Answers to Concerned Parents on so-called Fethullah Gulen charter schools, a.k.a. "Gulen Charter Schools"In some websites, a person named Fethullah Gulen is accused of infiltrating the United States through charter schools along which a list is given. I have a son who goes to one of the charter schools in the list. Though, I am very happy with the school and have not heard anything about Fethullah Gulen nor about Fethullah Gulen charter schools, I am confused by this information. I would appreciate if you commented on this matter.
It is quite interesting that defamation of Turkish scholar Fethullah Gulen appears to have started recently, after political developments in Turkey and the number of such accusations increases every day. There are several points you need to know in order to contextually understand this issue:
About Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish scholar, thinker, social entrepreneur and opinion leader known for his stances for democracy, interfaith dialogue, peaceful coexistence, and secular education where universal values are embodied by altruistic teachers. Numerous non-governmental organizations have been established by citizens inspired by his life and works in the areas of education, interfaith dialogue, health-care, disaster relief and economic assistance.
In order to promote interfaith dialogue in his home country he has met with the leaders of various religious minorities including the Greek Patriarch, Armenian Patriarch, Chief Rabbi of Turkey, and others. In recognition of his contributions to interfaith understanding, he was given personal audience by the late Pope John Paul II.
Former U.S. President Clinton commented in an address to an audience at New York Turkish American Cultural Center that Turkish-Americans “are contributing to the promotion of the ideas of tolerance and interfaith dialogue inspired by Fethullah Gülen in his transnational social movement.” And they “are truly strengthening the fabric of our common humanity, as well as promoting the ongoing cultural and educational ties that bind our world together.” Recently former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan commented that the activities of the Gulen Institute hosted at University of Houston overlapped with his efforts during his tenure at the U.N. You may or may not agree with President Clinton’s or Secretary Annan’s views in other areas, but let’s agree that appreciation at this level is an indicator of significant positive social impact.
“Fethullah Gulen’s Contribution to Muslim-Christian Dialogue in the Context of Abrahamic Cooperation” by Dr. Pim Valkenberg, November 3, 2005, Rice University
“Advocate of Dialogue: Fethullah Gulen” by Ali Unal, October 2000, Fountain Press
Fethullah Gulen is a supporter of democracy and human rights. He was one of the first Muslim scholars who publicly condemned September 11 attacks, and continue to condemn any form of terrorist actions. After the September 11, 2001, Gulen released a message both in New York Times and Washington Post to condemn 9/11 attacks.
• “A Sunni Muslim Scholar's Humanitarian and Religious Rejection of Violence against Civilians” by Dr. Alp Aslandogan, November 12, 2007, London School of Economics
• “Fethullah Gulen's Thoughts on State, Democracy, Politics, and Terrorism” an interview with Fethullah Gulen by Dr. Zeki Saritoprak, July 2005, Muslim World Journal
With regards to claims about Fethullah Gulen:
1. Defamatory Postings Appear on Hate Sites: The inflammatory articles appear mostly as blog entries on xenophobic sites or radical websites. Some of them can easily be regarded as hate websites lacking scientific or even logical credibility.
2. Self-contradicting claims: Defamatory claims against Fethullah Gulen appear to be custom designed depending on the audience. In Turkey, Gulen is accused by marginal circles of being a CIA-agent, a Mossad agent, the Vatican’s secret cardinal, or an agent of the U.S. in pursuit of the latter’s Greater Middle East Project. There are also claims that he is Jewish. To the Western audiences, he is depicted as a threat to secularism, pursuing a theocratic regime and recently as a person who is trying to infiltrate U.S. through charter schools which they portrait some schools as Fethullah Gulen charter schools. I don’t think one needs to be a brain surgeon to recognize the self-contradictory nature of these claims. The interesting thing about these claims is that some of them are made by the very same people, not realizing that some members of the audience speak both languages. The following article illustrates this phenomenon.
“Hypocrisy in languages: criticizing Fethullah Gülen, English or Turkish?” by Abdulhamid Turker, 10 November 2009, Today’s Zaman
3. Manipulating the facts: Some of the defamatory articles distort, hide or otherwise misrepresent facts. For an example, see :
“Fethullah Gülen's Grand Ambition”: A Biased, Selective, Misleading, Misrepresentative and Miscalculated Article” by Dogan Koc, January 29, 2010, Fethullah Gulen Forum
Questions to ask:
1. If the defamatory accusations about Fethullah Gulen were true would he be granted permanent residency as an educational expert by the US government?
2. How is it possible that these claimants are able to see what the intelligence agencies are not capable of seeing?
3. Is there a connection between these marginal groups with the ongoing Ergenekon trial in Turkey where a clandestine armed group with links to the hard-liners in the military are being brought to justice for the first time in Turkish history? Is there a pattern to the defamatory sites?
4. More importantly, what are your evidence
Ergenekon Facts vs. Fiction:
With regards to charter schools (so-called Fethullah Gulen charter schools):
According to our research charter schools are non-sectarian public schools. Through systematic inspections and audits, state regulation agencies ensure that charter schools are nonsectarian in their programs, admissions policies, employment practices, and all other operations, and are not affiliated with a sectarian school or religious institution. Furthermore, charter schools are subject to the same standards of accountability with the public schools. They are funded by the states and are accountable to the states. State boards of education oversee and inspect these schools.
It is conceivable that some individuals who work in private and public institutions are inspired by the works of Mr. Fethullah Gulen if they are originally from Turkey. According to a survey conducted by Dr. Akbar Ahmed, a professor at an American university, Fethullah Gulen is regarded as a top contemporary role model in Turkey. Various online polls suggest high levels of approval for Gulen’s ideas in Turkey. You can read “Gulen and U.S. Educators” here in our blog.
Fethullah Gulen and U.S. educators
Finally, you pointed out as a parent that you were happy with the school that your child attends and if the school’s accountability rating is high, our humble opinion is that that all what should matter. The people who started all these claims and accusations on the blogs, calling them Fethullah Gulen charter schools or simply Gulen charter schools, seem to have agenda and post their baseless accusations on any website they come across for disinformation purposes.
I hope that these comments help answer some of your questions.