What is the Gulen Movement and why is it dangerous for America?

The following was taken from an interview from Frank Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio”. Clare Lopez, a retired CIA operations officer and the current Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Center for Security Policy, discusses a little-know threat known as the Gulen Movement. Lopez goes on to describe the threat from this particular movement to academic institutions inside the United States.

FRANK GAFFNEY: Welcome back, we’re joined by my colleague at the Center for Security Policy, our Vice President for Research and Analysis, a career intelligence professional, indeed for about twenty years in the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine services, a woman of extraordinary skill and knowledge, in particular about threats to this country, now, most especially emanating from the global jihad movement. Her name is Clare Lopez, she is the coauthor with Christopher Holton of a new monograph from the Center for Security Policy press entitled, Gulen and the Gulenist Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and Its’ Contributions to the Civilzation Jihad. Clare, welcome back, it’s good to have you with us as always.

CLARE LOPEZ: Thank you very much Frank, very much glad to be with you.

FRANK GAFFNEY: I wanted to catch up with you rather urgently, Clare, because this monograph has become even more timely as a result of a development that’s reported in the Wall Street Journal today, in which it appears the government of Turkey has retained legal counsel in this country to bring, basically a complaint, against some of the operations of this Gulenist movement. So let’s talk first about that movement, what it is, who Fethullah Gulen is, how they got here and what they’re doing and then we’ll talk about the particulars of this case in Texas.

CLARE LOPEZ: Sure, well, Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish Sunni cleric, he left Turkey in 1999, came to the United States to live here when he was fleeing the then secular government in Turkey, with which he was at odds over his behavior and activities in Turkey, which involved a network of schools and promoting opposition to Kemal Ataturk that was secularizing and modernizing Turkey. So he’s been here in the states, living in the Poconos in a guarded compound ever since 1999. But he continues to head up not just a global empire of school systems, including here in the U.S., but a financial empire and many Turkish cultural groups too.

FRANK GAFFNEY: This cult is really organized as you say around Fethullah Gulen, but his principal purpose though is to promote principally, the same things that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, has been doing, in fact they’ve been thick as thieves for a long time in advancing this Islamist agenda in Turkey for a long time. They’re evidentially at odds at the moment, what is that about, Clare?

CLARE LOPEZ: Well, yes, they have fallen out, but just as you say, they were on the same page for a long, long time, along with President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, which is in power now in Turkey, the AKP for short, and they’ve shared the agenda for the destruction for Ataturk’s modernization program in Turkey and a turn in Turkey back to neo-Ottoman days, and an Islamist agenda.

FRANK GAFFNEY: The caliphate, yeah. So what are they at odds about now, Clare?

CLARE LOPEZ: Well, they’re at odds because they both can’t be in power. They both can’t be on top. They’re bitter rivals for power inside of Turkey right now, as a matter of fact, the style of President Erdogan has become increasingly dictatorial, he just recently deposed his Prime Minsiter Ahmed Davutolgu and the senior jurist of the Muslim Brotherhood, interestingly, Yousef al-Qardawi recently in a public conference called Erdogan ‘sultan,’ he actually called him Sultan. So it’s about power, that’s all it is, who gets to be in charge.

FRANK GAFFNEY: So it’s kind of war between Mafia dons, it’s not substantive difference, it’s just over who will be in charge.

CLARE LOPEZ: That’s a way to put it.

FRANK GAFFNEY: Let me, Clare, ask you then about the present issue reported in the Wall Street Journal about these Harmony schools, as they’re called, in Texas. What are they and are they the only examples of what Gulen has got going here at taxpayer expense?

CLARE LOPEZ: The [inaudible] of Turkey has spilled over into the United States by the hiring of a law firm here in Washington, D.C. called Amsterdam and Partners, and they are the ones referred to in the Wall Street Journal article today, “Turkey links Texas schools to dissident.” What they have filed suit about are allegedly discriminatory hiring practices of the Harmony network of Gulen schools in Texas. Now, that’s the largest network we have of Gulen schools in the United States. There are many, many schools, perhaps as many as 150 at the K-12 level, plus three universities in the U.S., but the Texas system is the largest and it is those schools that have drawn the attention of this lawsuit now, alleging that, some of the same allegations actually that have been alleged against other Gulen schools across the country, that they are abusing, for instance, the H1B visa hiring system, which is supposed to give first preference to Americans to be hired if possible, and only if they can’t find someone they can bring in a foreigner. Other investigations have involved things like kick backs of salary by the staff, are required to give back a portion of their salary to the Gulen movement. And other allegations that haven’t been mentioned so far as we know by Amsterdam partners in this suit, have to do with all expense paid trips by the Gulen movement for school administrations, students and others.

FRANK GAFFNEY: These are all charges, as you say, that have been raised by others, you’ve documented in your new book, Clare Lopez, Gulen and the Gulenist Movement, which is available folks for free, as a downloadable PDF, at the Center for Security Policy’s website, securefreedom.org, I commend it to you, because what you’ve pulled together here, and what this law firm has raised formally with educators and administrators in the state of Texas, is profound concern. I guess Clare, what is going on here, as I understand it, under the rubric of these STEM schools, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is really an operation cultivating, if not converting, certainly proselytizing to American students under the guise of Turkish nationalism what is basically Islamist doctrine, sharia. Give us a flavor of how serious a problem this is, and if there’s any doubt in your mind that if Recep Tayyip Erdogan were able to operate this that he would do it, he just doesn’t like his rival doing it here.

CLARE LOPEZ: Yeah, I think you’re right about that, and indeed, these schools that are set up across the United States as charter schools, which means they get taxpayer dollars, kind of a unique system we have here in this country for funding schools, but the parents typically love these schools because as you say, they tout a science, engineering, technology and math curriculum and most of these students live in what had other wise been underserved or disadvantaged neighborhoods for children that did not have better pubic schools before this. So, that’s the attraction of the schools, but there’s never been any accusation per se that the schools have advanced any kind of jihadist or Islamist curriculum in the class, but rather that the emphasis in some of the curriculum is on a Turkish focus, in other words, Turkish history, Turkish culture, and at some levels in some schools, an actual requirement to take Turkish language, and then of course, the associated activities, fairs, and other programs after school, and then the trips.

FRANK GAFFNEY: Clare, this is such important work, as with all of the efforts you make to help us document the civilization jihad, in fact this is Volume 8 in a series of books on that subject, the Civilization Jihad reader series. You do such great research and analysis and we’re so glad you come on the show to talk a bit about it in the context at the moment of the Gulen movement. Keep it up, come back to us again very soon.