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20130721-172412.jpgSufi and other graves at the Sulemaniye Mosque complex

To complicate the narrative of religion in Turkish schools even further, I heard today about the Gülen schools. Founded by mystical leader (though he claims not to be a Sufi) Fetullah Gülen, these schools are advertised as a fascinating mix of cutting edge education in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as spiritually-inspired service education. Its critics, primarily the secularists, are worried it is a Trojan horse to introduce religion into the schools. More broadly, they claim the Gülen movement, which goes far beyond school, has many attributes of a cult. They argue it is strictly hierarchical, secretive, requires large “donations,” demands obedience, and expects members to favor each other in business and government.

A visitor to Gülen schools told me that though they claim to be ecumenical and modern, there is pressure for women to wear hijab, and that men and women do not sit together in the faculty lounge.

The movement is too complicated for me to explore in depth, but if you are interested check out the Wikipedia article. They have been founding schools around the world, including in the United States.