A new memo that has been making the rounds in conservative circles is a dire warning about an onslaught of Islamic “Gulen schools,” a growing international network of charter schools begun in Turkey that offer “a blend of religious faith and largely Western curriculum.”
At the Educational Policy Conference, a large gathering of social conservatives in St. Louis in January, prominent neoconservative and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, and former Colorado State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton sounded the alarm on the “creeping threat” of Gulen schools hidden in President Obama’s landmark education initiative, the Race to the Top program, which encourages innovation in education, including charter schools. Littleton, who currently serves as an El Paso County Commissioner, told conference-goers that “the only reason [Obama is] pushing more charter schools” through Race to the Top is “because of these Gulen schools.”
ThinkProgress caught up with Littleton after her speech. She told us that the Obama administration “intentionally had already thought through how they could have a proliferation and a sneaking creep, if you will, of Gulen schools by embedding their acceptance and even promotion of charter schools under this new wonderful thing of Race to the Top.” She warned that these schools were teaching our children to “hate Americans.” Watch it:
Not to be outdone, Gaffney told the audience that, along with the federal government and CPAC, Gulen schools were “another example of this Muslim Brotherhood kind of operation, stealth jihad.” Completing Fox News host Glenn Beck’s “worldwide Muslim caliphate theory,” Gaffney also declared that Fethullah Gulen, the namesake of Gulen schools, “is a fellow who I think envisions himself being the next Caliph.” He finished by calling Gulen schools “an insidious, seditious program” and called on conference-goers to spread the word to friends and elected officials. Watch it:
Full transcript, after the jump
LITTLETON: If you’ve done any research on Gulen schools, you need to get on the Internet and do some. Because I believe – and this is just my own personal opinion without any factual data to back it up – one of the only reasons the Obama administration is willing to stand in the face of teacher’s unions, who supported his campaign with large numbers by the way. The only reason he’s pushing more charter schools, even in the face of teachers unions, is by making states adopt charter school rules that are open and who are applying for Race to the Top funds, I think that he’s doing that because of these Gulen schools. The Gulen schools are the Muslim schools in our country. I’m showing you how many of them are already operating, you can see there’s 107 of them. Twelve of them are opening in 2010, nine are pending, 22 were declined. There are over 150 schools in the United States that are already out there that are telling the kids of the United States of America, “hate Americans and the whole rest of the…” and you’ll hear more about that tomorrow, I’m excited you’re going to get to see that.
KEYES: Do you think the administration anticipated the rise in Gulen schools as a result of Race to the Top education money?
LITTLETON: I don’t think they tied it to the money in any way, shape or form. But I do think they intentionally – and again, this is my own opinion – but I think they probably intentionally had already thought through how they could have a proliferation and a sneaking creep, if you will, of Gulen schools by embedding their acceptance and even promotion of charter schools under this new wonderful thing of Race to the Top and “let’s fund the schools this way.” Even though there’s not really the direct funding source, I think it was the intention to promote charter schools.
KEYES: Couched in very flowery language.
KEYES: Why do you suppose they want to do that?
LITTLETON: Well, there’s going to be speculation, by everyone that’s out there. You yourself I’m sure have done the research, you’ve seen and heard some of the things our own president has said about the Muslims. You’ve heard that he thinks we ought to be friendly to some of their causes, that we should be tolerant in promoting some of the Muslims that are scientists and technology people. I think we need to go back and research what our president has said and by his own words and admissions, I think you can probably make the connection.
GAFFNEY: As to this question about a Turk by the name of Gulen, this is one of those little-known stories that I’m thrilled that you’ve mentioned because it is another example of this Muslim Brotherhood kind of operation, stealth jihad. This is a fellow who I think envisions himself being the next Caliph. He is enormously influential in his native Turkey, where he has helped instigate, essentially, an Islamist takeover of the country with a wholesale repudiation and replacement of Ataturk’s secular form of government with one that is through-and-through Islamist. And that’s now increasingly making common cause with Iran, with Syria, with Hezbollah, with Hamas, which is very clearly hostile to Israel, which Turkey was until recently strategic partners with. In short, it is headed in a very dangerous direction indeed, Turkey is. This guy, Gulen, has been extending his influence by building large numbers of these schools all over the world. And the really extraordinary thing is he’s doing so from a safe haven in Rick Santorum’s great state of Pennsylvania. For a time his operation was considered a terrorist group, until inexplicably the Clinton administration decided it wasn’t anymore. And so he is churning out an insidious, seditious program from within the territory of the United States. And I would venture there isn’t one member of Congress today who has ever heard of his name, let alone understands what he is up to. We’re anxious to try to spread this word, and to those of you who are in contact with one of your five folks you are reaching out to happens to be your elected representative at the federal level or for that matter the state level, we can help educate and equip with this kind of information, we’re anxious to do it.
When it comes to hatching conspiracy theories, conservatives and Islamophobia are a match made in heaven. In the wake of Egypt’s peaceful democratic revolution, Fox News host Glenn Beck warned his viewers that former President Mubarak’s ouster portended an impending worldwide Muslim caliphate, a prediction that earned Beck the ire of even the likes of Bill Kristol. Leading neoconservative Frank Gaffney is also a regular propagator of fanciful theories of Islam, from Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the Conservative Political Action Conference to Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the United States government.