The FBI raided a Turkish-run charter school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana yesterday. No information has been given to the public except that there is no threat to public safety. The school is part of the network of Fethullah Gulen, a powerful Turkish Islamist residing in Pennsylvania.
The search took place at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, which had been under investigation since 2011 due to evidence of violations at another Gulen school in the state. Both Gulen-linked schools are part of the Pelican Educational Foundation.
The other school is the Abramson Science and Technology Center. Its charter was revoked by the state after an investigation found multiple disturbing incidents, including sexual abuses including an accusation of rape.
â€œWe cannot afford to have a charter school operator in Louisiana that is putting our kids in a potentially unsafe and unstable learning environment,â€ said Ollie Tyler, the Acting State Superintendent of Education.
Inci Akpinar, a business associate of the Abramson Center even tried to bribe an official of the Louisiana Department of Education after the probe started.
â€œI have $25,000 to fix this problem: $20,000 for you and $5,000 for me,â€ the official recalled being told.
The findings at the Abramson Center led to an investigation of the Kenilworth School.
Kenilworth was accused of misconduct in two lawsuits, one by a parent and the other by two terminated teachers. The parent stated that her child urinated on herself after she was repeatedly denied permission to go to the bathroom. The teachers argue that they were fired because of discrimination.
Gulen is ranked as the most influential Muslim in the U.S. and the 11th most influential Muslim in the world. He fled to the U.S. in 1998 after the Turkish government charged him with trying to overthrow its secularism.
He has erected a parallel state in Turkey and was instrumental in enabling the Islamist takeover of the country. Gulen has since had a falling out with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Leaked documents show Erdoganâ€™s government planned to act against Gulenâ€™s network in Turkey.
Glen resides in a 28-acre compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and has a reported net worth of $25 billion. He set up his first charter school in the U.S. in 1999 and now has 135 of them, making it the largest charter school network in the country.
Sharon Higgins, a researcher who closely follows the Gulen network, wrote a thoroughly referenced article about the network in the Washington Post in March 2012. The article states that â€œthe United States is the only country where the Gulen Movement has been able to establish schools which are fully funded with public money.â€
Philly.com spoke with Ruth Hocker, the former president of the parents’ group at the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School in State College because of her experience with a Gulen school. Hockerâ€™s statements substantiate the accusations of discrimination in staffing.
Hocker said that she learned that unqualified Turkish teachers were replacing the well-qualified American teachers that were originally hired. When questioned, the Gulen school officials claimed that the Turks were more qualified even though some of them werenâ€™t even fluent in English.
The FBI is investigating whether the schools have a kickback scheme to fund the Gulen movement as a whole. The Abramson Center is known to have sponsored teachersâ€™ trips to Turkey, where they were given literature about the Gulen movement. However, no proof has surfaced of the curriculum indoctrinating students with his ideological teachings.
Gulen preaches the doctrine of gradualism, an incremental and non-violent approach towards implementing Sharia (Islamic) law. In 1999, Turkish television showed a private speech he gave to supporters outlining this strategy towards changing the secular identity of Turkey. He preached:
â€œYou must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers â€¦ If they [Muslim allies] do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads â€¦ you must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the Constitutional institutions in Turkey.â€
He emphasized that his listeners must not share what he has told them:
â€œNow, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all in confidence â€¦ trusting your loyalty and secrecy. I know that when you leave here, [just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and the feelings that I expressed here.â€
Gulenâ€™s network was the subject of a 60 Minutes investigation in May 2012. Reporter Leslie Stahl was mostly favorable to Gulen but conceded that his group â€œdoes lack transparency â€” its funding, hierarchy and ambitions remain hidden â€” leading our State Department to wonder in cables between Ankara and Washington if Gulen has an â€˜insidious political agenda.â€™â€
The problem goes well beyond Gulen. The Islamist Turkish government is building a $100 million mega-mosque in Maryland and is reaching out to Native American tribes. While the British government plans to officially classifying â€œIslamist extremismâ€ as an ideology, it continues to spread in the U.S.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.orgâ€™s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.