|Senator James Halligan with Dove Science Academy staff and students. The ever present photo opportunity and gifts to local politicans, academia or media.|
Are Gulen Movement inspired charter schools operating in Oklahoma?
This is another charter school operated under the Cosmos Foundation in Oklahoma.
Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish Islamic scholar who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Followers are generally referred to as the Gulen Movement. There's growing concern about his movement and possible connections to Gulen-inspired charter schools in America. There may be four in Oklahoma.
On March 11th, a story appeared in the Hurriyet Daily News titled FBI investigating Gülen schools in US:
The FBI and other U.S. federal agencies have been investigating whether a Turkish religious community operating hundreds of schools worldwide is involved in visa fraud to bring teachers from Turkey to the United States.
The claim was made in a broad analysis by the Philadelphia Enquirer on religious leader Fethullah Gülen, who the paper describes as “a major Islamic political figure in Turkey,” and the more than 120 charter schools in the United States that are are linked to his movement..."
Based on a "broad analysis" the paper claimed there may be a connection to the Gulen movement and a good number of charter schools across America. In an April 4, 2011 article at Philly.com, WikiLeaks files detail U.S. unease over Turks and charter schools there's more eye-opening information:
Classified documents recently released by WikiLeaks recount U.S. officials' growing concern over large numbers of Turkish men seeking visas to work at American charter schools founded by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a powerful Turkish Muslim political figure who lives in the Poconos.
"Gulen supporters account for an increasing proportion of [the] . . . nonimmigrant visa applicant pool," a consular official in Istanbul, Turkey, wrote in 2006, according to one of the documents posted by WikiLeaks two weeks ago.
...Gulen, who is in his early 70s, lives in self-imposed exile in an enclave in Saylorsburg, Pa. A federal judge in Philadelphia granted Gulen a green card in 2008 after Gulen appealed a Department of Homeland Security ruling that he did not meet the criteria to qualify as an "alien of extraordinary ability."
...Many scholars consider Gulen's movement a peaceable, moderate strain of Islam, and the federal inquiries have nothing to do with terrorism.
...In Turkey, however, Gulen's followers have been accused of pushing for an authoritarian Islamic state.
...A disaffected former Turkish teacher who had worked at one of Gulen's charter schools told federal authorities that the movement had divided the United States into five regions. A general manager in each coordinates the activities of the schools and related foundations and cultural centers.
The former teacher also provided a document called a tuzuk, which resembles a contract and prescribes how much money teachers employed on H1-B visas are supposed to return to Hizmet.
According to a website which I have no way of knowing is providing accurate information, at this point, the List of Gulen linked-U.S. Schools includes four in Oklahoma operated by the Sky Foundation which is located in Oklahoma City:
Organization: Sky Foundation
The president of the board of education for these schools is listed on one of the school's websites to be Dr. Bilal Erturk who also appears to be an OSU professor who has the exact same name. Erturk participated in a Tulsa Interfaith panel discussion called Clash of Civilizations in March of 2010 where he praised Gulen influenced schools as a solution to ignorance:
"...Erturk focused on the need to start with the youth of the world to navigate away from conflict. He gave examples of Gulen inspired schools in the Philippines and Bosnia where children of different cultures, religions and ethnicity learn and grow together. He believes examples such as these will serve an an antidote to the ignorance and misunderstanding that Dr. Randle highlighted..."
Erturk is also listed as the president of Sky Foundation in a 2009 letter of intent to apply for an open-enrollment charter school in Arkansas that was denied a few months later.
A 2006 Fethullah Gulen Conference was held at the University of Oklahoma to promote his movement!
An unfortunate and tragic crime took place at the Dove Academy in Tulsa in 2008 when an 11 year-old student was raped by a 17 year old who plead guilty to the crime last year. In October of 2009 the Tulsa School Board voted to end their sponsorship of Dove Science Academy in Tulsa over deficiencies but approved it for a one year period in Jan 2010. Today, the school is sponsored by Langston University.
And for some reason, Carla Hinton, the religious editor for the Oklahoman was interviewed in 2008 by the Gulen Movement which is on the Gulen Movement's YouTube page and titled it as if she was talking about the movement.
Today, NewsOK posted a story, Schools' backers say Islamic ties pose no threat, about these schools in Oklahoma. The Sky Foundation, it turns out,was started in 2000 by five Turkish graduate students. These schools apparently receive tax-payer money to operate, folks. So, it's possible many foreign teachers could be brought into Oklahoma on the tax payer dime:
"...Those teachers, along with many others on the school's four campuses, came to America on H-1B visas. Federal law allows employers unable to find qualified American employees to fill positions with foreign labor through a visa application process.
"...Last year, according to U.S. Department of Labor records, Sky and its charter schools had 53 H-1B visa applications, of which eight were withdrawn or denied and 45 were certified. The certified applications were sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of State for further approval. Some were approved, others not..."
Defenders of the charter schools in question claim it's just the far-right freaks who are making up allegations.
Gulen Charter School Investigated by the FBI WJIAC TV (PA)
"...local teachers were let go to bring in foreign teachers...
Second International Conference on Islam in the Contemporary World: The Fethullah Gülen Movement in Thought and Practice from Fethullah Gülen Dr. Sheryl L. Santos Texas Tech University (conference held at the University of Oklahoma 2006)