A mid-level abuser of the H-1 B program in the U.S. is also a major political leader in Turkey, an odd combination.
In America, Fethullah Gulen is the head of a movement which creates tax-supported charter schools which have both an emphasis on teaching science and on using the H-1B program to displace U.S. teachers with Turkish ones. Thousands of Turkish teachers – many with no science credentials – have secured visas from these schools as we have reported in earlier blogs.
Though the schools themselves often get good reviews, they are equally often charged with Tammany Hall financial arrangements, favoring Turkish contractors. The Gulen schools seem to be secular and do not stress the teaching of Islam. Gulen himself lives in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, in Turkey, Gulen is regarded as a major religious leader, one that is identified with a moderate version of Islam, and as a prominent opponent of the dictatorial prime minister, Recep Erdogan.
Erdogan, once an ally of Gulen, has been leading an incrementally more religious state, and has marshaled both the rural poor and a collection of crony capitalists against more progressive elements in society, and as a result there has been an upsurge of urban street protests. A major such event came when Erdogan sought to turn over the Istanbul equivalent of New York’s Central Park to some politically-favored businessmen who plan to erect commercial buildings there.
Erdogan’s opponents, to quote the New York Times, “have become increasingly resentful over the dizzying pace of development and riches amassed by a new, pious economic elite.”
Gulen’s allies are said to be well-positioned within the nation’s law enforcement system and are critical of the country’s endemic corruption. Recently three of Erdogan’s cabinet ministers were forced to resign because of corruption charges.
Turkish politics is not one of my specialties, but Gulen seems to be on the right side of the issues there. I wish he would forget about charter schools here and concentrate on the government of his homeland.
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