While the mainstream media continues to promote Turkey as a successful example of the coexistence of Islam, democracy, and economic stability — referring to the country as “a bridge between East and West” and a potential asset to the European Union — this view couldn’t be farther from reality.
In fact, Turkey has descended farther into the abyss of Islamization as it continues to refuse to acknowledge its genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, Greek Christians, and other minorities; denies its decades-long repression of its Kurdish population; and persists in its illegal occupation of the Republic of Cyprus. Islamic instruction, under the guise of religious culture and ethics classes, has become mandatory in state schools, further signaling the demise of secularism in Turkey. Meanwhile, veiling, an emblem of Islamization, has increased significantly within the last decade.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s public statements have also defied this optimistic view of Turkey as a “moderate” Islamic state. In 2007, he was quoted inMilliyet commenting on the term “moderate Islam” to describe his party, the AKP: “These descriptions are ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that’s it.” On democracy, Erdoğan has said, “Democracy is like a street car; you ride it as far as you need, and then you get off.” About the function of mosques, he said, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”
It is clear that Turkey is reverting to its historical Ottoman Empire-inspired Islamic fundamentalism. At the same time, it is pursuing a stealth or cultural jihad against the West, in large part through the efforts of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic theologian. Gülen has spawned the worldwide Gülen Movement, which pretends to espouse “understanding and respect” but in truth is dedicated to spreading the beliefs and influence of Islam and Turkey, especially through creation of Gülen schools, which now number more than 130 in 26 states in America.
Fethullah Gülen, profiled in a recent CBS 60 Minutes segment, “The Challenge of the Empty Chair: Fethullah Gülen,” was referred to in the broadcast segment as the “most important Muslim cleric in the world today or at least one of the top two or three.” In fact, Gülen is believed to be the driving force behind the ruling party in Turkey — the AKP — that has spurred Islamization. The eponymous movement Gülen spawned controls the majority of preparatory schools in Turkey, and graduates have been strategically placed in positions of power and figure prominently in the police force, the media, and the courts. Anyone critical of Gülen has been arrested. In fact, the author of a book about the Gülen Movement was arrested last year and a Turkish newspaper office raided in an effort to destroy all copies.
M. Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor at the University of Utah and astute observer of the Gülen movement, states that “its main goal has been the Islamization of Turkish society.” Bayram Balci, another Turkish scholar who has studied the Gülen schools, said, “Fethullah’s aim is the Islamization of Turkish nationality and the Turcification of Islam in foreign countries.”
The 60 Minutes segment glowingly described Gülen’s teachings of tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and education and touted the alleged worldwide success of his movement. Although the portrayal of Fetullah Gülen and his movement was mostly adulatory, it wasn’t a complete whitewash of a highly controversial figure of questionable motives who is believed to be, in large measure, responsible for transforming Turkey from a secular state to an anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic Islamic one. Gülen, in partnership with Erdoğan, has made a concerted effort to undermine and weaken the military, the traditional guardian of what was purported to be a secular democracy; take over the police, media, and courts; and suppress academics and journalists who criticize the regime. Reportedly, Gülen owns TV stations, banks, and trade associations and is worth over $25 billion.
60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl praised the academic success of Gülen schools, of which there are more than 1,000 worldwide, including 130 schools in 26 states in the United States, representing the largest collection of charter schools in the country. Gülen was able to establish his charter school network in America fully funded by public money. In the CBS program, Stahl emphasized Gülen’s commitment to education, with a special focus on math and science, as well as the stellar performance of the schools. She reported that Turkish teachers are brought in on visas — a practice defended on camera by a Gülen spokesman who stated that the United States needs skilled teachers in math and science. Ironically, Turkey ranks far below the United States in math and science. Many of the Turkish teachers at the taxpayer-funded Gülen schools have poor English skills and questionable teaching credentials and experience. As was shown on camera, a significant number of them are listed in a school directory as teaching English — hardly a rationale to import teachers to take jobs away from Americans. Information contained in visas for applicants to teach at Gülen schools in America listed no prior teaching experience for most of the applicants, with many having themselves attended Gülen schools.
As for their reported academic excellence, the Gülen schools show high performance on school-administered state tests but lackluster results on college admission tests such as SAT and ACT. The Gülen schools’ SAT average score of 1026 falls short of the 1100 considered to indicate college readiness. Former Gülen schoolteachers have reported state testing violations, lack of test monitors, and unqualified individuals administering tests.
Many parents are unaware of any connection of the schools to the Gülen Movement and are unwittingly supporting it. There have been complaints of hyped advertising that mislead prospective students and their parents about class size, graduation rates, and college acceptances, especially since most of the schools lack a 12th grade, and the majority of students graduate from other schools.
In the CBS special, Stahl dismisses complaints about the Gülen schools advancing an Islamic agenda in America with the baiting question of “So do you think there’s a little bit of Islamophobia involved?” Yet a Washington Post blog post recently reported that an article in a popular Turkish daily newspaper quoted Gülen school insiders who outlined the U.S. Gülen schools’ goals: “through education, we can teach tens of thousands of people the Turkish language and our national anthem, introduce them to our culture and win them over. And this is what the Gülen Movement is striving for.”
Stahl claims that CBS’s investigations revealed that Islam is not taught at all at the schools and emphasizes that this would constitute an illegal practice in public schools. Federal guidelines prohibit schools from promoting religious instruction for a particular group as well as teacher participation in any prayer practice.
In a 2008 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a former teacher from a Gülen K-8 charter school in Minnesota reported that students pray regularly, led by a prostrating imam; celebrate Islamic religious holidays; perform ritual washing; eat halal food; and receive religious instruction from the Muslim American Society, a known affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, the school shares space with a mosque, and its director is an imam. Although the school defends the practice by saying that all prayer is “voluntary” and “student-led,” this appears to be a whitewash of actual practices. While it is technically true that Islamic studies are taught after school, school buses don’t leave school grounds until the class is over, and Islamic studies assignments are listed on the blackboard along with assignments for other subjects.
The 60 Minutes special mentioned that the Gülen schools were being investigated by U.S. authorities. In fact, they are being investigated by the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and the FBI due to alleged kickbacks of salaries to the movement and immigration fraud. One former teacher married to a Turkish teacher discovered that her husband was required to cash his check and give back 40% to the movement. Posts on a charter school watchdog blog translated Gülen contracts, which indicate that Turkish employees must give back cash from their salaries as well as tax refunds and state retirement funds.
The Gülen schools are among the nation’s largest users of H1B visas, used to import foreign workers with technical skills to fill job shortages of qualified American workers. Parents have alleged that certified, competent American teachers have been replaced at higher salaries by uncertified Turkish men who spoke limited English. They claim that the schools discriminate against women and non-Turkish teachers and that Gülen teachers receive preferential treatment.
Clearly, the United States should not be using taxpayer dollars to fund a network of charter schools engaged in a kind of “education jihad” in America. The movement is bolstered by the deception of providing a purely secular quality education lacking in America and mostly favorable reports like the recent 60 Minutes segment, but American students and their parents should not be partners in an enterprise that serves the Gülen Movement’s ideological and strategic goals to indoctrinate and Islamicize Americans.
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