Harmony Schools Accused of Being Linked to Muslim Movement


POSTED: Thursday, December 8, 2011 - 10:09am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 9:49pm

EL PASO- The Harmony Schools in Texas have been accused of indoctrinating Muslim religious beliefs in their curriculum.

The Harmony Schools are charter schools in Texas that focus on math and science. There are two in the El Paso area which have been attracting attention for their success rates with the students.

The Cosmos Foundation is the parent organization to the Harmony Schools. It is a charter school operator founded a decade by a group of professors and businessmen from Turkey. Cosmos has moved quickly to become the largest charter school operator in Texas, with 33 schools receiving more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds.There are about 120 schools across the country that teach over 20,000 students.

 In the last few years, the schools have been garnering negative attention for their supposed link to the Gulen Movement, a Muslim following. Many of the staff and some of the founders of the schools are from Turkey and happen to be followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher of a moderate brand of Islam.

The Superintendent of the schools and one of the Co-founders, Soner Tarim, is a Turkish-American and came to the United States in the early 90's to study at Texas A&M. He says the schools do not reach any form of religion to their students. " Because I'm the head of the school people should not look at me and label the school...all of our teachers and parents know that we do not teach religion obviously, this is a public school."

Allene Helmick, a parent at Harmony Science Academy in El Paso, has been sending her son there for three years. She says she's completely satisfied with the school, but did do her research beforehand amidst the negative media attention."I am Christian and I would never send my child to a Muslim indoctrinated school because of course it's opposite of my belief," she said.

A recent graduate from Harmony Science Academy said the school prepared him for success. "The school prepared me well enough that I was able to go out there and apply for anything that I wanted because of the experience I got here," said Israel Castro. He is now a freshman at UTEP paid for by a full academic scholarship.

Not everyone in the school system is happy with Harmony. Donna Garner, a former teacher in Texas, has been studying these schools for years. She says the schools are a front for an Islamic movement. "They have brought in all these teachers from Turkey, how are they going to teach students about being a good solid American patriot, to learn about the U.S. Constitution, to honor our forefathers, to study the declaration of independence."

Tarim refutes this and says that some of the teachers are international, but 85% are hired locally.

Garner also recalled a situation at a Harmony School performance in Texas, when students stomped on an American Flag. Whether this is true or not, Harmony Schools insist that they do not teach any Anti-American beliefs.

Tarim say "We believe that math and science prepare our students for college for life so that they can be successful."

Comments News Comments

Any time anyone posts anything negative about these radical Islam charter schools, the "satisfied customers" pop out of the woodwork. Note how most of the comments are similarly worded and have poor spelling and/or poor or stilted grammar.

Do not trust any Muslim at any time.

I think that news channel 9 did not do there research in this one. My son has been attending HSI for 4 years and is in the top% for his grade. My so has never said that they teach any kind of religion. My son has so much to do after school that no other school in El Paso can offer ie Robotics, Science Olympiad, trips to summer camp, trips to Huston, even to Turkey. What other school offers all of this? HSI does!!!!! If you need the truth never ask a FORMER TEACHER, ask the kids of HSI

We have asked the kids, and former teachers.
I, also not happy with Ft Bliss, for awarding the schools of Harmony in El Paso, the Ft Bliss grant, what the heck????


ohohmrbill is paid by some people who is against the success of US, so do not believe what he/she says, just google ohohmrbill, you will see his/her posts always about hate and anger, because he/she is paid, he/she is not natural...

It is a bad thing to do to link one man to an entire school. This is only the superintendent, the teachers have never influenced me, a harmony student for 4 years, to ever follow any Islamic beliefs. We have no interfaith dinners and my teacher has NEVER mentioned anything having to do with Islam. Donna Garner is just ignorant and has not done her research about Harmony. I can tell you right now, some of the Turkish teachers are more patriotic than teachers at other schools.

Donna Garner known by many educators that she is extremely racist. She has been trying to activate fascist activities against Harmony Schools.She has been lying about this school system to attack this one of largest charter public school of Texas. I really don't understand why the TV station is letting her promote fascism among people. I think the TV stations should be sensitive about what they are doing. I thing the comments given by parents make things clear. Parents and the students are the t

I have been a student at Harmony Science Academy El Paso campus for 4 years and my teachers have NEVER mentioned any Islam to me. The comments by Donna Garner are false in regards to we are not taught patriotism. Every assembly we all have to say the pledge of allegiance and there is always a flag ceremony. The only subjects that the turkish teachers are employed in are math and science, while the social studies and english classes are taught by american teachers.We welcome anyone to harmony.

Now making a 2nd attempt to leave this comment:
Harmony schools are definitely part of the huge network of schools being operated by the Gulenists around the world. Gulen tells his followers to practice temsil, a passive form of proselytizing, so religious instruction is not done overtly. But another Gulenist goal at work is to instill dual national identities in students (Turkish + other) so their affinity for Gulenist Turkish interests helps to forge an Ottoman Empire rebirth.

kazkaz what are you talking about...you don't know what you are saying, Harmony Schools are doing great job, what did you do for US? Nothing, you just do lip work, it is easy to destroy and it is very hard to built, you are just throwing up hatred...tell me one thing positive for US

Harmony Public schools is NOT part of the gullen movement. I have been a part of the Harmony Campus at El Paso for 4 years now and I have never been taught any kind of Islamic doctrine be my teachers. My teachers, in fact, try to avoid religious speaking and try to focus more on our education in math and science.

From “Fethullah Gülen’s Missionary Schools in Central Asia” by B. Balci: “There is usually therefore a real harmony between parents and the teachers, whom [the Gulenists] much appreciate...The parents will usually lobby on behalf of the cemaat...A strategy of seduction is employed by the cemaat not only towards parents but towards local governments too...The worldwide extent of Fethullah Gülen’s educational network testifies to the internationalist, even imperialist, nature of the movement."

This is even more insulting to parents involved in their children's education. We are not stupid, we are not easily manipulated; being appreciative of the educational committment teachers have to educate our children does not mean that we have been "brain washed". A lot of schools have dedicated administrators and teachers and I haven't heard anyone accuse them of trying to seduce parents to appreciate their work!

My son attended Harmony as a Middle School student. I was not aware of any religious teachings. Canyon Hills as a public school however required a religious book to be read for a grade. The only issue I had with Harmony was that some of courses were not eligible to transfer credits to another school. It appears that some of the teachers are not accredited.

I think the people making bad comments about Harmony are not educated nor have they ever even moved from under their rock here in El Paso. Do you have kids that go to the school? So how do you think you know so much about the schools if you have never been inside a HSA academy? Have you ever been inside a school with gifted and talented students?

I live in the Socorro District and teach in another district and I chose to send my child to Harmony Charter School because of the strong work ethic fostered by all staff and teachers. I am very active in my childs education and know that there is no religious teaching going on anywhere in the school. Why is it that when our children are successful some individuals think that there must be alternative motives for getting them there?

Just to let everybody know that Donna Garner was not teacher at any of El Paso Harmony Schools. I don't think she even has been in any Harmony Schools once.(Not even entered to the school lobby) If she would, she would also be amazed with the school program. SHE WAS NOT FORMER TEACHER OF HARMONY SCHOOLS. She was a teacher long time ago in traditional public schools....

My daughters come to this wonderful school and my husband and I can't thank the teachers enough in this school. Especially the turkish teachers, who have brought their knowledge, commitment and friendship to us. These teachers have come to change our education for the better! Thank you all, my colleagues!

i cannot believe we still have to much racist people in this country

My son attends Harmony and I can tell you that they are not teaching religion. I am pleased with the improvement I have seen in my son since he started Harmony. I have never seen nor heard any religious teaching going on in school. What I do know is that the staff does take the time to teach the students, to make sure they understand, to help them succeed in their education which is one of the keys in succeeding in life.

Jones you should believe the NY Times, CNN, Fox News, USA Today and the other credible news reports about the Schools and their questionable transparency with PROVEN ties and affiliations with The Gulen Movement. Nice try boys!

It is incredible that this news channel had the time to publish this report. I worked for Harmony School of Innovation at El Paso for 2 months and I never saw any Turkish teachers teaching about their religion. Jaqueline Crea and Channel 9 News, instead of believing comments like this one do your research first. This schools does nothing else other than prepare and motivate students to become successful and well rounded people.

I am one of the many parents that received a letter in the mail and was told that my child had been "chosen" to be part of this school. So, I did my research. And needless to say, I wasn't surprised with the outcome. They send out thousands of letters every year, here in El Paso alone, to fill a few spots. But yet the verbage on this letter makes it sound like if your child is one of the very few that were chosen.

You ever wonder how they know you have a child of school age, never the less your home address?

All they're doing is fishing. If they throw enough hooks out into the sea, they'll catch some fish.

Xenophobia and a dislike of charter schools seem to be at the root of this story and its supporters like Donna Garner. The dedication and integrity of our staff, which incidentally never included Ms. Garner (the article states she is a former teacher-NOT a former Harmony teacher)goes above and beyond that of the average teacher. As a result, our students excel and outperform public school students in standardized testing, graduation rates, and college acceptance. The facts always speak louder.

How is it when a Turk slaps a child they get promoted? Where were the News Services when the Assitant Principal @ HSA married a 15 yearold and had to wait a year to legally bring her here? The indoctorination into the muslim way of life seems to be secondary news if a little digging would be done. All of the afore mentioned and more are well known within the Harmony parent community.

Lets ask a few questions that the "News" services can do some research and report on. What is up with the Turkish teachers lack of certification as well as other teachers lack thereof being listed as otherwise on their website(s)? Why do the Turkish teachers have "Sleep Overs" with students (Middle school and up)? How have several recent incidents regarding supposedly inappropriate student-teacher relationships NOT made the news? What is Mayor John Cook's Relationship to the school... 2 B Cont.

@ stripe at least post your name, if you think your garbage is credible.

Where have I lied and how about you lead by example?

I am a proud parent of two young children that attend harmony. Both of my children have been enrolled since the first day that the doors opened and I have seen nothing negative in any way shape or form. How dare you attack this school with false accusations. The staff at harmony goes above and beyond to ensure that the children are provided an excellent education while teaching them about respect for themsleves and others and instilling values and morals. Ignorant people should just keep quiet!

WOW! I am really sadden to see that KTSM really aired this awful segment. I cannot believe that they actually aired this story without getting both sides. My daughters have attended HSI for the last two years and never have they spoken about religion being taught. In fact my oldest has improved since she has been there.

This is a great school district and if you want to see for yourself, please visit one of the campuses here and see for yourselves.

We have three children attending Harmony and are also very pleased with their focus on academics and their personal devotional to our kids' education. As devout Christians, one of our main concerns was the indoctrination of our kids. However, we've discovered that it has served not only to expose our kids to other faiths, but has served to strengthen their own. In fact, we were very disappointed with shaky moral standards introduced in some of the other public schools in town.

I'm really surprised with this article, is this just a sensationalism designed to promote the career aspirations of a young journalist wanna be? What better way to garner the attention of your boss's then the honorable tradition of "Muck Raking". Fanning the flames of religious deviousness is not an honorable way of building ones career...

I'm a born again Christian. My daughters go to Harmony here in El Paso. In the three years my daughters have been attending Harmony they have demonstrated a passion for learning and love for the school. What it does is succeed in teaching its curriculum, discipline, respect and unity. The school's academic standards are high and unacceptable behavior is not tolerated. Isn't that what a school is supposed to do? Isn't that the type of school so many parents look for? Thanks Harmony for arriving.

I am a PTO board member at Harmony School of Innovation and am disappointed Ms. Garner is able to comment on a school where she never worked.

Our teachers, Turkish/Non-Turkish, dedicate all their time in order to help the students succeed.

Our school welcomes the community to tour the school and make an informed decision.


Ignorance is just another word for close minds, and close minds never open up to new concepts or ideas. Racism is another human defect, which, unfortunately, still exists. Being judgmental of professionals who come from other countries to try to teach us, Americans, good math skills and science notions, is extremely disappointing. This is the country that embraces different cultures. This the land of opportunity. This is the promised land.I am an American PROUD teacher at HSI.

I could not believe what I just heard my daughter has been going to Harmony since it was opened here in El Paso and it has been an amazing school I had to sons to go YISD and wish that Harmony would have been here for them while at YISD because Harmony in my point of view is a much better school, their is much more attention paid to the students. We are Catholic and have never heard of our daughter being taught any religion.

Wow really? So because a teacher is African american he or she will teach to hate the whites, because one is Mexican then he or she will teach to make awesome burritos...because he or she is German he or she will emphasize on Hitler!!! What the hell? Why don't you report on the real education needs! Ignorance is what is taking over our society!!! Don't go pin pointing at small schools because you heard what someone thought about it...What's next Osama thought in Harmony schools too!!!

As a Parent and Teacher at Harmony Science, I want to say that it's a shame to hear of all these ridiculous accusations!These schools do not teach any type of religion. The curriculum that is offered is not too different from a public school. The only difference is that it focuses extensively in Math,Science, Technology, and gives elementary students the opportunity to begin Robotics! The students are getting Educated and Parents are Happy! Come visit and see for yourself!

I am an elementary teacher at Harmony Science Academy and I can assure you that no one is teaching religion in our school. We are part of a great school with a highly rigorous curriculum which aims at student success in all aspects. Parents, teachers, students and administrators work together to achieve this goal. If anyone in our community has any doubts, please visit our school. You will be impressed!

Ridiculous story. I'm a current Senior at Harmony and am extremely happy with the school. If the parents and students are happy, then the school must be doing something right. And as for Donna Garner, she is falsely accusing the school of any religious affiliation. Harmony students are getting a good education.

Shame on your tv station, cheap journalism if you can call it news. It's clear the management at this station doesn't care about the quality of their news as long as it is cheap, popular and sells to ignorant people.
Hopefully you guys don't receive any government money because this would be a real waste.



As a Veteran from two conflicts (Gulf war 1 and 2) and a parent of two Harmony students I can tell you one thing. One they do not teach any religion curriculum at all. Harmony when it come s to Academics it probably surpass any school within any of the School Districts in El Paso and probably in most of the US. However whatever your belief are that one Muslim, Christians and Jews share the same God is not a different God. Allah means the same as Yahweh. The US is a secular country.

Donna Ganer preaches about :"how are they going to teach students about being a good solid American patriot, to learn about the U.S. Constitution, to honor our forefathers, to study the declaration of independence." Well I hope for her that she is native American cause who else from aforeign country can teac this. BBBSSS!!! The U.S. of A. was made great by immigrants no matter where they came from. Somebody is doing something better for our community and again somebody has to blemish it.

My son has attended Harmony School of Innovation in El Paso, TX for the past two years. My son receives nothing short of the best education provided in the state of Texas. As a retiree of the United States Armed Forces, I support this school and volunteer a lot of time to support their efforts in teaching our children. I will also be attending the Christmas program for the 3-5 grade. This would not be allowed if the school taught Muslim teachings. I am proud to have my son in this school.

As a second year elementary teacher here at Harmony Science Academy, I have never seen any teacher or administrator teach any form of religion. We teach what the state of Texas tells us to teach and as a Social Studies teacher I teach my students about tolerance and acceptance of other people. Maybe some of those people that accuse us should visit our campus and see for themselves.

I am disappointed with these accusations as well. This is my second year teaching at this school and have never seen Islam nor any other religion taught in the classroom. Every teacher at this school is dedicated to his/her students' education. If anything, the students at this school are well exposed to the challenges of being well-educated, not only in academics, but in diverse cultures. Most El Pasoans are not familiar with any type of diversity.

My two daughters have been attending to this school for nearly five years,and I am sure and know that they are getting great education at Harmony. I am more than happy and pleased to take my children to this school.

I am a parent of an 8th grader at H.S.I. Religion is NOT taught (and never has been). The school is a GREAT school for academic students. It was the only El Paso school to compete in Science Olympiad (and took first place last year as well as qualified to State competition at TX A&M). I wonder why the Media doesn't cover these things rather than exploit race or enthnicity in a headline that is false and misleading to the public. H.S.I is a GREAT school. It's getting education right!

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