Fulton Science Academy students attended program at overtly Gulenist, religious school in Turkey
On June 18, 2009 and June 20, 2009, Samanyolu and Zaman (two major Gulenist media outlets in Turkey) reported on a summer program attended by Fulton Science Academy students at a Gulen school in Turkey. Fulton Science Academy is a publicly-funded Gulen charter school in Georgia. The school at which the program took place, the Basari Private Elementary School in the Turkish town of Tavsanli, has a Facebook page with overt references to Fethullah Gulen, as well as religious references.
Following is an English translation of the article as it appeared in Zaman (the original Turkish can be read here):
(Note: the article seems to have misprinted Fulton Principal Kenan Sener's name. While this could have been accidental, it might also fit in with the pattern of minor misspellings and alterations of names we have noted among Gulenists, which are numerous enough to suggest a deliberate effort to make tracking them difficult.)
U.S. Students Travel Overseas to Learn Turkish
Zaman, June 20, 2009
A group of students from Atlanta, a city in the U.S., came to the Tavsanli District of Kutahya Province to participate in a training and research program that includes Turkish language study.
Twenty-four students from Fulton Science Academy of Atlanta, Georgia (USA) came to Tavsanli at the invitation of the Basari Private Elementary School located in the district. Secondary education students who are accompanied by school principal Kenan Seker [sic] were greeted with much enthusiasm in the city and now study the Turkish language six hours a day at the Basari Private Elementary School. Besides the language training, visiting students also tour the district for their research and make friends. As a part of the project, the group visited Tavsanli Chamber of Commerce and Industry where Chamber Chairman Davut Efe delivered a presentation on the social and economic structure of the district. Mr. Efe said development and publicity go hand in hand and added that learning about the Turkish people would be an important experience for the visiting students in their future lives. Kenan Seker [sic] says the students are very happy with how they are treated in Tavsanli, and that the program will last for 20 days.
The Basari school website contains an article dated June 7, 2010 that apparently is about another group of Fulton students studying at the Basari school.
The Facebook page of the Basari Private Elementary School has links to other sites, including: Zaman (the newspaper run by Gulen's followers); herkul.org, a website known for publishing Gulen's messages, including religious ones; a religious publication started by Gulen and his followers in 1988 called "New Hope Journal" (Yeni Umit Dergisi),; a site called "Forgiveness Seekers;" and a site called "Discover Quran."
The school's Facebook page also shows a number of posts made by the school itself (the school logo appears as the avatar). These posts have both religious content and content promoting Fethullah Gulen. We present some samples below, which are quoted verbatim from Facebook; the particularly relevant parts have been boldfaced by us:
"Tavşanlı Özel BAŞARI İlköğretim Okulu Narrated
Abu Huraira: I heard Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) saying, "If there was a river at the door of anyone of you and he took a bath in it five times a day would you notice any dirt on him?" They said, "Not a trace of dirt would be left." The Prophet added, "That is the example of...."
"Tavşanlı Özel BAŞARI İlköğretim Okulu Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi'nin Bilinmeyen Bir Yönü: Ders ve Tedris Metodu Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi'nin Bilinmeyen Bir Yönü: Ders ve Tedris Metodu -2 Yeni Ümit Dergisinde cok onemli iki yazi yayinlandi. Okumak icin:
[Here, a photo is shown of the New Hope Journal, and the reader is directed to the link to this journal's website.]
"Tavşanlı Özel BAŞARI İlköğretim Okulu Sahl ibn Sa'd reports: "Gabriel came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: 'O Muhammad, live as long as you like, for you are to die. Do whatever deed you wish, for you are to be rewarded. Love whomever you wish, for you are to be parted (from them). And know that the honour of the believer is in the night praye...
"Tavşanlı Özel BAŞARI İlköğretim Okulu Who are the best amongst people ?Uthman bin `Affan (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said,..."The best amongst you is the one who learns the Qur'an and teaches it.''[Al-Bukhari].
"Tavşanlı Özel BAŞARI İlköğretim Okulu Allah says: “Only in the remembrance of Allah can the heart find peace" [Qur’an, Ch 13 V :28]
"Tavşanlı Özel BAŞARI İlköğretim Okulu "Paradise abides at the feet of the Mothers."-The Prophet Muhammad (saws)-
"Tavşanlı Özel BAŞARI İlköğretim Okulu yeni sohbet herkulde yayinlandi. bamteli.
"Soru: Namaza karşı ülfeti kırıp onu tam duyabilme ve ikame edebilme düşüncesiyle son haftalarda Zât-ı âlînizin işareti üzerine hutbede birkaç paragraf da olsa namazdan bahsediliyor. Fakat çaresi aranan hastalığın umumi olduğu görülüyor. Bütün müminlerin namazı namaz olarak"
[note the word “namaz” here, which is Turkish for “prayer”]
In publications about Gulen schools, it is often remarked that these schools are not at all religious. Here, for example, are the words of Dr. Greg Barton (formerly of Deakin University, now at Monash Unversity in Australia) in his article contribution to the proceedings of a 2005 Gulen conference: "One of the most surprising aspects of the schools is how completely secular they are. In every country in which they operate they follow local state curricula. They teach no religious subjects and there is little about them, save for an emphasis on character and moral development, which could be found in any good school, and a degree of social-conservatism reflected in dress and cross-gender socializing, to mark them as schools supported by an Islamic movement."
It is clear from the Facebook page of the Basari Private Elementary School that Barton's assessment does not apply, and that the school has an overtly Islamic character and promotes Gulen's teachings. The fact that a publicly-funded charter school in the US organized a program for its students at this school suggests that they crossed the line of church-state separation. More disturbingly, the parents of the Fulton students were likely not informed of the religious and Gulenist leanings of this school. Even if the students were never subject to any organized indoctrination during the program, we believe that parents should have been fully informed of the orientation of this school before their children participated.