So, let me ask you: how would you feel, given the current economic state of our country and the sadly under-funded state of our educational system, about an Islamic school getting $100 million a year in taxpayer funds?
Why is the United States spending $100 million a year in taxpayer funds to support a system of schools built by an organization following one of the world’s “most important Muslim figures”?
I don’t remember voting on this, do you? In fact, I don’t recall even hearing about this organization being discussed. Evidently someone in our government quietly OK’d the funds and chose to support this organization quietly, without public discussion.
Here’s what brought this situation to my attention:
I recently drove by a large complex of buildings, topped with a golden dome. It’s called â€œHarmony School of Nature and Athleticsâ€.
I notice it has a high, wrought-iron fence all the way around it.
Right away, as I drive past this complex of buildings, I am getting red flags and alarms. This morning I looked it up. It’s an interesting-sounding organization: charter school, focus on math and science, that’s got to be good, right?
Wonder who built it?
“The Cosmos Foundation”
Oh, well, that sounds fine, very scientific-sounding right?
I am still skeptical.
I dig around a bit and find: “Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas”
So, who is funding “The Cosmos Foundation”? Turns out to be a group called “The Gulen Movement”, started by a Turkish guy named Fethullah GÃ¼len – “one of the world’s most important Muslim figures”.
Why is the United States spending $100 million a year in taxpayer funds to support a system of schools built by an organization following one of the world’s most important Muslim figures?
Did some digging in Wikipedia, and the guy claims to be “moderate”. In his favor, he was the first Muslim Leader to openly condemn the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12th, 2001, just the day after the attack, and stated that `A muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true muslim`.
On the other hand, he is still in many ways a proponent of traditional Islam – and he left Turkey partly because he was advocating a more Islamic, less secular, system in Turkey.
His views on women’s roles are “progressive” but “modern professional women in Turkey still find his ideas far from acceptable.”GÃ¼len says the coming of Islam saved women, who “were absolutely not confined to their home and…never oppressed” in the early years of the religion.
GÃ¼len and his followers have put out lots of talk about tolerance and mutual respect for “people of the book”. GÃ¼len is not very fond of atheism: “He says the Muslim community is obliged to conduct interfaith dialogue with the “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians). But this does not extend to other religions and atheists.
In fact he appears to be intolerant of atheism, as in 2004 GÃ¼len commented to the effect that terrorism was as despicable as atheism. In a follow-up interview he explained he did not intend to equate atheists and murderers; rather, he wanted to highlight the fact that according to Islam both were destined to suffer eternal punishment.”
Here’s where I come down on the whole deal: I don’t trust them.
It’s similar to when I find a piece of direct mail in my mailbox that has been designed to look like a bill or an important official document but when I open it, I find that it is someone trying to get my money. I rip those up and never even consider doing business with that company, ever.
If you start our relationship by trying to deceive me, we are done, you don’t get a second chance because you have shown that I cannot trust you.
I have heard too much about “taqiyya”, the Islamic policy of lying to and deceiving infidels as a way to increase the reach and influence of Islam. Something about this smells bad to me. I have a bad feeling about this. Islam is a political/religious system, a group of people who follow a “prophet” who said, “War is deceit”.
How many other inroads are being made by Islam that American citizens are going to find out about only after the fact? Who is authorizing these developments? Who is going to hold them accountable?
Here’s a synopsis of the several articles and Wikipedia stuff I found, if you want more detail:
Charter Schools Tied to Turkey Grow in Texas
Followers of the Gulen movement, a Turkish religious group, helped finance the Turquoise Center, a community center in Houston.
It was one of six big charter school contracts TDM and another upstart company have shared since January 2009, a total of $50 million in construction business. Other companies scrambling for work in a poor economy wondered: How had they qualified for such big jobs so fast?
The secret lay in the meteoric rise and financial clout of the Cosmos Foundation, a charter school operator founded a decade ago by a group of professors and businessmen from Turkey. Operating under the name Harmony Schools, Cosmos has moved quickly to become the largest charter school operator in Texas, with 33 schools receiving more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds.
â€œThe Gulen Movementâ€ (from Wikipedia)
Muhammed Fethullah GÃ¼len is a Turkish preacher, author, educator, and Muslim scholar living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania (USA). He is the founder and leader of the GÃ¼len movement. GÃ¼len is characterized in the media as one of the world’s most important Muslim figures.
GÃ¼len teaches an Anatolian version of traditional mainstream Islam, deriving from Said Nursi’s teachings and modernizing them. GÃ¼len supports interfaith dialogue among the people of the book, and has initiated such dialogue with the Vatican and some Jewish organizations.
GÃ¼len is actively involved in the societal debate concerning the future of the Turkish state, and Islam in the modern world. In the Turkish context GÃ¼len appears relatively conservative and religiously observant. For example, he supports the view that women should wear headscarfs, and his female followers usually wear them.
Comparing GÃ¼len to leaders in the Nur movement, Hakan Yavuz said, “GÃ¼len is more Turkish nationalist in his thinking. Also, he is somewhat more state-oriented, and is more concerned with market economics and neo-liberal economic policies.”
His pro-business stance has led some outsiders to dub his theology an Islamic version of Calvinism.
In 1998 GÃ¼len emigrated to the United States, ostensibly for health problems (he suffers from diabetes and heart disease) but arguably in anticipation of being tried over remarks (aired after his emigration to US) which seemed to favor an Islamic state.
In June 1999, after Gulen had left Turkey video tapes were sent to some Turkey TV stations with recordings of Gulen saying, “the existing system is still in power. Our friends who have positions in legislative and administrative bodies should learn its details and be vigilant all the time so that they can transform it and be more fruitful on behalf of Islam in order to carry out a nationwide restoration. However, they should wait until the conditions become more favorable. In other words, they should not come out too early.”
His teachings differ in emphasis from those of other mainstream, moderate Islamic scholars in two respects, both based on his interpretations of particular verses of the Quran:
(1) he teaches that the Muslim community has a duty of service (Turkish: hizmet) to the â€œcommon goodâ€ of the community and the nation and to Muslims and non-Muslims all over the world; and
(2), the Muslim community is obliged to conduct interfaith dialogue with the “People of the Book” (Jews and Christians). Although this does not extend to other religions and atheists.
In fact he appears to be intolerant of atheism, as in 2004 GÃ¼len commented to the effect that terrorism was as despicable as atheism. In a follow-up interview he explained he did not intend to equate atheists and murderers; rather, he wanted to highlight the fact that according to Islam both were destined to suffer eternal punishment.
GÃ¼len favors cooperation between followers of different religions (this would also include different forms of Islam, such as Sunnism vs. Alevism in Turkey) as well as religious and secular elements within society. He has been described as “very critical of the regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia” due to their undemocratic, sharia-based systems of government.
GÃ¼lenâ€™s Islamic teaching and practice was developed in the forge of Turkeyâ€™s 20th century project to create a secular state, as initiated by the Turkish nationalist revolution of AtatÃ¼rk.
That project became an ideologically â€œsecularistâ€ one, locked in symbiotic conflict with an â€œIslamistâ€ reaction.
Arising from that context, GÃ¼len has criticized a politics rooted in a philosophically reductionist materialism. But he has also argued that Islam and democracy are compatible and he encourages greater democracy within Turkey.
He also argues that a secular approach that is not anti-religious and allows for freedom of religion and belief is compatible with Islam.
According to Aras and Caha, GÃ¼len’s views on women are “progressive” but “modern professional women in Turkey still find his ideas far from acceptable.” GÃ¼len says the coming of Islam saved women, who “were absolutely not confined to their home and…never oppressed” in the early years of the religion. He feels that western-style feminism, however, is “doomed to imbalance like all other reactionary movements…being full of hatred towards men.”
GÃ¼len condemns any kind of terrorism.
He warns against the phenomenon of arbitrary violence and aggression against civilians, that is terrorism, which has no place in Islam and which militates against its very foundational tenets of reverence for human life and for all of God’s creation.
Fethullah Gulen was the first Muslim Leader to openly condemn the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He wrote a condemnation article in the Washington Post on September 12th, 2001, just the day after the attack, and stated that `A muslim can not be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true muslim`
“GÃ¼len lamented the deplorable hijacking of Islam by terrorists who claimed to be Muslims and acting out of religious conviction.
He counseled that “One should seek Islam through its own sources and in its own representatives throughout history; not through the actions of a tiny minority that misrepresent it.
In Lester Kurtz’s (of University of Texas, Austin) words, “One of the most striking operationalizations of Gulen’s fusion of commitment and tolerance is the nature of the Gulen movement, as it is often called, which has established hundreds of schools in many countries as a consequence of his belief in the importance of knowledge, and example in the building of a better world. The schools are a form of service to humanity designed to promote learning in a broader sense and to avoid explicit Islamic propaganda.”
Kurtz also cites in the same work the comments of Thomas Michel, General Secretary of the Vatican Secretariat for Inter-religious Dialogue, after a visit to a school in Mindanao, Philippines, where the local people suffered from a civil war, as follows: “In a region where kidnapping is a frequent occurrence, along with guerrilla warfare, summary raids, arrests, disappearances, and killings by military and para-military forces, the school is offering Muslim and Christian Filipino children, along with an educational standard of high quality, a more positive way of living and relating to each other.”
Kurtz adds: “The purpose of the schools movement, therefore, is to lay the foundations for a more humane, tolerant citizenry of the world where people are expected to cultivate their own faith perspectives and also promote the well being of others… It is significant to note that the movement has been so successful in offering high quality education in its schools, which recruit the children of elites and government officials, that it is beginning to lay the groundwork for high-level allies, especially in Central Asia, where they have focused much of their effort.”
See, Lester R. Kurtz, “Gulen’s Paradox: Combining Commitment and Tolerance,” Muslim World, Vol. 95, July 2005; 379-381.