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."