Fethullah Gulen’s Missionary Charter Schools Coming under Increasing Scrutiny in the United States and around the World

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Aland Mizell
  • 26/02/2011 00:00:00

Global Outreach

Gulenists’ missionary schools are active from Afghanistan to the Sudan, from Cambodia to France, and, in the US, from Texas to Alaska. Some people have already started questioning the movement’s motives, distorted truth, secretive global agenda, as well as lack of accountability and transparency, so that the movement itself is coming under increasing scrutiny. In the US many parents have become suspicious of a lack of transparency, false information about the mission of the schools, and adjusted reports on financial resources. In the global arena, governments as well as many scholars and journalists suspect that the schools have more that just education on their agenda, especially in Uzbekistan. Some Central Asian countries’ education authorities have ordered Gulen’s missionary schools to scrap the history of religion from their curriculum. Many of his schools that operated under the Slim Corporation in Uzbekistan have been closed due to their hidden agenda and falsified records because the Uzbek government is highly suspicious of fundamentalism there. Another country that has been concerned is Tajikistan; the government is worried that the schools spread a brand of Pan Turkism in the vein of the Ottoman Empire. They fear that Gülen’s missionary schools are promoting the Ottomanist influence in their country. However, so far only the Uzbek government has taken a firm stance against Gulen’s movement.

With clarity some authorities see behind the façade. The Uzbek government in Tashkent has expressed its suspicion that Turkish school graduates have been embedded in government offices and other crucial institutions and from there use their positions to weaken the secular government as they did in Turkey. Under President Islam Karimov, the Uzbek government has arrested some of the graduates from Gulenists’ schools putting them in jails. When the government closed most of the schools in 1994-95, Gulenists were highly nervous because they were afraid this could be replicated in other Central Asian countries. Central Asia was integral to success for the Gülen movement to have economic and social power. When his followers immigrated to Central Asian countries, they considered themselves like the companions of Muhammad (sahabe, followers of Muhammad) going on their Hijrat (migration of Muhammad from Mecca to Yasrib). Such packaging works. By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, a leader can make people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as heaven. As masters of this strategy, Gulenists use the false propaganda that their teachers and schools are the best in the world; however, in reality they are not. Most of the teachers (many of whom did not have teaching certificates), principals, and dorm directors were not qualified, because they were kicked out of the Turkish military since it feared they would try to replace the secular system, or they graduated from theology schools but were unable to find jobs in the secular government in Turkey. Gulenists made the castaways move to Central Asian countries. Because of a lack of accountability since they were newly independent countries from the Soviet Union, these stan-countries did not have any way to check the schools to see if they were legitimate. If they could have assessed them properly, they would have found that most of the teachers, principals, and belletmen (dorm counselors) were subject to deportation back to Turkey, but Central Asian countries, except for the Uzbek government, did not vet them properly. However, a few of these countries became alarmed because Fethullah Gülen opened so many schools and universities, business companies, and language centers that the officials saw this as a massive invasion from Turkey. They are afraid now that Turks have been colonizing them since the Soviets left power and continue to do so today. The success of the program, however, resulted from the organization’s selection of intelligent student, not because they were unrivaled in educational excellence. In addition, they knew that if they were successful in Turkey, they could use the model for a platform globally.

This past year further allegations against the schools raise questions about their students’ performance. In Turkey a Central National Examination, the KPSS, is required for teacher appointments to public schools; more than 300 people got a perfect score on 120 questions on the education science section, signaling a problem with the security of the exam. The case went to court because many people claimed Gulenists stole the answer key, a charge still under investigation. Some wanted to close their schools, but the machinery somehow managed to keep them going. However, last month Gulenists were given notice that they could not be successful in Uzbekistan when the Uzbek government finally decided to close the remaining school, the Tashkent Ulugbek International School, which has been operating since 1995 under the Slim Corporation. Despite their concerted efforts to portray the Gulenist schools as superlative, some authorities are learning the truth. The Gülen movement, however, solicits famous people to speak on its behalf in advance of charges.

High Profile Personalities as Advocates

Using famous personalities to his advantage even then, in the early 1990s Gülen was crafty in secretly sending the former Turkish president Turgut Özal to Central Asia to befriend the head of states to ensure they would not fear the schools and to claim that these schools were bridges between Turkey and Central Asian countries, indeed sharing a brotherhood. Of course, even President Turgut Özal was secretly affiliated with Gülen. He would not directly communicate with him, but rather had a middleman to deliver messages to his religious leader, because Gülen knew he had been under surveillance by the Turkish secular government and the military at that time. Another significant contribution that President Özal made to legitimize and advance the movement came from his visit to Gülen missionary schools in Central Asia. If the president of Turkey visited the schools, it meant that the presidents of the countries would visit the schools as well, presenting themselves in support as a helping brother rather than decrying the schools as a threat. Great liars are generally great magicians as well, so movement activists, then as now, use others with high profiles to propagate their work. As long as individuals do not take a stand against Gülen or his cadre, criticize them, or object to their methods, these personalities enhance the image of the movement and particularly of the schools.

The most dangerous untruth is distorted truth. Now they are using the same tactic of enlisting glittering personalities in the West and in the US. They lure academics, politicians, and some religious leaders who have nothing to declare except their genuine ignorance to declare that Gülen schools are first-class or that they are tolerant and respectful of others’ views. The organization gives conferences, inviting only the supporters and never the detractors or those who criticize the movement. A quick perusal of any conference proceedings will demonstrate that opponents are glaringly omitted from the meetings. Why? The goal of Gulenists’ propaganda is no longer to transform public opinion but to arouse an active and secret global agenda. Unfortunately, they lure advocates who unwittingly or ignorantly advance this agenda.

The greatest ignorance is to reject something when you know nothing about it. There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action. Amazingly, some self- proclaimed scholars in the US, as well as politicians and businessmen, think the Gülen movement is committed to promote tolerance and peace and do not accept that it has a goal to raise up another Ottoman Empire of Islamic States. The reason that many Americans have not heard about the Gülen movement is because the members move clandestinely. Their tactic is to open schools, build Turkish cultural houses, initiate interfaith dialogues, finance trips to Turkey, and bring graduate students as well as businesses to the US, with only one purpose-- to promote Gulen’s view of Islam which is to bring back a global Ottomanist Islamic State. To be able to do that requires social, political, economical, and military power, which is precisely what Gulenists are aiming for.

The Tenets of Gulenists

Three principles are very important for Gulenists; (1) keeping a secret (in Turkish sir tutmak), (2) practicing prudence (tedbirli olmak), and (3) calling upon the conspiracy theory (komplo). Every follower of Gülen must know these three principles to succeed as a devotee. But, of course, Gulenists believe that they are the chosen ones and that God is on their side, accounting further, in their view, for their success. First, the leaders teach how to keep secrets and not to tell the truth “anywhere or everywhere.” Although also advocating truth-telling, Islam justifies lying in certain contexts: to settle arguments, to safeguard a life of either one’s self or another Muslim, to defend one’s honor, to succeed in combat or jihad, or to spread Islam. To this later end, Gülen says that his followers “have to know the truth, but do not have to tell the truth anywhere or everywhere.” Thus, lying and deception ("taqiyya") are permissible and sometimes obligatory. Gülen teaches that “guarding a secret is the same as guarding one’s chastity. Those who keep a secret, whether their personal one or a friend’s, keep themselves chaste. Conversely, those who spread secrets damage their honor and reputation by leaving themselves unguarded. If a follower wants to tell someone a secret, he should be sure that he can trust the recipient with his honor. That person must be as meticulous about keeping the secret as about retaining his or her honor. An unreliable person, one who is ignorant of the value of chastity, should not be entrusted with keeping the secret.” How much do Gulenists tell politicians in the US or tell those who have written articles or books praising his movement? Gülen continues propagating these underlying propositions about the importance of keeping secret the details of his many important affairs because they can be protected only if they are undisclosed. Having studied secrecy, he knows the advantages. Often when the involved parties do not keep certain matters secret, no progress is achieved. In addition serious risk might confront those who are involved, particularly if the matter concerns delicate issues of the entity’s life and its continuation. If a state cannot protect is secrets from its enemies, it cannot develop. If any army reveals its strategy to its antagonist, it cannot attain victory. If key workers are won over by the competitors, their employers cannot succeed. The secret is the bearer’s slave, but the bearer becomes its slave if he discloses it. The necessity of secrecy is a tenet of the Gülen movement. Gülen explains to his followers that they must never give away all of their secrets. Those who freely publicized the secret of their hearts drag themselves and their nation, or their organization, toward an inevitable downfall.

Secondly, prudence and safety measures are important resources for reaching the goal, according to the Gülen tenets. It is a serious error to be careless because eventually recklessness might cause the individual to fail or to be accused of indiscretions by others. Clever people envisage all possible drawbacks and problems before determining a solution or a way to deal with them when they arise. As a traditional maxim expresses it, “It is better to catch a burglar before he or she breaks in to your house.” Gülen reasons that, like many other bad habits, trying to manipulate the masses with deceitful crowd-control techniques is a gift to us from abroad. “We reject such practices because they remind us of a hen announcing loudly that it has laid an egg. Instead we prefer the slow peaceful road even it if means a longer travail affected by more sorrow“ (Gülen, Pearl Wisdom). Gülen also believes that premature acts could cost them dearly. Instead he teaches his devotees that if they act prematurely without total power --social, political and military might., the enemy could crush them down, and they will look like Pakistan, Algeria, and other Muslim countries. That is why Gulen’s second most important principle is “tedbir” or prudence, in other words, being cautious.

Part of their prudence is dictated in outward appearance. They dress fashionably, go to the parties, look secular, listen to secular music, and even do not pray all the five daily prayers but only the farz. Retaining the farz is important so as not to alienate their base, so that they can be accepted by the community and slowly they can get power outside of it. They move wisely, slowly, and cautiously, believing that they who run fast stumble. Avoiding conflict guards against controversy, so that the organization never lets anyone speak against it, but instead, uses the conspiracy theory to discredit the critic.

Thus, the third tactic is not letting people speak against the movement and threatening to sue them if they do. A little homework will reveal that, for example, in Turkey, the consequences for those who speak against Gulen and his movement often is a jail sentence. This charge, using the worn technique of defaming the critic, has been constantly trotted out in Turkey. There, if a brave individual denounces them, they label it slander and put him or her in prison, but they cannot do that in the West. Even in the US, however, they threaten to sue those who expose them. Now in the US a rising wave of criticism of the charter schools receives the same treatment: threat of law suits, expulsion of students or teachers, or labels of conspirators. If one group charges the organization with tax evasion, the leaders cry conspiracy. If another faction is alarmed at the presence of Turkish Islamic curricula and the omission of historical content such as the holocaust, the charter school leaders shout conspiracy. If yet another contingent marches for union options, they hire the best union-busting attorney to break up “the plot.”

The Danger

“The man who fights dragons too long, then becomes a dragon himself,” Nietzsche claims. It is always good to fight for injustice, intolerance, hate, and prejudice, but if the fighter does not apply the counterparts of those principles behind closed door but rather applies a hidden agenda until he accomplishes his goals, then he has become unjust, intolerant, and evil himself. It is often the case that the Gulenists use the same methods against their enemies that the enemies used to fight them. When an opponent stretches the truth, they will snap back. A lie may take care of the present, but it has no future. People no longer believe their games and that is the source of their trouble today. The Salt Lake Tribune published an article that first exposed Gulen’s missionary charter schools and said, however, that principals of the charter schools denied any connection with Gülen, and that later parents of students in the schools became suspicious of their motives and lack of accountability, which led them to investigate the schools. However, when I started writing about Gulen’s secret agenda and his activities in the US and around the world a couple of years ago, not one site or commenter knew of Gülen, especially in the US. One time I asked Robert Gates, since he was a former CIA agent, what he thought about Gulen’s movement and Gülen. He replied that it seems they look like saints. Observers all see the mask but not the spirit behind them. Now when a searcher types “charter schools and Gülen,” he will see a grass root movement asking to close the schools and not to renew the licenses because of their lack of professionalism and accountability, and their enigmatic agenda. Gülen knows that the danger of truth is coming to the schools and that is why he used some members of the Texas Senate to pass a resolution honoring him. However, no voice of opposition was heard from the other Senators in Austin. The Gulenists know that Americans are now pursuing the truth about them and are demanding transparency and disclosure of their hidden agenda. Now, they can think that it is not a danger to be affiliated with him, pointing to the honor he received from the Texas legislature. Their goal is not to be honored just in the State of Texas but in all the states of the US; soon other states will follow. Because many Turks somehow believe that there are numerous enemies with power in the world and in their own society who play tricks in order to weaken the organization (or the nation), they discredit the truth and move away from it. Since the idea of conspiracies is embedded in the Turkish culture, Gulenists very often charge the detractors of being in collusion whenever something comes against them. However, to be successful in the West, they will use the label of “Islamophobia” as a subset of their conspiracy theory. Anyone who sounds the clarion call is labeled “an Islamophobe.” Fear of being branded that silences truth-tellers as they fall into the movement’s trap. Yet, today across the US many with courage and conviction are researching the missionary charter schools and finding their raison d’être: arming the next generation with a Turkish brand of Islam to rise up a new global Ottoman state.

The following is a brief list of some of the sites that raise concerns about the Gülen movement in the US.

Http://www.gulencharterschools.weebly.com factual documentation

http://www.charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com complete list of American schools

http://www.charterschoolwatchdog.com the perspective of a former teacher

http://www.gulencharterschoolsusa.blogspot.com

http://www.harmonyparenttruth.blogspot.com

Dr. Aland Mizell is a regular KurdishMedia com writer and is with the MCI. You may reach the author via email at: aland_mizell1@hotmail.com

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Aland Mizell
  • 26/02/2011 00:00:00