Turkey Coup Attempt Renews Interest In Gulen Arizona Charters

In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt last week, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has “pointed the finger of blame squarely at his bitter rival: ” according to CNN. Erdogan’s claims have brought renewed interest in the charter school across the U.S. operated by his followers including those in Arizona.

Tucson schools include Sonoran Science Academy – Tucson, Sonoran Science Academy – Broadway (in Tucson), Sonoran Science Academy – Phoenix, Sonoran Science Academy – Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Sonoran Science Academy – Ahwatukee, Sonoran Science Academy – Peoria, and Paragon Science Academy in Chandler, Arizona.

According to an AP report, “Thousands of officials suspected of links to Gulen, meanwhile, were purged from the judiciary and the Interior Ministry.” That includes 15,200 people fired by the Ministry of Education “across the country,” and 8,777 employees fired by the Interior Ministry, according to the report.

Those fired were suspected to be part of the Gulen movement.

Sonoran Science Academy students with Governor Doug Ducey
Sonoran Science Academy students with Governor Doug Ducey

As the ADI reported last year, the Pew Research Center found that the “Gülen network has pursued its educational agenda aggressively, building hundreds of private schools around the world. The first Gülen school in Western Europe was established in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1995. By 2009, there were more than 50 such schools in Europe, primarily in Germany.”

“The Gülen movement lacks a centralized organizational structure, describing itself as a global cemaat, or “community,” whose primary mission is to reinforce the idea that Muslims can be both modern and faithful to Islamic traditions. It is perhaps best understood as an extensive and well-coordinated network of supporters, many of whom make sizeable donations to Gülen-linked foundations.12 The group’s priorities are set by Gülen, who entrusts a relatively small group of deputies to carry out his broad plans,” reports Pew.

An April 2012 New York Times article about Fethullah Gulen contained this comment (see “Turkey Feels Sway of Reclusive Cleric in the U.S.”): “We are troubled by the secretive nature of the Gulen movement, all the smoke and mirrors,” said a senior American official, who requested anonymity to avoid breaching diplomatic protocol. “It is clear they want influence and power. We are concerned there is a hidden agenda to challenge secular Turkey and guide the country in a more Islamic direction.”

Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor at the University of Utah, claims the “curriculums of these schools do not have any explicitly Islamic content,” but aspire “to create an educated elite.” In an interview with Religiouscope, Yavuz states, “The movement wants to provide a good image of Islam, not so much through indoctrination, but to teach Islam through its members setting a good example by becoming good doctors, good mathematicians, good politicians, good cooks, and so forth. Such people want to teach Islam by doing their duty properly.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva, had called for an investigation into charter schools associated with the Gülen movement in a letter dated November 3, 2015 to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In that letter, Grijalva asked for a status report on the FBI investigation of 19 schools in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, according to FultonCounty.com. Grijalva wrote, “As a member of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, I have a particular interest in charter schools operations that are funded by public taxpayer dollars. I believe that we have an obligation to ensure that no federal funds are being misused in these schools.”

The Hill reported in March: “Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks demonstrate a concern by U.S. officials that these Turkish teachers and businesses “might be using the reputation of the school as a cover to get to the U.S.” These cables state that the H1B visa applications were “not convincing” and that Gülen’s more moderate message “cloaks a more sinister and radical agenda.”

The Independent reports that “Erdogan is using the attempted military takeover to justify a purge of state officials and army officers who do not give him total obedience, opening the door for him to establish an all-powerful presidency while seemingly Islamising Turkish society to a degree not seen since the fall of the Ottomans,” those who are rightly critical of charter schools might rethink their target.

Given the conflicting information, Arizona officials should keep a close eye on the situation.

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