A secretive Islamic movement is trying to infiltrate the U.S. military by establishing and operating publicly-funded charter schools targeted toward children of American service personnel.

That charge may sound like a conspiracy theory from the lunatic fringe, but it is real and it is happening right now.  The most immediate threat is in Nevada, where Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas (CASLV) is currently negotiating with the United States Air Force to locate a charter school at Nellis Air Force Base, with classes starting this fall.  What is not widely known is that CASLV is part of a nationwide organization of charter schools and other businesses headed by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, a reclusive but influential Imam living under self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania to avoid criminal prosecution in his native Turkey.

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Our law firm has been engaged by the Republic of Turkey – a key NATO ally in a hotbed region – to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the operations and geopolitical influence of the Gülen organization, which is behind the Coral Academy of Science and over 140 other public charter schools scattered across 26 American states.  Our investigation, still in its early stages, reveals that the Gülen organization uses charter schools and affiliated businesses in the U.S. to misappropriate and launder state and federal education dollars, which the organization then uses for its own benefit to develop political power in this country and globally.

Aside from defrauding American taxpayers, the Gülen organization has an even more ominous objective in the United States.  The organization is one of the country’s largest recipients of H1-B “specialty occupation” visas, which it uses to import Turkish teachers into its charter schools, supposedly because local U.S. talent is not available to fill math and science teaching positions in its charter schools.  The Gülen organization illegally threatens to revoke these visas unless the Turkish teachers agree to kick back part of their salary to the organization.

More importantly, the Turkish teachers in Gülen organization charter schools are evaluated not on the basis of their teaching skills, but rather on whether they achieve monthly goals in a secret point system designed to instil Turkish culture and Gülenist ideology in our American students. The goal, we are told, is to develop a Gülenist following of high achievers, incubated in our local community schools across the country.

The Gülen organization has been able to grow in the U.S. largely because it conceals both its identity and its motives.  The first line of defense for Gülenist charter schools and companies has been to deny any affiliation with Fethullah Gülen (their officers and directors claim that they are merely “inspired by” Gülen’s religious teachings), as if the simple creation of business entities in which Fethullah Gülen himself holds no ownership interest could alter his ultimate control over the organization.  In reality, the governing boards of the Gülen charter schools are populated disproportionately by loyal Turkish men answering to a handful of Imams who rule over defined regions across the U.S., reporting ultimately to Gülen in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.  

In Nevada, CASLV is a three-campus school operating under a charter held by tax-exempt Coral Education Corp., headquartered in Reno.  Three of Coral’s board members are Turkish, one of whom was formerly the Principal at two other Gülen organization charter schools, the Sonoran Science Academy at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona and the Bay Area Technology School in California.

Unfortunately, Nellis Air Force Base is not the Gülen organization’s first stab at a U.S. military base.  The organization successfully opened a school on Davis-Monthan AFB in 2009, and it tried but failed to gain access to Marine Corps Base Hawaii and Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois.  In California, Magnolia Public Schools applied for a charter in Oceanside, where Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is located, although it temporarily withdrew its application after our law firm pointed out Magnolia’s connection to the Gülen organization earlier this year.

Lest there be any doubt about the objectives in the United States, the strategy of subtly indoctrinating school children into the Gülen movement is a familiar one overseas, and there is great peril in allowing it to flourish in this country.  In his native Turkey, Gülen created a network of hundreds of schools that have produced – over the past three decades – a vast cadre of followers now prepared to perform his bidding from official positions in government, law enforcement, the judiciary and the media.  Although precise numbers are impossible to verify, some have estimated that he currently controls more than half of the entire Turkish police force. The Economist newspaper compared Gülen’s influence in Turkey to the Freemason infiltration of law enforcement and judicial elites in Europe during the last century. Numerous documented cases in Turkey involving planted evidence, tainted prosecutions and illegal incarceration of Gülen critics underscore that he is quite willing to abuse his power and influence.

The same game plan is playing out, at last count, in 101 countries on every habitable continent.  With an estimated six million followers globally and assets in the range of $20-$50 billion, the Gülen organization has managed to conceal a great deal about its doctrine, mission or objectives.  Whether Gülen’s followers are classified as a religious sect, a commercial enterprise, a political movement or – as Dutch legislators concluded – a cult, it should be a matter of significant concern for our security and regulatory authorities.

In light of Gülen’s modus operandi elsewhere, the Department of Homeland Security should be asking itself why such a non-transparent, religion-based organization would seek to establish itself on our military bases, teaching the children of our service men and women.


Robert R. Amsterdam is founder of Amsterdam and Partners LLP, an international law firm based in Washington, DC and London.