TCPJ Alert – Islamic charter school coming to Nashville

Nolensville Academy for Math and Science has once again notified the Metro Nashville School Board of its intent to submit a charter school application.  Lead petitioner Ismail Fidan is going to try again for a charter school after having had four prior applications rejected including the Nashville Academy of Science & Technology.

The Nolensville Academy’s “Letter of Intent” states that the majority of the students it plans to serve come from “minority-immigrant groups living in and around the Nolensville area.”

It seems counter-intuitive to segregate “minority-immigrant” groups from the opportunity to integrate and assimilate in the more inclusive Metro Nashville school population.  Responding to a 2008 civil rights office violation, the Metro Nashville school system was forced to desegregate foreign-language students and place them in the more inclusive general student population.

Chartering a public school to segregate “minority-immigrant” groups on its face also contradicts the push by Nashville’s socialist-progressives promoting an “equitable and inclusive” socialist utopia for the city.

Another cautionary note to the Metro Nashville school board regarding the Nolensville Academy application; consider the experience of the Minnesota charter school, the TiZa Academy, which was sued into bankruptcy by the ACLU for violating the Establishment clause of the Constitution.  Contributing to the suit was TiZa making religious accommodations for the predominantly Muslim student population thereby effectively turning the school into an Islamic madrassa.

Would the Nolensville Academy be “Gulen-inspired”

A quick search of Mr. Fidan’s involvement and associations with other charter schools includes the overtly Gulen schools Coral Academy of Science in Nevada and the Fulton Science Academy which was recently informed by its county school board that the school’s charter would be revoked a full two years before it was due to expire.

Nolensville Academy board member Marieta Velikova, like other board members at other Gulen schools, is a member of the Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Society for Universal Dialogue (SUD), aka the Knoxville Turkish Cultural Center.  The SUD and the Iris Foundation (submitter of failed Knoxville Academy Gulen charter school) share the same address.  Iris Foundation’s Board’s secretary (and proposed President of the failed Knoxville charter school), Suzan Mertyurek, is a board member of Gulen schools in other states.

Growing public awareness about the Gulen charter school network along with reports of the federal investigation of problems associated with these schools also contributed to the recent denial of a Gulen-connected charter school application by the Loudon County, Virginia school board.

Last year, Louisiana closed the Abramson Science & Technology (Gulen) charter school and the Texas legislature initiated an investigation into the charter school network since it has the highest number of Gulen schools in the country.  In fact, it was the 2011 New York Times article on the Gulen network in Texas that both publicly exposed and confirmed information that independent researchers had been gathering for some time.

Other members of the Nolensville Academy board reflect the changes in Turkey as it moves away from secularism and works politically to improve relations with Muslim majority countries, most notably Syria and Iran.  As Turkey revives its identify as a religiously Islamic country, it was reported that Sunni Islam religious classes are compulsory in the public schools. One would imagine that for Nolensville Academy’s Kurdish Muslim board members, Mohammed Kokoy, Ahmad Brifkani and Mwafaq Mohammed[1], the alliance with Gulen followers is acceptable and reflective of what is happening in their homeland.

Regardless, it may be that both the Gulenists and the Islamists care more about having a publicly paid for school that will unquestionably accommodate the demands of Muslim families, than about the political tensions between these two groups in Turkey.

Should public school choice align with religious doctrine?

This is an important question that the Metro School board would be wise to consider as well.  Do the Nolensville Academy petitioners want this school because their doctrine says that “the Holy Qur’an declares that a believer should never prefer a non-Muslim over a Muslim.…the Blessed Prophet once remarked that ‘Whoever spends forty days with a people becomes like them.’”

Sorry, but public money can’t be used to address these concerns.


[1] these members’ involvement with the Kurdish Salahadeen Center can be documented; no information in this regard can be documented for board member Mohammed Ali.

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