an American citizen then don't comment on something that doesn't concern you. If you are a citizen then support the truth and stop making excuses for wrong-doing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 9:50 AM

Tarik Akturk in Somerset, Nj replied:

I am questioning the basic theme of the article here and you avoid responding to it. It is the "tie" with Gulen that makes these schools all sorts of bad things in the eyes of the writer. And I am questioning what the tie in question is. I have my full confidence in the law enforcement figures that if they suspect anything illegal these schools are doing they would go after it. Yet, we don't see anything that amounts a criminal activity. There are questionable practices here and there but nothing that resulted in a conviction in a court of law; most are about incorrect handling of things and these things are plenty to find in other schools and organizations. But, the fundamental element of attack in this article is the "connection" with a preacher/scholar/writer known as Gulen. This connection has to be proven to be a direct one where one party is giving instructions to or acting together with the other party. Otherwise, it is all about character assassination..

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 9:33 AM

Anonygoose in Istanbul replied:

You are taking your orders directly form from the Fat Man himself. Your gulen cult has its own lobbying group in D.C. The Rumi Forum, The Turquoise Counsel, THe American Turkish Coalition. Gulen said to move through the veins of the artery. So you are doing just that. Not to mention your school in Texas The Harmony School of Political Science and Communication (journalism) To create the next generation of leaders and propaganda writers for your cult. All of this at the taxpayers support of course. In Turkey they arrest children and journalists for speaking out . Over here the GUlen cult wants to win them over with ka bobs baklava and free trips, to pass laws and to write favorably of them.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 3:12 PM

Tarik Akturk in Somerset, Nj replied:

some unknown, anonymous people writing against the Gulen movement everywhere with all sorts of accusations. As long as we don't know who they are, their comments don't count. They are free to say anything.

Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 8:59 AM

Lee in Phoenix said:

Mac,

I didn't intend to compare Fox to the formerly respectable MSM, but since you brought it up, I'll concede the lingering numbers of people who still watch the MSM evening news (probably force of lifelong habit) but now it seems this medium is not thought to be so credible as before. Also, to be fair in the comparison, you have to remember the legions of liberals who have bought into the smears of Fox and wouldn't watch if it were the ONLY source available. This must skew the popularity significantly.

My point was, no one holds the news industry accountable to the truth these days. Liberals give them a pass because they're convinced that everybody is a liar, ESPECIALLY Fox.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 9:40 AM

GMT in California said:

Some of your information is wrong. The now closed Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) was never a member of the Gulen movement's charter school network. The full list of schools is at http://turkishinvitations.weebly.com/list-of-us-schools.html

Also, the greatest expansion of these schools happened under the administration of George W. Bush, and the state that has the greatest number of these schools is his own state of Texas. Houston has been a major GM node for years.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 11:32 AM

billy396 in ohio replied:

Ah! So since that school's not on that list, it has nothing to do with any of this nonsense. Your assertion that the greatest expansion of these schools happened under the administration of G.W.Bush means nothing whatsoever. We all know that since Bush had Al-Awlaki at the White House, he must have been right on top of this Muslim takeover scheme. Until this country admits the truth about how these Muslim schools teach their young to hate and lie to any "infidel", we will never begin to protect our country from this invasion. Islam is devoted to eventual world domination, with death to any "infidels" that are left. Read the Koran if you don't believe this fact.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 1:39 PM

Ben Faith in westland MI said:

Freedom of entrepreneurship made us America. Nobody has been blamed for being successful. Congrads to GM if they achieve this without breaking any rules and thanks for their contribution to the US. I do not think one can be blamed for others being inspired from him unless forced or ordered.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 4:40 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

And just how in hell is brainwashing children contributing to the U.S.? Are you that naive or just don't care what happens to this country? Only a liberal would stick their head in the sand and wait for the inevitable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Ben Faith in westland MI replied:

Brainwash is just speculation. You cannot blame people for promoting their ideas as long as no force or outbreaking (terrorism) is involved. If you have a better one, you can compete. If not, blame others for brainwash. We cannot depart from freedom of speech, thinking, and entrepreneurship, again without outbreaking actions.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado replied:

You call yourself Ben Faith. Very American sounding name. Your phrasing of your comment is suspect, though. Understandable since English is not your first language. If you want to fool a native you could stop using the word (?) "outbreaking." All of your wrapping of yourself in freedom of speech and entrepreneurship mean nothing when you hide behind a false name.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 3:51 PM

Anonygoose in Istanbul replied:

Not breaking any of the rules? Then why are they under Five different federal investigations? How about J R Construction that ripped off to the tune of 500Million dollars in Austin Texas? H1-B visa fraud? One thing 60 minutes did not cover was that it was not just English teachers these jerk offs were pulling in from Turkey but LAwyers as well. Having plans of using our legal system as well as our constitution against us as well!! Fat Boy gulen and his goons can kiss my ass. Stick that into your finding facts !! If you think you have a case against me boys then I dare you to bring it on !! You bark bark bark like the dogs you are alot ---when you threatened me before...My answer to you since you are so fond of proverbs and useless quips....Don't ever wound what you can't kill. Bring it on .

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 3:17 PM

Ben Faith in westland MI replied:

Being under investigation does not mean you are guilty. We should all be relaxed and leave the decision to judges, then.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Caglar Hakanaglou in Ankara, Turkiye said:

you are all islamophob and do nothing to better humanity. you are jealous because we can make educations better in amerika and now childrens will be able to attend college.
we have 100%college graduation rate. so what if we love hocaefendi fetos and amerikan teachers worship billy graham, what difference does it make if school is making improvements.
your hate is going to eat you like cancer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 9:09 PM

American Parent in CA said:

I think the purpose of the people who are labeling successful charter schools as Gulen Charter Schools is to defame Fethullah Gulen and successful charter schools. As it was mentioned on CBS's 60 Minutes that nationwide Newsweek Magazine listed some of those two successful charter schools as miracle schools of the nation. They're combining those schools as Gulen Charter Schools, because they're successful. Those people who are actually against good and goodness picking Fethullah Gulen's name as a person to mention with those successful charter schools. Whoever they are, they don't like Fethullah Gulen because of his teachings and positive contribution to humanity in 21st century. In the other hand Turkish oriented people are not the only people operating charter schools. Why are those people picking only charter schools operated by Turkish origin professionals?

Read more to learn more about Fethullah Gulen and Gulen Movement:

http://so-calledgulencharterschools.blogspot.com/

http://gulencharterschoolsmyth.com

http://gulenschools.org

http://fethullahgulenhizmetmovement.blogspot.com/

http://gulen4universalpeace.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 9:47 PM

mombygrace in Laurel, Maryland replied:

And here it is - the required response by someone defending Gulen - in poor grammar, and claiming to be an "American Parent." I've been reading these reports on the Gulen movement for about 2 years now and never has it failed to appear. I'll give you this - your grammar has improved over the years, but it's still lacking some key elements. And your message is always exactly the same, with the same links. Although your name changes. "Concerned parent," "Happy with my school parent," etc. At least that makes it slightly interesting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 12:04 AM

Anonygoose in Istanbul replied:

O boy here we are, Fethullah GUlen shiney damage control boy cult member...pretending to be a happy happy parent on the internets. Oh please Turk boy we are on to that , you go everywhere on the internet when there is an article about your fat little man in Poconaoes. IF there is no tie between the schools and Gulen then why do you prostilatize for him on the comments board. I tell you what you little toad gulen member, print out flyers and pass them out in bus stations or go to door like the Whitness's do . You may have much better luck finding other cabbage heads like yourself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 3:21 PM

Capt. Call in New Mexico said:

It doesn't take a college degree to realize that anything pro-Muslim is Anti-American. Approximately 20,000 terrorist attacks around the world since 9-11-2001 have been committed by Muslims. Their koran calls for worldwide conquest, and specifies death (or jizyah taxes) for
non-Muslims. Wake up, Americans! Islam is evil!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 12:27 AM

Schumann in Dresden said:

This guy writing all time against gulen and he says 5 true thing but 5 important lies... I know his charter schools in germany and his followers and teacher... There is no doubt, there is no violence.. There is very good education..

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 2:54 AM

Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado replied:

Thank you for your lies. I am an infidel who does not believe you or your "prophet." I have seen the way muslim men treat their women and it disgusts me. As an American male I find Islam to be a religion for men with feelings of inadequacy and impotence. A real man does not need to dominate his woman. I am sure that your "god," does not approve (If he even exists).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 4:30 PM