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

As a Sub-Teacher and a Parent of two boys at HSA for three years, I'm very pleased with the education my boys are receiving at harmony. As a sub-teacher I'm in all the classrooms from k-12th grade and I have not seen anything that offended me or my family. I have developed good friendships with most of the teachers and I mean international and American teachers. As a parent, my boys have received an exellent education. They like all the activities they are involved in at school.

This one excerpt from Donna Ganer's statement clears everything up

"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."
She is a racist bigot and unfortunatly this "NEWS" station (Yeah Right) decided to run with his. I am ashamed that I watch this station's news.

I am mother of 3 boys, 17, 12 and 11, they have attended H.S.A for the past 5 years. We have become close to some of the foreign teachers, we have been to their homes, they have come to ours, we are catholics in all words and they have never tried in any way to teach or even talk about religion with us, they do have their own traditions that we respect, the same way they respect ours. H.S.A. is just another school with better things for the students. You are so far from the true.
Martha Solano

Why should they not run or air this, if people are concerned about what Ganer's thinks this will clear it up. My son has been at Harmony School for 3 years and not once have they ever promoted the Isalm or Muslim religion not once. I am a Christian and with out a doubt Jesus is my Savior, as well as, my son's savior, so sending him to a Muslim school would not be an option. I have to say that I would rather my tax dollar go to Harmony School Innovation than Parkland High School in the YISD Dis.

BTW Turkish is not a "race" it is an ethnicity and neither is Islam it is an ideology. In the case of the Gulen Movement, they follow a specific type of mysticism loosly following Sufism. Specifically Gulen's brand of ideas and orders "you must work into the arteries of the system until you reach all power centers" it is a social, political movement under the guise of a religion/cult.

Garner is no racist or bigot, she is a true American patriot that wants the best for our children.
Now if you want to call abusing American teachers (especially females) awarding contracts to people only in "their" group as outlined by the NY Times, then there is the hiring of unqualified teachers on h1-B Visas from Turkey which is ironically the lowest in educational rankings internationally or perhaps the Olympiads that push one culture on the children at our expense, then you have bigotry

@Europefat, why don't you also mention that Guillen school has teachers with h1-B Visas from Mexico( Juarez)??????
Because they're not Turks?? take your hate to Cuba and don't come back. ; ) SG

Harmony School of Innovation inspires students to be involved in academic tournaments. Teachers (Turkish or non Turkish) stay after school with students and provide them with tutoring. Tainting a school and making accusations to get a reaction from the public is irresponsible. As a PTO board member I encourage the public to tour the school and make an informed decision. Thank you.

Who is the bigot here? Google Gulen Shout and Roar.

I did Google it! and also watched Youtube videos about Gulen and made my own conclusion,,,,,,,,,,,,,,This school is safe, period.

After this non sense report Im removimg the APP from my devices and will stop watching your news! Ms Gonzalez NE

THEY DON'T TEACH ISLAM!! I am a parent, my two kids go there and we are christians. Im always asking my children about their classes, im also involved with their curriculum, why can't you guys stop being so descriminatory?
I have so much respect for the turkish teachers as well the local ones, all this is propaganda that only hurt our kids education. Ms. Gonzalez

no where in this news reel it said they teach Islam to the children. The reporter is wrong in to even mention that the Gulen Movement is islamic. The GM practices metaphysical mysticism demonology the occult and so forth. It is a cult that is about power money and control. In fact in one of Gulens papers called Jinn and Man he expresses a future where men can enslave demons to use as body guards spies teachers and even labor to mine the rocks of Mars. No lie. It is found on his website.

This video never said that they teach Islam. But it did mention an agenda. To be clear the Gulen Movement is not Islamic but it is a cult. Gulenists are about metaphysical mysticism the occult greed money and control. Main stream Islamist will tell you the same. So to say that Gulen is Islam would be an insult to any practicing Muslim. If you go to Gulens website and see his paper on Jinn and Man he writes about controlling demons to become teachers, body guards, and slave labor on Mars. No lie.

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...

I am a parent, and employee of Harmony Science Academy. I have been part of this school for over five years and have never experienced any action against my faith, my person or my family. In the opposite, what the Harmony Public Schools are trying to do is make a difference in the education of our children, by preparing them to be proficient in Math, Science and Engineering to serve their country under God. If this is wrong, then what are our leaders doing to make a difference in our society?

What I want to know is how do these schools qualigy for taxpayer funds of 100 million in the course of some years? Not even Lorretto Academy qualifies for a fraction of this money I think. How can the government give money to schools like these were only a select lucky few get educated, when public schools are failing poorly for lack of resources? If you are going to be a privately owned anything I think you should be self sufficcient.

I am pretty sure Lorretto Academy is a private school which means parents pay for their children to go there. Any charter schools are public schools. I think that’s why any charter school can quality for state funds. Charter schools are not "privately owned". I am pretty sure. Please call Lorretto Academy and ask if they are a private or charter school and that will answer your questions.

Vago, they follow all the Federal regulations of the TEA and provide a better education than some public schools. Smaller classrooms, they care for the children, and in any school system Public, Charter or Propriatary schools you have good or bad teachers. I had my son in a Christian based school up to the 4th grade and to be honest I can not tell you that you got any better teacher participation than what Harmony has provided. My experience with the Public school system has not been good.

Vago, they follow all the Federal regulations of the TEA and provide a better education than some public schools. Smaller classrooms, they care for the children, and in any school system Public, Charter or Propriatary schools you have good or bad teachers. I had my son in a Christian based school up to the 4th grade and to be honest I can not tell you that you got any better teacher participation than what Harmony has provided. My experience with the Public school system has not been good.

For your information these schools are public schools, therefore they get tax taxpayers money. Loretto is a private school for which they do not qualify to obtain this money. If local public schools are having difficulty with their budget or to provide resources to their teachers, is due to the fact that they spend much of their money satisfying the need of the top people in the districts. Such as the EPISD so called superintended who has been accused of stealing money of taxpayers.

While I respect your opinion, you are way off base. Your child can attend this school also. It is not a private school. It is a charter school and all children can attend. There are no special qualifications to attend.

I think you should educate yourself before posting your opinion on public funding. The truth of the matter is that many area public school districts get just as much (if not more) from tax payer dollars. Harmony is not private, like Loretto (which is a tuition based school). Harmony is FREE so there's no tuition that helps supplement the school's funding. In addition, Harmony is servicing a low socio-economic area (El Paso) with resources that our students normally wouldn't be able to afford.


I also am an educator at the Harmony schools and am completely and utterly offended at the accusations by quite ignorant and close minded people. This school does not teach any type of religion and actually exposes its students to diverse cultures. As a math teacher born and raised in El Paso, I feel that these schools give students who excel in Mathematics and Science, an opportunity that they may not get at other schools in the area. We as a community need not judge something that's different!

Unfortunate what some people will believe. I have taught at Harmony Science Academy for five years now and have seen nothing that would confirm these accusations. It is a shame because there is so much good that comes from this school in regard to academics, robotics, sports program, and so much more. To make a fair judgement please visit our campus and see for yourselves.

My two cents... Thank you,

Brian Abeyta
PE / Athletics Director

As a student from Harmony School of Innovation, I can say that this is completely untrue. My school has never taught any religion. This school does enforce the rules, however the rules are no different than any other school’s rules. I have never heard any of the teachers speak of their religion. The teachers are very dedicated to teaching. The fact that they are muslum does not affect my learning in any way.

then you are aware of of little first and second graders forced to scrub toilets with there bare hands. Do the research and you tube Gulen Charter School scrub toilets and see for yourself.

Well if this was true than the Department of Education would shut the school down and if the parents of those little first and second graders did nothing to address this issue would be pure ignorance. If that would happen the school would be fined, people would be fired and in jail. So, I do not believe you, I do not believe we have that many ignorant or abusive parents that would allow that to happen to their children. So use common sense and evaluate what is fiction and what would be truth.

That is such a like Harmony schools would never do that i have friends that have personally attended saturda detention and they keep them in a class or cafteria doing work. do not believe everything that is on youtube believe if u see it with your own eyes.ANd 9 year olds tell lies

i think you meant lie not like, saturday not saturda, and, and isnt ANd that just looks like a kindergardener typed this

No school district is perfect, however, your statement isn't a fair reflection. For starters it's not even an El Paso school that the alleged incident took place. That's like comparing a school in Dallas to a school here in El Paso. The Principals may run their schools entirely different. But if you want to compare it with what you do find in El Paso schools...accusations of corruption, and the accused pedophiles that are in local school here in El Paso versus Harmony...you chose!

When I watched this video, I was enraged that anyone could accuse my school of enforcing religious practices on its students.The teachers in my school are very dedicated, thoughtful people that know to seperate religion from our classes. The fact that they are Muslims does not change the way they teach us and it does not influence us in any way.

I am eighth grader at Harmony School of Innovation El Paso. This news cast is a bunch of lies. This school is an amazing school just because we have Turkish teachers doesn’t mean we learn Islam. If this they were a different culture would our school still be persecuted. Also I believe that Mrs. Donna Garner is lying after all she is a former teacher doesn’t that tell you anything. Mrs. Donna Garner I apoligize if i offened you but you are wrong to attack the school in this way

This is ridiculous. Who can teach Islam at public schools. Don’t you think any of the parents will report this tea. What is wrong that there are muslim teachers. So if there will be Chinese teachers at that school, we accuse them that they are teaching communism or Buddhism at their school. Very ridiculous

Wow, What a giant waste of time. Why care about a school? If you ask me, I don't want to see anything about schools. Not even about teachers beating them. You know what that was called in my time? Disciplinary actions, and it was to teach horrible children lessons. So this doesnt interest me. This segment is basically parents controlling the media, just because their children dont like the school and or teachers. So great job news channel 9, waste my time. Where's my remote?

the people at Harmony are NOT teaching us all that muslim stuff and thier religions.
they are teaching us the kind of stuff that normal schools teach like history, science, math, english, and even languages like Spanish. this is not a bad school and i dont know why you would like disrespect it. the teachers are actually very kind and teach us well. so i dont see why you all is being stupid and thinking that they are teaching us about their religion.
so stop judging what you dont know about!

They also teach you the Kolbasti and take you to Turkey along with 800 other students from 100 other countries where the gulen schools reside. If you think your school is something special you need to research Gulen Schools Worldwide. They even recycle the names of the schools and all have the SAME contests: Science Olympiad, Turkish Olympiad, GENIUS, etc., very hard to loose a contest when your school's foundations own and sponsor them.

I've attended Harmony Science Academy and Im currently attending Harmony School of Innovation.I have never seen of heard anything about our teachers religion. At Harmony they teach us to try our best.They want us to be good citizens.Just because some of our teachers are muslims it does not mean that they are a threat.People who think that are just ignorant. We are just like any other public school,and we should be treated just like everybody else.We are good school.No one can question that.

Im a former student in Harmony School Of Innovation. I've been here for 3 years. In these 3 years I've never seen any islamic or religion like teaching in our school. In all of our field trips or school activities its always being about our education and never about any kind of beliefs or religions.Im Mormon and if i ever saw anything wrong in this school i would'nt be here. I like how they have a diversity of students.

I have been a student Harmony School Of Innovation for two and a half years and in that time we have been in many field trips and in all of those field trips we have never learned about religion or anything related to that, also all the times we have any activity we sing the national anthem .I personally dont think that the Harmony School System is teaching anything other then academics. I dont think that having a muslim teacher means that you learn about islam.

I am a 9th grader in HSI El Paso. I have been attending this school for 3 years. Participating in academic activities is one of the things that a lot of students do in this school. But i have never heard or seen anything about muslim teaching. The tecahers here never teached anything related to that. The only thing they teach is what we are supposed to be teaching like Science,English, and Math. Actually we say the pledge every single morning and in special events we sing the national anthem.

As an Elementary teacher here and a personal Catholic follower, I assure there is no preaching, bible reading or muslim beliefs being taught at these schools. We live in a post 9/11 America which in part dignifies fearful allegations, but never excuses the bigger picture. America is not a unified culture. It is a melting pot. Let children see the benefits of having international and non-international teachers. How else will they learn about the rest of the world? So let it melt.

It so good to see students, parents and teachers reading and watching the news. This is SO predictable after every story about the Gulen Movement (and there have been plenty) the stream of happy parents, satisfied students and teachers who have never seen anything wrong. Hmmmm, slamming the boards as usual, just like the "Great Schools" online poll.

Then as a Catholic you should know what Gulen had to say about the pope. If you go to you tube and type in two faces of Fethullah Gulen you will see for yourself. The school has already admitted to being being inspired which includes board members and teaching staff. So with that being said this could be a direct reflection as to how they really feel about you. So much for Gulenists idea of telling others that his way is about love and tolerance With that being said Google Gulen Scares Kurds.

Have you been to any of these schools to witness this for yourself. I am involved with the school and at no time has any child scrub toilets, nor been influenced to become Muslim or change their believes. Not once has the Muslim religion ever been pushed upon anyone. If it would have been I would have addressed the issue appropriately and we have laws protecting us from being bullied. The teachers at the school national and international have shown they care for their students.

@ohohmrbill, Let others make their own mind. Learn to tolerate . Ms. Sonia Gonzalez

IT is really sad to see that parents and teachers with concerns are afraid to come forward because of the tactics the Gulen schools have used in the past. Fear of threat w/h lawsuits or having there info data mined and put into the Gulen owned newspaper Todays Zaman.



Both Harmony and Abramson are under the Cosmos Foundation.

We have laws in the US to protect us from being bullied. If we were in a 3rd world country maybe their tactics would work, but like this there is the media , along with other websites that would have exposed this here in El Paso. At no time has the schools here in El Paso ever influenced the students to become Muslim and have in no way forced them to turn from their beliefs. They have American teachers also.

I must say their is one Turkish teacher that is outstanding that goes out of his way to help the students learn Robotics, Computers, Science Olympiad and put in more time than most teachers. This teacher love America also. These teachers have to be certified like all the American teachers. Again they have American teachers just as they have Turkish teachers.There are many nationalities in the US and this makes this country very unique. Being Turkish not make them criminals.

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