The Jacksonville chapter of the controversial group ACT! for America is accusing a local school of ties to terrorism in a new press release, linking the school to an FBI investigation through a media report that, contrary to ACT!’s claims, indicates any actions the FBI is conducting has nothing to do with terrorism.
The schools in question were founded by Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic political figure from Turkey who currently lives in the Poconos. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education are investigating “whether some charter school employees are kicking back part of their salaries to a Muslim movement founded by Gulen known as Hizmet, or Service, according to knowledgeable sources.”
The investigation has no apparent link to terrorism. The Inquirer reports instead that “it is focused on whether hundreds of Turkish teachers, administrators, and other staffers employed under the H1B visa program are misusing taxpayer money.”
According to a Turkish newspaper, a 2005 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says that the Gülen community seems to be a “moderate Islam model that keeps its distance from violence and terrorism.”
Gülen currently has more than 120 schools across the country: The school network’s website shows endorsements from President Bill Clinton, as well as photos of students visiting the White House to display award-winning science projects.
The Jacksonville chapter of ACT! for America — the same controversial group that led an aggressive campaign against Dr. Parvez Ahmed’s appointment to the city’s Human Rights Commission last year — sent out a press release yesterday, alleging that the investigation is related to terrorism.
According to the release, Jacksonville’s “South Side Science Academy” is under investigation for “Islamic Indoctrination or ‘Brain Washing’.” A Google search turned up no school with that name, but there is a “Rivercity Science Academy” which some blogs have accused of ties to Gülen.
ACT!’s Randy McDaniels writes in the press release that one of the school’s board members, also a member of the Amity Turkish Cultural Center, has been conducting annual “INFLUENCE OPERATIONS” by paying for the travel expenses of prominent officials in the community to Turkey. The release lists Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford and Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll as two such officials.
Calls to McDaniels and Rutherford’s office have not been returned.
FBI spokesman Jeffrey Westcott says the bureau has not confirmed any of the allegations brought forth by ACT!
“Unless someone has been charged or a search warrant has been issued, we don’t confirm investigations,” he says. “So it’s bizarre for someone to say that we are investigating.”