Features

Soft sell

"Soft sell" Continued...

Issue: "Back to School," Aug. 27, 2011

In 2008 Gulen received permanent residency status in the United States. He now lives with a staff on an estate near Saylorsburg, Pa., about an hour's drive north of Philadelphia. Gulen regularly refuses interviews and claims no connection except inspiration to the school movement that bears his name. But Islamist-watchers are concerned that these "Gulen-inspired" schools intend to help promote Islam-not by proselytizing or even by teaching Turkish culture, but by showing peaceful, community-minded Muslim educators.

What's wrong with that? MEMRI calls Gulen the "most powerful and influential Islamist movement in Turkey . . . a semi-state within a state." Followers mentor young people to "prepare them for future careers in legal, political, and educational professions, in order to create the future Islamist Turkish state."

In the United States, Gulen-inspired charters are unlikely to promote Islam directly, according to an American businessman who lived in Turkey for 12 years. (WORLD agreed not to name him because he still owns a business and travels there.) Instead, he said, Gulenists try to make appreciative parents and students more accepting of Islam. The long-term approach, he said, is to "just practice Islam-we don't even have to preach-and people will realize the justice of our system and convert."

Many American evangelicals have become adept in criticizing and opposing militant Islam. The Gulen schools offer a new challenge: When Christians shirk from developing schools for low-income students, Gulen moves in.

Listen to Marvin Olasky discuss WORLD's Back to School issue on The World and Everything in It.

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