Kurdishaspect.com – By Dr. Aland Mizell
The American education system has become a hot issue. Commenting that “It’s time to make education America’s national mission,” President Obama defended the cornerstone of his administration, his education policy called the “Race to the Top.” A part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it is a 4.35 billion dollar competitive grant program that gives incentives for states to adopt pay for performance systems and removes the cap on charters schools.[i] After the President’s speech on education reform, some civil right organizations released joint statements criticizing the Race to the Top policy. President Obama’s main theme on education included the notion that education is a civil rights issue, but if it is a right, then why should students race for it? What happens to the youth from impoverished backgrounds? What happens to marginalized groups who cannot succeed? Who is a loser and how does one become a winner? What is the role of charters schools? According to recent whistleblowers, some charters schools have contributed to the problems in education and become the subject of much debate. Therefore, it is important to separate out those charged, the Turkish Muslims’ missionary charter schools called the Gülen movement, from the normal American-run charters schools.
Controversy surrounds the Gulen’s Islamic schools. Some people are extremely opposed to the Turkish charter schools, even though a few of these schools are serving underprivileged and economically poor communities. Officials of these Turkish-led schools deny any kind of formal relation with Fethullah Gülen, a powerful and wealthy Turkish imam seeking residency in the U.S. Yet, he requests a US green card claiming he is an international educator. A few outspoken supporters argue that they are the best schools around the world, but detractors purport that they are getting support from foreign intelligence. Some say they are working for Mossad, Israel’s state-run intelligence operations, while others claim that they are working for the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Some will pronounce that they are working for greater Middle Eastern projects, yet others reply that they are serving the Vatican. Some see them as the savior of the world, but others contend that they have a hidden agenda to deconstruct current governments in order to bring on their new one. Some will exclaim, “No, they are advocating global peace and preventing a clash of civilizations.” Others point out that they took over Turkey by infiltrating Gülen’s students into the top rungs of the Turkish government. Some believe that they are just Turkish people, and therefore have a right to be at the highest level in government agencies, the police, the intelligence, and the military. Some posit that God chooses them and that is why they have been successful as well as because Gülen is the Mehdi or messiah. Members of the organization view themselves as the 21st Century Sahabe, meaning followers of Mohammed. Yet, adversaries say they are a cult because the leaders intimidate Gülen’s followers by instilling fear in them to force them to stay in the community. Some hold that they are very democratic and honest; on the other hand, their foes say they are thirsty for power and yet others Asks where is the water of the Mill? Some indicate that charters schools promote integration, yet analysts show that they do not promote integration of disparate elements because members of the community are under social and psychological pressure to conform to strict edicts. Some imply that there is no central leadership and no one person is in charge; the others point out that there are life rules, determined and administered by the supreme leader whom each member must follow absolutely. The imam of the region, a middle man, is the one who decides where the follower works, when he will marry, and whom he should marry. Those decisions come from statutes from Gülen himself. Some will infer that they are very democratic and that there is freedom of thought; the others will reveal life’s complete regulation including the reading of particular books, observating of Islamic rules, voting for a particular party, buying a particular brand, listening to the superiors even if they are wrong (Itaat etmek meaning to obey, submit, or comply); all rules are imposed so that the organization can have control over the members.
The Turkish charter schools engender many questions. How do they get support? What are the structures of the movement? Who is in charge? Is it centralized? If so, is it centralized like a Catholic hierarchy but getting fatwa from Gülen? What makes them different from any other public school in the community? Some will say this system represents the rise of the Neo-Ottoman Empire that wants to conquer the world. But Gülenists will argue that they are advocating global peace, that they do not have any agenda, and that they do not teach any religion. The main question is do they really proclaim global peace or are they trying to bring the back Ottoman Empire system that practiced conquering? Do they want to have global power? Why are they more successful than any other movement in Turkey? How could researchers conclude that teaching a common language of love, peace and harmony is equal to the processes of Turkification, assimilation, and indoctrination of the Gülenist version of Islam?
Neither Gülen nor his followers are really working for the CIA or for any other significant powers; neither is he the Mehdi who can predict the future nor is he chosen by God, but Gülenists are great opportunists and know how to infiltrate important governmental agencies to get information, and based on the information that they get, they make their moves and decisions. Also, some do not believe Gülenists are the best at what they do, but actually they are well indoctrinated and well trained not to tell the truth but to deny the truth. They are also not the most tolerant and democratic organization, but rather one of the most dictatorial, militaristic, highly reiterative and decidedly centralized organizations with the goal to provide an alternative to today’s systems of government; in other words, to bring back the Ottoman Empire. The question is what type of system did the Ottomans have? Was it one of absolute power and did it exemplify the principle that absolute power is corrupt?
Obama’s Race to the Top policy is problematic in that it probably is not going to work the way President Obama thinks it will. Specifically, in my view, the money will not filter down to the American teachers but rather will be allocated to the Gülenists’ missionary teachers who are already taking advantage of the U.S. system, and if the money does not sift down, then how will it be distributed? If it is distributed individually, according to the student’s performance, ethical issues will arise. There are already cases filed against the Gülen missionaries’ charter schools in several states charging them with mismanagement and lack of accountability. Also, this US educational policy’s financing gives more capital to the Gülenists to bring more of Gülen’s missionaries at the expense of the American taxpayer in order to disseminate his ideology. How well educated are these teachers who come to America? How much experience as teachers do they have? Obama’s Race to the Top policy means for Gülenist missionaries a race to conquer the American education system.
What are the main goals of the Race to the Top policy? It encourages states to improve their efforts in the following areas: States and school districts should build robust data systems for measuring students’ growth and success. While this seems a good educational tool, this is expedient for the Muslim missionaries to recruit and have access to the smart students, so they can indoctrinate them, a tactic used in Turkey and Central Asia. Second, the goals are that districts should pay teachers more when they are particularly effective or teach in priority subject areas or in low performing schools. Gülenists already know how to play the game, and they will build the system that fits the funding. Another trick that the Gülenists use to fool people is that they hold mathematic Olympics or physics Olympics to have good public relations and marketing, saying that they are the winner. If someone does the research, the inquirer will find that in almost all countries at least in one college they will have a winner of one subject. The question is how could that happen? In Turkey, some have claimed that the organization stole the answers for the Turkish National Police exam to gain access for its members;[ii] would it be possible for the same to be true in other countries? The success of the Gülenists is dependent on information they receive and the information they give. The main difference is that the American education system encourages students to question masters or teachers, whereas the Gülenists education system discourages asking new questions, but instead it encourages them to follow the leaders without inquiry and to replicate what people in the past did. Critical thinking, an important outcome in US education, is not an option in Gulenists’ charter school curriculum.
This attitude is not limited to education systems but is also prevalent in other social aspects of society. Isn’t questioning oneself and others the first important aspect of intellectual growth? The growth of large entities, even nations, depends on how much they are ready for and engage in self-criticism. This aspect does not exist in Gülen’s community. If a member questions authority, the leaders get upset but always eagerly blame others for their own shortcomings. Total power is corrupt. Thomas Jefferson said, “A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny.” Isn’t that the case with Turkey? In Turkey, the majority of the right is dominated by the Gülenists in the government and in important positions, so that whoever criticizes Gülen ends up in jail. One of the hallmarks of the West is freedom of speech and freedom of expression, permitting critiques of claims about religious truths, but Islamic law does not allow such debate or criticism. The question many scholars as well as political leaders ask is whether Gülenists’ education system is compatible with American and Western educational systems? Does it hold the same ethical values or does it teach the children that they can learn the truth, but they don’t have to tell the truth anywhere or everywhere, or does it teach the kids that they can lie if it necessary?
The American university is a laboratory for ideas such as dialectic exchange and deliberative democracy, in which students and teachers participate in free exchange of ideas without any fear of being punished or excommunicated from the community. If America is the champion of education around the world, it is because open dialogue is fundamental to the system of education in the United States. What exactly do close-minded Gülenists’ missionary charter schools hope to accomplish by establishing more than 130 charters schools in America in a short period of time?[iii] How did Gülenists missionary schools, now over 300 in number, accomplish their goals inside Turkey? Even though there are the more than 1000 schools worldwide, why are they not in Saudi Arabia and Iran, for example, since these countries symbolize intolerance? Did the charter schools in the US leave room for free exchange of ideas for students or academics to discuss and teach what they think is right, not what Gülen thinks is right? The American culture and education system has been enriched by the values and belief systems of virtually every part of the world. Individual freedom, and whether we call it individualism or individual freedom, is the cornerstone of American society, because the concept of an individual’s having control of his or her own future is guaranteed in the Constitution. Under the Gülenists missionary schools systems individualism is not important, but collective thinking is important, and individual freedom is limited because individuals must follow the organization’s rules implemented by the central decision-maker–Gülen himself. Unfortunately questioning and testing the truth in the Gülenists community is non-existent and never happens; under this tutelage they quote Gülen more often than the Quran. Students will hear, “Hoja Effendi says this about these topics,” or Hoja Effendi says this about that topic.” Even though Newton was a great scientist, Einstein had freedom to question his ideas, but under the Gülenists education system, none has freedom to challenge Gülen’s views because his view is seen as absolute truth, and whoever challenge it gets “burned.” The mentors promote Gülen more than Prophet Muhammad, for example
This ideology wields considerable power in American politics because his followers are actively involved in lobbying Congress to promote his interest in Washington. Gülen was recently honored under Texas Sates Resolution No. 85, which recognized his contributions and promotions, and their goal is to let the other 49 states honor him. The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justified the end. For Gülenists any method is justifiable; it just depends on the organization’s perceived notion of “if the good outweighs the bad, then the action is moral.” Even lies are justifiable under the some circumstances, because for Gülenists everything depends on circumstances. However, when someone really does more thorough research about Gülen’s movement, he or she will see this kind of double standard and unethical methods behind the movement. Otherwise it would not be as successful. For example, the political impact of Gülenists in Turkey before 2001 and Gülenists’ stand with the ruling political party and the army has shifted substantially. Gülenists mostly talk about the non-partisan nature of the movement and insist that his movement keeps equal distance from every Turkish ruling administration, seeks no office, and has no political goals, but now when observers look at the Gülenists’ newspaper Zaman that has a circulation of a million just in Turkey alone; when they look at the TV stations, the radio channels, and the civic organizations; they don’t just have educational matters, but rather they have a political impact. Also perusing the Zaman’s archives from pre-2001 will reveal no negative statements about the army, politicians or parties.
But today the Zaman and other Gülenists’ media seem like the AKP owns them, so when one of its leading journalists, Huseyin Gulerce, campaigns for the AKP and tells people to vote for the AKP, when Gülen himself says that if he could bring the dead people from their grave to vote for the AKP, he would say yes; when Ekrem Dumanli writes articles in the Zaman; when Huseyin Gulerce and others write their perspectives in the Zaman, that journalism impacts the political process. Gülenists argue that the movement is almost completely decentralized and is primarily built on local actions and initiatives; however, Fethullah Gülen does not like hierarchy in terms of power. There is no central office or bureaucracy. But when someone do something with out asking Gulen they automatically been punished for not obey the Gulen. When an organizational chart has levels of leaders but all without their own input, it can start its own dynamic, and it can go counter to the existing political climate because of the force of the unified command coming from the top. This chain of command works because Gülenists believe God is in charge, so that ostensibly they don’t have any leader, but at the same time, with every breath they take, they promote Gülen’s name. Also, Gülenists do not unite people in peace and harmony as some Western self- proclaimed Gülenists movement experts have come to believe. Actually, the opposite is true. An underpinning of the movement is the idea that “You’re with us or you’re not with us, in Turkish (Hizmetten and Hizmet disi or bizden veya bizden degil).”
What is the ultimate goal? Doesn’t all-human activity—in communities, societies, and nations– have a goal in one form or another? So does this one. This movement was born in Turkey, Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish citizen, he cares about Turkey, and he’s trying to improve the Turkish educational system. He’s done a great deal within the country, but Why would Gülen come to the USA to open the schools all over America? Is it because the fate of America depends on Gülen’s movement through educational systems? The primary aim of Gülen is to have total power and to dominant the world. History has shown that when an individual or group is concerned with having more power, it does not serve the community well nor does it create harmony and peace. The world has already seen this in Turkey, how the Gülenists treat others, because total power does corrupt. For example, Gülenists do not leave space for other NGOs to work in the same area. They do not want any competition, especially in the fields of education and relief organizations. Unfortunately, some of his publications have been known to discredit some very good NGO workers, schools, scholars, generals, officials. Instead, the Movement gives exorbitant credit to itself, especially S. Jill Carroll and Akbar Ahmed’s A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen’s Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse (2007) and Muhammad Cetin’s books Gülen-Inspired Schools and SMOs (2008), both quite biased and full of propaganda about the Movement and Gülen.
In addition, anyone wanting to learn more about how Gülen and his followers are inconsistent with their claims should read Mehmet Kalyoncu’s analysis of how certain distinguished scholars, who are well respected in their field, like Huntington, Lewis, and Pipes, are said to have monopolized the task of interpreting Islam and Muslim world for them. Speaking on behalf of Gülen’s website, Mr. Kalyoncu, touted as an independent analyst, claims that recently American and European media have “misrepresented and even if not deliberately created doubts and prejudices about him [Gülen}” [iv] Because Gülenists only accept those who agree with the Gülenists’ ideas and do not tolerate or welcome any second opinions, the average reader can see that any controversial statements will be denounced as “misrepresentations.” Clearly, they want to monopolize the whole world under the one tent, the Gülenist version of Islam and the Ottoman’s version of a government system.
Further, Gülenists deny that Gülen is accepting any funds or financial aids from other countries. Really? Do researchers not count the millions of dollars from the US government that have funded his organization in the past? Gülenists are the best opportunists, and they know how to use events for their interest. From Gülen’s point of view, the best way to defeat the enemy is to use the enemy’s own weapons against that enemy. What is the enemy’s weapon? The enemy’s weapons are democracy, technology, language, and Western values. How can he use these against America or the West? He does so by establishing Islamic centers, non-governmental organizations, such as Interfaith institutions, and cultural centers; by sending graduate students who get scholarships from Americans taxpayers; by providing a good education, albeit his brand, and particularly by disseminating Islam under the principle of freedom of speech. In charter schools his proponents have seen another opportunity to get donations from the American government to attract American young people to one man’s dominate religion and to indoctrinate them about Gülenists’ idea of global Turkish Islam. In other words, they took advantage of an opening to teach revisionist history in that Turks are the best race on earth and God’s favored people, all the while denying the reality of the Kurds’ suffering for decades and denying the genocide of Armenian 1915. How can such a person claim one race or nation is the best and chosen by God, deny history, for example the Holocaust, yet affirm that all atheists who do not share their same values have lost their human nature and have lower themselves to the basest of animals and at the same time advocate peace and tolerance?
In Turkey the Gülenists label those who oppose him as part of Ergenekon; in America they will call the opponents friends of Ergenekon because of Gülenists’ unethical methods in attempting to silence their critics around the world especially in Turkey and in the US. For example, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a Zaman columnist who spoke at the a panel at Harvard University on May 05 2011, has falsely accused Dani Rodrik, the Rafiq Hariri Professor of International Political Economy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, of dissuading people from attending the event. However, Rodrik wanted both perspectives not only one view. “My fear is that the Harvard community is being exposed to a rather one-sided and ill-informed view of what is really taking place on the ground. In the interest of balance, if you want ideas for names of those who can present a fuller picture, I am happy to pass them on to you.”[v] Cengiz’s false accusation was picked up by a recent Zaman article, which then produces an erroneous story headline “Rodrik dissuades people from attending rights advocate’s address.”[vi] Professor Rodrik denies that he did in any way discourage attendance. Another example of unethical news from the Gülenists’ Zaman newspaper in Turkey claims that Kurdish people in the PKK stirred up trouble before the March 16th, 2011 elections, another lie. The Zaman argues, “The PKK will create chaos as” but the prosecution noted that this allegation proved to be unfounded.[vii]
If this organization is about peace and love, it will not do underhanded things. However, Gülenist missionaries would like their movement to be seen as a civic movement, or peace loving social entrepreneur organization, because it helps them to disseminate their ideology well and to minimize the controversy. Yet, they are inconsistent with their answers. Gülenists outside of Turkey present themselves as loving, caring, honest, chosen, errorless, righteous, multi-faithed, tolerant, and peace -loving people. In reality Gülenists never tell the truth about Gülen or his movement because he encourages his followers to appropriate only the positive things from the West, such as technology and education, and to leave the negative things, such as religion and social norms. According to Islam, an individual can lie for three reasons: to make peace between a father and a mother, to save oneself, and to lie to an enemy when one is at war. Since many Muslims believe that they remain at war with non-Muslims in realms called a house of war and a house peace, devotees can lie to gain power, and then they can declare war or resist non-Muslims as the Qur’an says to lie to the unbelievers, Christians, and Jews. They are told to be nice on the surface until they gain the majority in numbers and power and then to take over and impose Qur’an law or Shari law on the population. Once the community accrues the majority, Americans cannot do anything but accept it like Europe is doing right now. Obama’s Race to the Top should gain the interest of every thinking American, particularly those in leadership, so that the policy-makers ask, “Who are we enabling to race and reach the top and if they get there, do we want their ideology and their legal system?” We might ask those who have been jailed in Turkey for exerting freedom of speech to see if they have an opinion on charter schools in America or on Gulen’s movement of peace and tolerance; ironically, they cannot speak to us.
Dr. Aland Mizell is with the University of Mindanao School of Social Science, President of the MCI and a regular contributor to the Kurdishaspect.com.
You may reach the author via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org