On December 14, a committee of the Loudoun County School Board of Virginia recommended the disapproval of an application for taxpayer funding of a charter school linked to Turkish Islamist Fethullah Gülen. Two of the three members recommended rejection of the application outright, while the third called for delay of its consideration “for cause.” Gulen is a scholar of Islam and a proponent of hizmet – Turkish for altruism. While he currently lives in Pennsylvania, he has many followers in Turkey and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
According to the Center for Security Policy, a Washington DC-based think-tank, public comments received by the select committee were “overwhelmingly negative.” In a news release, CSP declared that among the concerns expressed by opponents were: “serious problems with the model the applicants cite – another Gülen school known as the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School in Anne Arundel County; growing evidence of financial and other mismanagement with other Gülen schools in Georgia, Texas and Ohio; and the Islamist character of the Gulen enterprise.”
(Fethullah Gulen – Islamic scholar and businessman)
The Loudoun Math and Information Technology Academy (LMITA) application will now go to the full School Board, which is expected to consider it over the next two months. Loudon County is located in the suburbs of Washington DC and has the highest median household income of any county in the U.S.
Evidence was provided in a letter from Mary Addi, a former teacher at a Gülen school in Ohio, which draws on her own experience and of her husband, a Turkish expatriate who was also a teacher at that school. Four elected officials who have previously endorsed the LMITA application have withdrawn their support for the project. CSP says that is expects additional withdrawals will occur as others of those who previously endorsed LMITA learn about concerns about the school and its true sponsors.
CSP President Frank J. Gaffney Jr. and Rachel Sargent, a former school teacher, provided a briefing to the committee (see video here) on December 12 laid the group’s case against LMITA. The briefing provided details on Gülen and his movement to spread knowledge of Islam and Turkish culture, especially in charter school funded by tax payers. Many of the schools in the Gülen network also provide courses in enriched science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that, according to CSP, are “vehicles for indoctrinating impressionable American students.” CSP also makes the charge that the proposed school in Loudon County “involves deception with respect to the true character of the proposed school, its association with the Gülenists, and the myriad problems such Gulen academic institutions have presented to school system administrators and taxpayers from Texas to Maryland.”
Gaffney said of the development, “The committee is to be commended for its appreciation that Loudoun County does not need and should not allow the establishment there of a Gülen school at taxpayer expense.”
In a December 11 op-ed in the Washington Times, Gaffney opined “The Loudoun County School Board is not the first to be subjected to the Gülen bait-and-switch. The lack of transparency fits a pattern in such applications of concealing connections to an organization promoting Turkish and Islamist agendas deeply hostile to the United States. Gülen schools prove deeply problematic to their school systems and exceedingly difficult to disestablish.”
The video presentation offered by CSP lays out the connections between the several Gulen schools in the U.S., as well as non-profits such as the Niagara Foundation, which ostensibly promote inter-cultural and inter-religious understanding through awards ceremonies and all-expenses paid trips for Americans to visit Turkey.