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Louisiana: Foreign Operated Charter School State Legislation Introduced

Kenilworth Science and Technology School(1)

Gulen Science Academy Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Turkey’s Sunni Muslim Brotherhood Islamist leader, Premier Erdogan, this June could become the country’s first elected Executive President modeled on the US and France. It would give him enormous powers furthering his goal of creating a neo-Ottoman Caliphate.  Erdogan’s former ally, Sufi Sheik Muhammed Fethullah Gülen launched a major split in December 2013, after Erdogan banned non-state run preparatory school. This was, aimed squarely at the Gulen academies, a major source of the multi-billion dollar Gulen Movement (GM) global empire. The GM supplies Turkish nonimmigrant foreign workers to more than 1,000 private preparatory schools in over 100 countries, including more than 135 Charter schools in 20 states here in the US.

The expat Sheik Gulen, a resident alien, occupies a fortified compound in the Poconos Mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania. In retaliation, GM followers in Turkey’s public prosecutors and judiciary launched a series of investigations against Erdogan.  The investigations revealed extensive family involvement with funneling funds via Saudi global terrorist financier for Al Qaeda –backed militias in Syria, bribery payments on major construction projects, illicit gold for gas trades with Iran and muzzling free speech with shutdown of Twitter and You Tube.  Recent municipal election victories in Turkey in late March have paved the way for changes in the country’s basic Constitutional law enabling Erdogan to seek the new form of Presidency. That could have his AK party extend its power a decade beyond the current 11 year tenure of the Islamist party in Ankara’s parliament.

What we have in Turkey today is a contest between two Islamists. Erdogan, seeking to convert the country into a Caliphate with a one time election to an executive Presidency, versus, Gulen “the world’s most dangerous Islamist” slowly perfects the same goal.

The GM connection here in the US is of interest, because of the controversy over the movement’s control of dozens of Math and Science academies operating with US taxpayer funding as charter schools. According to one source there are more than 135 Gulen charter schools with an enrollment of 45,000 students in over 20 states in the US. The staffs of these US charter schools are manned by Turkish Gulenists who enter the US under the H-1B visa program. There have been expose’s on the US Gulen science academies in Texas and elsewhere published by the New York Times. The Gulen  Harmony Schools in Texas received  $30 million in  grants  from the US Department of Education “Race to the Top” program.

We posted on an FBI raid of a Gulen science academy in Louisiana. Because of the problems with the Gulen charter schools, many states have either passed or are considering legislation that would control the proportion of H-1B Visa staff employed at Gulen-sponsored charter schools. The Gulen movement charter school program has been supported by the Gates and Walton Family Foundations.  The Walton Family Foundation contributed more than $1 million for Gulen schools in California, alone. Former President Bill Clinton has gone on record supporting the GM interfaith dialogue and educational development program in 2008. GM members were alleged to have contributed to Hillary Clinton’s failed Presidential Campaign in 2008.

Gulen’s immigration status came into question in the same year, 2008, in actions brought by the US Department of Homeland Security. Note what the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) reported:

In 2008, negative U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service decisions threatened to deny Gulen’s application for permanent residency. A federal court reversed the rulings after receiving 29 letters on Gulen’s behalf. One of those letters came from [Prof. John] Esposito [of Georgetown University]… after his Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding received donations from the [GM] and sponsored a conference in [Gulen’s] honor.

We noted in a December 2013  Iconoclast post a report by Christopher Holton on the FBI investigations into Gulen  Louisiana charter schools and the efforts by a Texas-based GM charity to stop legislation controlling the influx of Turkish adherents under the H-1B visa program:

The story broke in Baton Rouge media that the Kenilworth Science & Technology School had been raided by the FBI.

The FBI indicated that the raid, which evidently was conducted to gather material evidence in the form of documents and computers, was not a matter of public safety. As a result, it probably was not related to a report earlier this year that a teacher at the school was accused of having inappropriate pictures of children on his cell phone.

Had those charges stuck, that would have been the second scandal of a sexual nature involving a Gulenist school in Louisiana. Abramson Science & Technology Charter School in New Orleans was shut down back in 2011 in the wake of a scandal that started as an investigation into sexual activity involving students at the school and evolved into a possible public bribery investigation. Abramson operated under the same charter organization that Kenilworth operates under: Pelican Educational Foundation.

During the course of the investigation into Abramson, Pelican’s ties to the Gulenist movement were revealed.

[ . . . ]

State Representative Cameron Henry in the 2013 legislative session … filed a bill that would have limited the number of employees hired by Louisiana state-funded charter schools who were in the country on H-1B visas. Henry’s legislation would have gotten right to the heart of the matter – with a very reasonable restriction that no more than 3.5 percent of the school’s employees be H-1B visa recipients (or 1 in 29), and that the people or groups submitting requests to start charter schools be American citizens.

Unfortunately, Henry’s bill hit hard where it hurt for some powerful, politically connected people in Louisiana. It seems that the number one donor to the Louisiana Republican Party in 2012 was none other than a Gulenist organization out of Texas. Kemal Oksuz, president of the Turquoise Council, a Texas-based group closely related to the Gulenist movement and the Harmony charter schools in that state, donated $83,000 to the state GOP, making him its largest donor during 2012.

Fast forward to the current 2014 legislative session in Baton Rouge and the re-introduction of restrictive legislation aimed at employment of nonimmigrant Turkish workers in Louisiana charter schools.

HB 1243 was introduced by Reps.  Hodges and Pope, in the Louisiana legislature in late March 2014. The bill’s purposes are to establish conditions for “approval of certain charter school proposals and provides relative to prohibitions on the employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers in charter schools, with exceptions.”  The bill denies” approval of charter school applications if  staff  positions  with  nonimmigrant  foreign  workers  unless the  charter  school  plans  to  take  affirmative  action  to  recruit,  select,  employ,  and  train nonimmigrant  foreign  workers  regardless  of race, color, religion, sex, national ancestry,  or  national  origin.”   The legislation defines a non immigrant foreign worker as ” as an individual  who  has  a  visa  pursuant  to  certain provisions  of  the  federal Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965’. Further it states that “non-immigrant foreign worker” shall not mean a teacher who spends more than half of his time providing instruction in or teaching a foreign language.”

Similar legislation was introduced in the 2014 Mississippi legislature.  HB510 contains similar bars against employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers.  Section 37-28-47 1. (b) of the, Mississippi Code of 1972, would be amended as follows:

 A charter school may not staff positions for teachers, administrators, ancillary support personnel or other employees by utilizing or otherwise relying on non-immigrant foreign worker visa programs.  However, a charter school may submit a request to the authorizer for an exception allowing the employment of a non-immigrant foreign worker before the worker is employed.  The authorizer may grant permission for the employment of the non-immigrant foreign worker only if the charter school makes a satisfactory showing of efforts to recruit lawful permanent residents of the United States to fill the position and a lack of qualified applicants to fill the position.

In May  2011, we were asked to prepare a presentation to brief the Tennessee House Speaker about the GM charter schools investigations at that time and the purported abuses of the H-1B visa program for nonimmigrant foreign workers, see here.  In May 2012, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam allowed the law restricting the employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers for Charter schools approved by the state despite his misgiving and those of the State’s attorney general in an October 2012 opinion indicated  that the provisions might be unlawful under the equal protection provisions of the US Fourteenth Amendment.   A  Knoxville News .com report on the 2012 Tennessee legislation noted its provisions vis vis foreign interests, including funding as well as restriction on employment of nonimmigrant foreign workers:

The governor announced on May 2, 2012, that the bill restricting foreign interests in charter schools would go into law without his signature.

Under the act, which takes effect July 1, 2012, a chartering authority may not approve an application if a school plans to rely on “non-immigrant foreign worker H-1B or J1 visa programs in excess of 3.5 percent of the total number of positions,”  if operators of the proposed school have been affiliated with other schools that have been “subjects of investigation by any government agencies for questionable use of non-immigrant foreign worker visa programs,” or if  the school is controlled by foreign nationals. Certain provisions of the law do not apply if the chartering authority is a local education agency and the agency itself uses foreign worker visa programs to fill more than 3.5 percent of its staff.

The law also states that charter school applications and renewals shall disclose all sources of private funds and all funds from foreign sources.

The emergence of restrictive employment of non-immigrant foreign workers will take a long time to be adopted by Louisiana and Mississippi, notwithstanding the relatively quick adoption in Tennessee.  Given the battles in Turkey between the AK party of Premier Erdogan and former ally Sheik Gulen there will doubtless be intense pressure to place GM Turkish adherents through its global private academy and charter school network.

There is a further compounding factor that should be considered. The attractiveness of investment in private run charter schools to so-called entrepreneurial immigrants under the EB-5 Visa system. In exchange for a $500,000 private investment, the investor receives an immediate green card.  Note this Reuters article, “The new US visa rush: Build a charter school, get a green card”:

Wealthy individuals from as far away as China, Nigeria, Russia and Australia are spending tens of millions of dollars to build classrooms, libraries, basketball courts and science labs for American charter schools.

In Buffalo, New York, foreign funds paid for the Health Sciences Charter School to renovate a 19th-century orphanage into modern classrooms and computer labs. In Florence, Arizona, overseas investment is expected to finance a sixth campus for the booming chain of American Leadership Academy charter schools.

And in Florida, state business development officials say foreign investment in charter schools is poised to triple next year, to $90 million.

The reason? Under a federal program known as EB-5, wealthy foreigners can in effect buy U.S. immigration visas for themselves and their families by investing at least $500,000 in certain development projects.

The GM has latched on to a good thing in the Charter School system here in the US. It provides a platform for indoctrinating American children in its form of Turkish Islamism supplying employment for GM adherents. The EB-5 system would bolster investment in Charter Schools not only by the GM but also by the Muslim Brotherhood perfecting its form of Da’wah to Somali émigré children. That occurred in Minneapolis with the Muslim American Society control of the Tarek Ibn Zayed Academy subjected to a suit by the Minnesota branch of the ACLU in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.  Let’s see if these bills can make it through the Louisiana and Mississippi legislatures in the waning days of the 2014 sessions. Those legislative bills  and the Tennessee law are a work in process that other states with GM charter school problems might consider investigating as remedies.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

Sharia Compliant Finance in America

Yesterday’s New York Times Business Day Section had a major article reporting  on Shariah Compliant Finance, “Islamic Banks, Stuffed with Cash, Explore Partnerships in West.”  In late October 2013, we posted on the Iconoclast  about cheerleading that UK Prime Minister  David Cameron gave at the London meetings of the World Islamic Economic Forum  extolling the virtues of making the City,  “the unrivaled Center for Islamic finance.” In that post, we drew attention to some of the demonstrable problems that  the UK had encountered over the past five years accommodating  “Islamic Economic Imperialism,” the term  used by Christopher Holton, Vice President for Outreach at the Washington, DC-based Center for Security Policy and editor of Sharia Finance Watch.

The New York Times article noted the mushrooming growth of the  global Shariah compliant  financial market place:

Over the last 30 years, the Islamic financial sector has grown from virtually nothing to over $1.6 trillion in assets, according to data from the Global Islamic Financial Review, an industry publication. The financial crisis has only encouraged the growth. Industry assets grew 19 percent in 2011 and 20 percent in 2012, in contrast to the less than 10 percent growth at non-Islamic banks in most of the world.

Until recently, Islamic banks have largely put their money to work in the Middle East — or, if they invested in other parts of the world, in real estate. Real estate is among the most popular investments under Islamic law, also known as Shariah, because a deal can be structured that does not require interest payments, which are prohibited by Shariah. But as the banks grow larger they are looking for new, more diverse places to put their money.

Coincidentally, Holton, see our March 2013 NER interview with him, sent us a recent video of his presentation on Shariah Compliant Finance at an event sponsored byChildren of Holocaust Survivors of  Los Angeles  (CHSLA) on December 18, 2013, “Shariah Compliant Finance and Jihad with Money.”  Watch the CHSLA presentation of Holton, here.

Holton  made several  telling points to his lay audience. He said that the term Islamic Finance, the term of art used in the international financial and investment banking community, is cover for Shariah compliant finance aimed at perpetrating  stealth Jihad via a sophisticated call to Islam. It connotes so-called “ethical investing”  given compliance with the totality of  Islamic Shariah and Qur’anic doctrine. It is all about using the cover of the greed factor that undergirds capitalism in the West.

He gave some background of Shariah compliant finance going back to the writings in 1940 of Maulana Maududi, the Indian-born Pakistan Islamic scholar, extolling the virtuesof  Islamic Economics as part of an Islamic revival in the 20th Century. There were similar soundings about the benefits of this in the writings of Sayyid Qutb in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Qutb was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who provided the underpinnings for the Jihadist doctrine that had its manifestation in Al Qaeda. We also note that Hassan al Banna, Egyptian school teacher and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 like Maududi and his disciple Qutb, viewed  Islamic Economic Imperialism as a counterweight.Joseph Spoerl in an NER article, “The World View of Hasan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood” noted that al Banna said:

The entire Muslim world is being corrupted by Western decadence: Muslim countries are being flooded with Western capital, banks, and companies. The founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 is often explained as a reaction against Western imperialism. For Islamic imperialism al-Banna has only the most effusive praise.22 Imperialism to impose Islamic rule on non-Muslims is altogether to the good. Al-Banna is fully aware that Islam was born not only as a religion but also as an imperialistic ideology mandating the conquest of non-Muslims.

Al-Banna began a network of banks in Egypt and elsewhere that met the Qur’anic standards that prohibited  interest payments as usurious.

Holton explains as vast areas of the Muslim Ummah from Morocco in the West through the Arab heartland to South Asia and the Indonesian Archipelago were Western colonial possessions with Western banking commercial and industrial enterprises. There were few independent Islamic countries of note until the post World War Two era  when independence movements swept these areas. It was oil, and especially the 1973 and 1979 Oil Embargoes and the establishment of the OPEC Cartel that suddenly filled the coffers of Muslim autocrats and gave rise to trillions of petro-dollars for recycling.

Holton noted that the current market for Shariah Compliant finance including instruments like Sukuk or Islamic bonds has virtually doubled between  2008 to 2012, from $800  billion to over $1.7  trillion. Given UK PM Cameron’s  announcement at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London in October 2013, the  Shariah Compliant Finance market looks ready to kick into gear with the underwriting of a $324 Million Sukuk sovereign bond issue. Historically, the Iranian Islamic regime since the 1979 revolution has become the largest center of Shariah Compliant Finance. Holton noted that Iranian banks held  the top rankings of  the leading 500 Islamic finance institutions in the annual Islamic Finance Review by the UK-based publication, The Banker.

That according to Holton gave rise to providing oversight and clearance of ‘ethical’  Sharia compliant investment that  met the  so-called Qur’anic interest payment prohibitions. That meant turning to Islamic scholars like Muslim Brotherhood preacher Yusuf al Qaradawi in Qatar, Mufti Tami Usmani in Pakistan and others in Malaysia. They became advisors to Western investment groups, such as  al Qaradawi did with Dow Jones that had established an Islamic Investment Index. In the case of Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC) initially retained Usmani as Islamic legal  advisor for its Amanah  funds program.  Western investment groups did not care a fig about what Shariah is, what they wanted was someone of alleged Islamic legal background  to certify that the investment was halal. The problem was that there were not many of these Shariah experts around to satisfy the growth of  Islamic Finance and it lead to evident growth problems and conflicts of interest. There was virtually no due diligence let alone disclosures about Shariah doctrine and especially about zakat.

Zakat as we have written in an NER article on the relation to terrorism is the annual tithing of charitable contributions  to Muslim charities. One of the eight purposes of which is support for the way of Allah, Jihad. Holton illustrated the later referencing a Shariah compliant real estate mortgage firm  based in New Jersey, BMI, that prior to 9/11 had zakat funds directed via an offshore Islamic bank  to the Egyptian predecessor of Al Qaeda controlled by Ayman al Zawahiri.

Conflicts have occurred as many of  the limited supply of Islamic scholars have forced Islamic finance investment fund sponsors to employ them among competitive sponsors. He noted that both Al Qaradawi and Usmani had additional problems because of their support for terrorist groups like Hamas in the case of the former and the Taliban in the latter instance. Usmani as Holton pointed out had formed the largest Madrassa in Pakistan that harbored the Taliban. Moreover in the instance of Usmani, when HSBC was advised to cease advisory relations with him, the bank simply resorted to retaining his son. Dow Jones didn’t seem perplexed about retaining al Qaradawi for its Islamic Finance Index, despite Qaradawi’s being barred from entry by the US Government.

One peculiar instance that Holton noted was an American convert to Islam who is cited as an advisor to one of the Islamic Finance groups in the New York Times article, Yusuf DeLorenzo. He is featured reviewing a rail car finance deal for Continental Rail to make sure that the cars to be financed wouldn’t carry pork, alcohol or tobacco. DeLorenzo, Holton points out was born a Catholic raised in Massachusetts, who after a year at Cornell  University left to find his bliss in Islamic Pakistan. He converted to Islam becoming a Shariah scholar and advisor to  President Gen. Mohammed  Zia- al  Haq, arch Islamist,  who perpetrated the  bloody Jihad civil war in former East Pakistan in 1971 that morphed into what is now Bangladesh.

Holton cited examples of US government and major legal education institutions in the US complicit in promotion of Shariah Compliant Finance. In 2008, the Bush Administration had the Treasury Department sponsored a conference in conjunction with the Islamic Finance Project  of Harvard Law School on the topic of Islamic Finance 101. Holton had attended a seminar on the subject at one of the seminars of the Islamic Finance Project at Harvard Law School in which he observed that at best the participants had a nodding acquaintance of the term Shariah. He also interviewed a former Treasury official involved with terrorism finance who had joined HSBC after being fined $1 billion for engaging in illegal transactions with  Iran’s oil program. The person evinced little interest or knowledge about Shariah.

Perhaps the best comment at the conclusion of the New York Times article is by Mr. Ibrahim Mardam-Bey, a group president at  Washington, DC-based  investment firm Taylor-DeJongh. who observed:

That some American businesses were hesitant to take money from Islamic banks, perhaps a byproduct of negative associations with Shariah since the Sept. 11 attacks. But in the Texas deal, and in many others, that tends to fade as the financial possibilities become clear.

“The borrower was a Texan wildcatter who couldn’t spell ‘sukuk,’ ” Mr. Mardam-Bey said. “But at the end of the day when I brought the check he didn’t care if I prayed to Allah. He just wanted the money.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.