Are Gulen schools connected to the Gulen Movement? More evidence.
June 20, 2010 last updated April 9, 2011
by C.A.S.I.L.I.P.S. - Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools
Gulenists have gone to great lengths to deny the connection between Fethullah Gulen, the Gulen Movement, and the Gulen schools around the world. The most vehement denials appear to be made here in the US with regard to the publicly-funded Gulen charter schools.
Gulen himself is supposed to have lamented: "I'm tired of saying that I don't have any schools."
However, several scholars have noted otherwise:
Dr. Joshua Hendrick University of Oregon
Speaking at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University on December 9, 2010, Hendrick said that the denials by charter school administrators of their schools' affiliation with the Gulen Movement was causing a backlash. A webcast of the talk is available at this link. The event summary states "The followers of Fethullah Gulen, one of Turkey's most famous and controversial religious personalities, attract a great deal of international attention because of the extent of their education network, which now spans over 100 countries and includes approximately 100 charter schools in the United States."
Dr. Helen Rose Ebaugh Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Houston
Speaking at a Gulen conference entitled "Mapping the Gulen Movement: a Multidimensional Approach" in Amsterdam, October 14, 2010, Dr. Ebaugh said "Do you know in Texas we have 25 Gulen schools. They’re called charter schools - totally financed by the state and it’s causing problems." [At this point the session chairman interrupted her.] Dr. Ebaugh's talk can be viewed on youtube.
Prof. William Martin Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University
Prof. Martin was quoted in a PBS article dated Jan 21, 2011: "I think the Harmony schools are an outstanding example of what the Gulen followers have been able to accomplish in particular with respect to education.
Dr. Ian G. Williams Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader in Religious Education, University of Central England, Faculty of Education, Birmingham, UK.
“My way into this area of research, which has taken me in the past three years to the US to visit schools related to Fetullah Gulen…”
“Whilst each institution is independently run, they are reliant upon Turkish origin finance for resources and staffing with Turkish teachers. There is also a shared vision, curriculum, as well as the common human and material resources.
“My encounters within these Gulen schools had begun in the USA – where are both primary/elementary and high schools.”
Source: Paper entitled ‘An Absent Influence? The Nurcu/Fetullah Gulen Movements in Turkish Islam and their potential influence upon European Islam and global education.’ Presented at Gulen Conference held at Rice University, Houston TX November 12-13, 2005
Bayram Balci Director of the Institut Français d'Etudes sur l'Asie Centrale, (IFEAC)
“Fethullah Gülen has very often been interrogated by the Turkish media about his intentions in Central Asia. Before giving his answers, Gülen has usually recalled that the schools do not belong to him, and has repeated that all companies in Turkey and Central Asia, which are supposed to belong to him, are in fact independent. He is indeed correct: officially these schools and companies such as Asya Finans, Zaman and Samanyolu TV are not his own property. However, he has a great influence on them. There are businessmen and intellectuals who accept him as their moral leader – they call him hocaefendi, respected lord – and have undertaken to fulfill his dream for Central Asia.”
Source: “Fethullah Gülen’s Missionary Schools in Central Asia and their Role in the Spreading of Turkism and Islam,” (Religion, State & Society, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2003)
Dr. Jill Carroll Professor, Rice University
“I first heard of the movement in December 2004 when I travelled to Turkey as a guest of the movement to visit several of the schools and the other NGO initiatives there. It was an eye-opening trip and I was very impressed. Upon my return, I began doing research on the movement to learn more.
“I have continued my involvement with them on interfaith initiatives, and have come to see that they are very visible in the U.S. They have interfaith and dialogue initiatives in many cities (a few dozen) all over the country, as well as charter schools in various cities.”
Source: 2009 interview with Margaret Coffey on Australian national radio, available on Gülen’s website.
Samim Akgonul Historian and political scientist, University of Strasbourg, Syracuse University, Researcher at CNRS
“Nor should we forget the Neo-Nurcus, also known as Fethullahcı, a very powerful financial nebula whose leader, Fethullah Gülen, is in voluntary exile in the United States. The defenders of this movement see it as embodying an Islam that is modern, open and moderate. To his opponents, Fethullah Gulen and his activists disguise their true objectives under an image of openness. The fact is that in numerous countries, in particular in central Asia, the Balkans and even in western Europe, the group has its own schools.”
Original French text:
“N’oublions pas non plus les néo-nurcu, autrement dit les Fethullahçı, une nébuleuse financièrement très puissante dont le chef, Fethullah Gülen, se trouve en exil volontaire aux États-Unis. Les défenseurs de ce mouvement estiment incarner un islam moderne, ouvert, modéré. Pour ses opposants, Fethullah Gülen et ses militants dissimulent leurs véritables objectifs sous une image d’ouverture. Le fait est que dans de nombreux pays, notamment en Asie centrale, dans les Balkans et même en Europe occidentale, le groupe possède ses propres écoles.”
Source: S. Akgonul “Islam turc, islams de Turquie : acteurs et réseaux en Europe” Politique étrangère 2005/1, Printemps, p. 35-47.
Further evidence from newspapers, other sources
The New Republic
On Nov 10, 2010, The New Republic published an article by Suzy Hansen on Fethullah Gulen entitled "The Global Imam." Referring to the Texas finals of the Turkish Language Olympiad in Houston, Hansen wrote:
"There’s a decent chance that Dante Villanueva, like many of the other kids in the competition, attended a Gülen charter school. Such schools—many with fuzzy-happy names like Harmony, Magnolia, Pinnacle, and Amity—are only part of the cornucopia of cultural offerings that the movement has brought to the United States."
Note that Pinnacle and Amity are actually names of private Gulen schools, not Gulen charter schools. Later in the article, Hansen states:
"I asked to see a Gülen-affiliated charter school and was brought to the Harmony Science Academy, a K-12 school and one of 33 charter schools operated across Texas by a group called the Cosmos Foundation. (At both Harmony and another charter school I visited in Washington, D.C., people told me they were nervous about having their schools labeled Gülen institutions. At the same time, almost all of the Turkish men I met at these schools said they sympathized with or were followers of Gülen.)"
STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) Austin TX
Report " Islam, Secularism and the Battle for Turkey's Future" Aug 23, 2010
"The Gulenist international footprint comprises 1,000 private schools (according to Gulen estimates) spanning 115 countries, including 35 African countries. These Gulenist schools can be found in small towns everywhere from Ethiopia, Bosnia, Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Azerbaijan – and even the United States, where according to some estimates, the movement runs more than 90 charter public schools in at least 20 states."
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
The following quote is from a September 15, 2010 report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The report, on "Muslim Networks and Movements in Western Europe," had an Appendix entitled "Muslim Networks and Movements in North America."
"The movement also funds a handful of Gülen-inspired private schools in the U.S., including Pinnacle Academy in Oakton, Va. (a Washington, D.C., suburb). These private schools are aimed primarily at the Turkish-American community. In addition, followers of the movement have established several dozen publicly funded charter schools in the U.S. that cater primarily to non-Muslims."
Greg Toppo's August 17, 2010 article "Objectives of charter schools with Turkish ties questioned" contained the following lines:
"Top administrators say they have no official ties to Gülen. And Gülen himself denies any connection to the schools. Still, 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. ... In many cases, charter school board members also serve as dialogue group leaders."
"While the Turkish-affiliated schools disavow any connection to the Gülen Movement, Gülen himself maintains in legal filings that he's the inspiration behind their growth."
Le Monde (French newspaper)
An article about the Gulen Movement which appeared on December 30, 2009 in the French newspaper Le Monde stated that:
"The organization is particularly well established in the United States, where it has dozens of schools and foundations and has close relationships with Christian universities."
(In the original French: "L'organisation est particulièrement bien implantée aux Etats-Unis, où elle compte des dizaines d'écoles et de fondations et entretient d'étroites relations avec des universités chrétiennes.")
Berkley Center Interview with Ali Yurtsever (a.k.a. Hasan Ali Yurtsever)
A document entitled "Practitioners, Faith Based Organizations and Global Development Work: A Discussion with Ali Yurtsever, Rumi Forum, November 23, 2007" was based on "a conversation between Ali Yurtsever and Katherine Marshall (Berkley Center)" that "took place in Washington DC as part of the preparatory work for a December 17 conference at Georgetown University’s Doha Campus. The conference is part of a joint Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and Luce Foundation project on religion and international relations."
In this document, Yurtsever makes multiple references to "Gulen schools." Here are some excerpts:
"When I finished university, I became a teacher in a Gulen high school in Izmir..."
"Fatih university in Istanbul is one of seven Gulen universities in the world (the others are in Central Asia)."
"In Gulen schools we often teach values that are inspired by religion (with Islam as its foundation), without explicitly linking them to the religion."
"The movement is active today in about 100 countries, with members there. We are working in many African countries and there are about 50 schools there. ... Our aim is to open schools everywhere."
"There are approximately 15 Gulen schools in the US. Many of the teachers are from Turkey but for subjects like history and geography local teachers are hired.".
When asked about the role of Fethullah Gulen, Yurtsever's responses included the following lines:
"His leadership is very present."
"It is Fethullah Gulen who advises on the paths for the movement’s expansion."
In the interview, Yurtsever leaves no doubt as to his affiliation with the Gulen Movement: "Through my education and associations with friends I was thus part of the Gulen Movement from an early age." He was President of the Rumi Forum, a main lobbying arm of the Gulen Movement in Washington, at the time of this interview. Yurtsever is also on the governing board of the Chicago Math and Science Academy, a Gulen charter school, and continues to be very active in the Movement.