|American Islamic College to be operated by the Gulen Movement|
The American Islamic College is expected to gain operating authority from a state education body early next month, a move likely to ignite controversy because of the college’s ties to a murky and far-reaching international movement led by Turkish religious leader Fetullah Gulen.
Supporters see the opening of the college as an important step for Islamic instruction in the United States, where scores of Gulen-backed charter schools have gained a reputation for academic achievement and a commitment to spreading Turkish language and culture.
Yet the Gulen schools have sparked widespread concern about possible manipulation of immigration laws and misuse of taxpayer dollars. Gulen himself is shrouded in mystery, too. An extremely wealthy and well-connected Turkish spiritual and political leader, he lives in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania while his followers in Turkey have ignited controversy with their efforts to increase the role of Islam in public life.
The Chicago college, founded in 1981 in the Lakeview neighborhood but dormant since 2004, would become the second Islamic educational institution in the country to offer college-level credit. For area Muslims, it would be a rejoinder to those who depict followers of Islam as uncivilized and prone to extremism.
“It looks like a resurrection of the college, which is great,” said Zaher Sahloul, head of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. “It’s very important to have an institution of higher learning run by the Muslim community. It fills a need in the Chicago area and the Midwest.”
But top officials at American Islamic College have been linked to Mr. Gulen’s movement, which has been accused of fundamentalist teachings in some countries and of covertly building a more Islamic society in Turkey. In a cable obtained by Wikileaks, America’s former ambassador to Turkey characterized the Gulen movement as a potentially destabilizing influence in Turkey that some more secular Turks see as trying an effort to bring about a fundamentalist Islamic state.
Called Hizmet, a Turkish word meaning “service,” the Gulen movement promotes public service and education and runs think tanks, universities, media outlets and one of Turkey’s largest banks. The organization seeks to spread Gulen’s influence internationally through a network of 1,000 schools in 130 countries.
Hizmet operates more than 120 publicly funded charter schools in the U.S.
Yet administrators of these schools often deny any official connection to the movement, which has no formal organization or official membership.
“It’s safe to assume that A.I.C. will be influenced by the Gulen movement,” mainly through the selection of AIC’s instructors and administrative staff, said Hakan Yavuz, a political science professor at the University of Utah and co-editor of a 2003 book on the organization.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Gulen Schools Worldwide-American Islamic College connected to Gulen Movement