Muhammad Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish Islamist, writer and preacher with a secret plan for bringing Shariah law to America.
Arguably Turkey’s most influential spiritual leader of the past 50 years, Gülen left that country in the late 1990s and now directs his cult-like Islamic movement from a guarded compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Part of his empire consists of a thriving network of more than 140 charter schools in 26 states that sell themselves to parents as a secular and more academically rigorous alternative to public schools.
As the second largest chain of charter schools in the United States, Gülen schools rake in tens of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars every year.
But the schools — which have innocent-sounding names like the Horizon Science Academies in Illinois, Harmony Schools of Excellence in Texas, Dove Science Academies in Oklahoma and Magnolia Science Academies in California — have long been the subject of investigations into alleged corruption scandals involving influence peddling and visa abuse.
USA Today reported recently that the Gülen faith movement secretly funded 200 overseas trips for congressional lawmakers and staff since 2008.
“Turkish leaders have asked the United States to extradite Gülen from the remote compound in rural Pennsylvania where he has lived for 20 years.
“The movement has founded hundreds of charter schools across the United States and around the world, has its own media organizations, and was deeply entrenched with the Turkish regime until a falling out two years ago. That led President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare Gülen was running ‘a parallel state’ inside the country with the intent of undermining the government.”
Critics argue that the schools also covertly engage in Islamic missionary outreach, usually after-hours or during school extra-curricular activities.
Anti-Shariah activist Pam Geller says Gülen has been dubbed “the Turkish Khomeini” for a reason.
“It has been widely reported for years that he wants ultimately to restore the Islamic caliphate in Turkey. That alone should make his charter schools in the U.S. a subject of law enforcement scrutiny, but it largely hasn’t,” Geller told WND. “There have been allegations that funds from these schools have gone to a Turkish Islamization movement, Hizmet. The U.S. government shouldn’t be funding Gülen’s schools; it should be investigating them and shutting them down.”
Most of the parents of students who attend Gülen charter schools have no idea about Gülen’s background as a Turkish Islamist and believer in civilizational jihad — which is a form of nonviolent jihad focused on infiltrating and overcoming Western nations over time through immigration and exploitation of the civil liberties available in those nations.
But a new book on Gülen and his U.S. schools hopes to blow the lid on his cloak of secrecy.
Clare Lopez, co-author with Christopher Holton of “Gülen and the Gulenist Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and its Contributions to Civilizational Jihad,” says the movement is extremely secretive but there’s no small amount of information for those willing to dig. She and Holton decided to peel back the layers.
“There have been many articles and of course the movement itself puts out a great deal of material and Fethullah Gülen himself is a prolific author of articles and books,” Lopez told WND.
Lopez, who is vice president of research and analysis for the Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank operated by former Defense Department analyst Frank Gaffney, said Gulen is “fundamentally jihadist in outlook,” while promoting orthodox Islamic tenets within a worldwide movement.
Gulen is also heavily involved in the global interfaith movement, which seeks to build bridges between the major faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
“While not very well known by many Americans he is nevertheless quite influential and works through the schools, cultural organizations and the media to promote not only the orthodox teachings of Islam, but also a positive outlook towards Turkey,” Lopez said. “We’re concerned about its influence on our children, civic leaders and elected officials.”
Listen to Clare Lopez talk about the subject of her new book, the shadowy Gülen movement.
Traditionally the centers of Islam have been based in Saudi Arabia for Sunnis and Iran for Shiites.
But Turkey has always been the wild card. Students of history will recall that it served as the head of the Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years, but crashed and burned in the aftermath of World War I and was steered into a more Western mindset by Ataturk.
Under Erdogan’s AKP party, however, that has all changed, as documented in the film “End Times Eyewitness” by Christian author and filmmaker Joel Richardson.
Erdogan has overturned the secularized Western influence that had banned the hijab and the fez in public places and eliminated the many Shariah-compliant restrictions placed on society.
Asylum in American
Gülen’s cultural empire, including his schools and media companies, had a lot to do with the return of Islamist values in Turkey. But Gülen lost out on the political power struggle and in 1998 fled to the U.S., where he was offered asylum.
In the U.S., Gülen schools are not outwardly Islamic. Any influence in that regard is subtle, Lopez said.
But he has become expert at buying influence from politicians in Washington and in state Capitols.
“There have been many allegations of abuse of the visa system, kickbacks in salaries, and attempted influencing of school administrators, parents and teachers, journalists, priests and rabbis, everyone,” Lopez said.
In 2013 Gülen and Erdogan had a final falling out.
“These are two powerful men each intent on seizing power for themselves, not that they disagree in any way over the direction to take Turkey, which is away from the West and toward the neo-Ottoman Islamic caliphate,” Lopez says.
The U.S. gave Gülen legal permanent resident status in 2008, and he is now eligible for citizenship.
Soaking the U.S. taxpayer
The amount of public taxpayer money Gulen’s charter schools receive every year runs into the tens of millions. A charter school is essentially operated like a private school only it receives taxpayer funding and does not answer to any widely elected school board.
“There’s all kinds of charter schools in the U.S. that receive taxpayer funding and that is how the Gulen movement has developed its network of schools in the U.S., making them attractive by making them STEM schools, which parents love,” Lopez said.
And when Congress passed the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind late last year, it included increased funding for taxpayer-funded charter schools run by unelected boards.
“Gulen Charter Schools exemplify the unconstitutionality of tax-funded school choice,” writes Charlotte Iserbyt, a former education adviser to President Ronald Reagan, in her blog, “The ABCs of Dumb Down.”
“There is no citizen accountability or oversight,” Iserbyt says. “No wonder there is corruption. Those who think that charters are the solution for Common Core, forget it.”
And for all of the taxpayer money flooding into the Gülen schools, most of the teaching positions go to foreigners who come to the U.S. on H-1B guest-worker visas from Turkey. This is the visa program that GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio wants to expand through his I-Squared bill, tripling the cap on such visas from about 66,000 per year to 195,000 per year.
“To the best of my knowledge in all the research I’ve done, I don’t see that the Gülen schools are being accused of teaching Islamic ideology in the schools, that’s not the issue, rather it’s the abuse of H-1B visa system to bring in Turkish teachers instead of hiring Americans,” Lopez said. “There is alleged abuse of the teachers who are required to kick back a percentage of their salaries, and they do teach a cultural emphasis on Turkey and Islam.”
Charges of influence peddling
The schools also are known for offering lavish, all-expenses paid trips to Turkey for friendly politicians at the state, local and federal level.
The USA Today investigation accuses the Gülen movement of falsifying its funding of trips for U.S. congressional members.
Lopez said teachers and parents have complained that the schools’ main purpose is to promote a love not only for Turkish culture but Islam.
“You’ll see in the book former teachers or people who’ve broken away from the movement who say there is an attempt to inculcate a positive view of Turkey and Islamic culture,” she said.
An Islamist with a hidden agenda
Richardson, the Christian author and filmmaker, said Gülen is without a doubt an Islamist with an hidden agenda. His strategy mirrors that of the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates non-violent civilizational jihad as the means to infiltrate and influence Western societies.
“In the past, he has made very overt comments about the need to infiltrate the arteries of the system and so forth,” Richardson told WND. “On the other hand, he is definitely non-violent and has furthered the idea, popular within some of the Turkish-Islamist movement of non-violent Islamism.”
Erdogan struck harshly against the Gülen movement in Turkey, rooting numerous Gülen supporters out of the government and throwing them in prison. Erdogan has called for the U.S. to extradite Gülen for allegedly subverting the Turkish government.
“In terms of the danger that Gülen represents to the United States, I would say that five years ago, Gülen and his charter schools were a bigger concern,” Richardson said. “They still need to be defunded by the U.S. government. Today, however, compared to the much larger dangers we are facing, including the very real Islamists that Obama has allowed into the U.S. government, or the very real, very violent Islamists that have infiltrated the country, Gülen, with his ideological jihad, is a relatively small fish, in an ever-expanding pond of violent Islamists.”
Lopez said the Gülen movement helped drag Turkey back to its Islamic roots and so his influence should not be under-estimated in the U.S., and he certainly should not be given taxpayer funding.
“Look what’s happened to Turkey, the Islamic supremacists were voted in, and Erdogan is on a neo-Ottoman path to take Turkey back to its roots as a jihadist state, so I think there is ever good reason to be concerned about his activities (in the U.S.),” Lopez said.