Commissioner believes nine charter schools linked to Islamic fundamentalist

(WMC-TV) - A Shelby County commissioner claims that nine charter schools former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton plans to open are linked to an alleged Islamic fundamentalist.

Commissioner Terry Roland asked the county attorney to investigate if former Memphis mayor and superintendent Dr. Herenton's schools are linked to a Turkish cleric.

Roland said the W.E.B. DuBois Consortium charter school group has ties to Islamic Cleric Fethullah Gulen of the Turkish Gulen Movement.

He laid out the link in a flow chart that shows Harmony Schools of Texas, mentioned in Herenton's charter school application, and is ultimately linked to Gulen.

Supporters describe the Gulen Movement as teachings that serve the common good. Opponents call it a front for Islamic fundamentalism.

"This Islamic cleric right here, he's got 120 charter schools across the United States," said Shelby County Commissioner Roland.

In a telephone conversation, Dr. Herenton said he has nothing to do with the cleric. He said Roland wants a street fight and he will not respond to nonsense. He added his group has not received one penny from any financial source.

"I'm going to contact the FBI, the attorney general's Office, This ain't gonna go away. I want some answers," said Roland.

Roland also accused fellow Commissioner Brent Taylor of hiding plans to serve on Herenton's charter school board.

"The board did not exist for me to list it on the application. I also did not list my membership to the House of Representatives," explained Taylor.

Roland and Taylor have gone head-to-head since Taylor was appointed the commission last year.

The county attorney ruled Tuesday that Taylor did not violate any ethics rule.

The State of Tennessee passed a law this month requiring charter schools to disclose all foreign funding.

Roland will also propose charter schools in Shelby County put up a bond.

Action News 5 attempted to contact Harmony Schools of Texas for comment. They provided us with the following statement:

"Harmony Public Schools is a non-profit, academic entity founded in the United States for the sole purpose of providing quality public education for children in Texas. Harmony is not affiliated in any way, formal or informal, with any religious or political organizations or movements, including Fethullah Gulen or the so-called Gulen movement.  There is no contractual or financial relationship between Harmony Public Schools and W.E.B. DuBois."

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