El Paso County Commissioner Peggy Littleton is not an expert on the Turkish educator, author and imam Fethullah Gülen. She'll admit it. But that didn't stop her from lecturing at a recent right-wing education conference on the dangers of Gülen's influence on American charter schools.
These "Gülen charter schools," as she refers to them, are a creeping threat posed by jihadists bent on teaching our children core Muslim principles, such as hating Americans, but are they real?
There are certainly Gülen-inspired schools throughout the world — even in this country — as he is one of the most important contemporary Muslim thinkers when it comes to the issue of education and Islamic modernization. The movement that he has inspired is vast.
Yet there is no concrete evidence anywhere that I could find that proves that Gülen or his adherents are secretly starting and funding charter schools. And Littleton, despite her public comments on the subject, couldn't point me to a specific concrete example of Gülen's untoward influence over, or profit from, a charter school.
Just like, as we reported today, Littleton suspects, without any facts or data to back it up, that this Muslim encroachment is being assisted by the president.
In our interview, I asked if she could explain to me what makes a school a Gülen charter school. My exact words were: "I don't understand exactly what a Gülen charter school is."
"If you do some research you can come up with a really good definition on the web," she says. "But a Gülen school is, they are schools that are actually are being applied for by a gentleman, and I forget his first name, Mr. Gülen; he's a gentleman who lives in Turkey."
"They are schools, at least oversees, and I don't know for any fact, and I want to make sure we are clear on this, that I am not saying that they do this in the United States, that oversees in Turkey, from the research that I have done, that they are very open about inculcating Muslim principles in their schools."
In a country that is 99.8 percent Muslim. Shocking.
Later in the interview, she admits that she has no evidence — at all, none — that directly links Gülen to any of the more than 100 charter schools in the United States that she believes are Gülen schools.
She says that most of these Gülen charter schools have a high number of foreign employees, here on work visas. In fact, of the only school in Colorado that Littleton points to as a Gülen charter, Lotus School for Excellence in Aurora, she says: "All of their entire board is foreign ... [and] to my understanding, are here on work visas."
We asked the principal of Lotus, Adnan Doyuran, about Littleton's claim regarding the makeup of its board. Doyuran is from Turkey, but came to the states in 1996 to study and earn his Ph.D. in physics. He says that Littleton's claim about his board is not true: "All of our board members are either US citizens or permanent residents."
But, as Littleton says, she isn't an expert on Gülen.