Children at an Islamist-controlled school in California spent 'International Day' celebrating Turkey's hardline Islamist leadership. Students at Orange Crescent School – which is part of the Islamic Society of Orange County – waved Turkish flags and sang Islamist Turkish President Erdoğan's 2018 election campaign song.
Ahmad Almutawa, the school's administrator, told Turkish press that, "Students at the school and their parents have a great admiration and respect for Turkey." The song, "Hasat Vakti" (Harvest Time) by Maher Zain, was written specifically for Erdoğan, and is widely used in Turkish government propaganda.
In fact, dressing theocracy in cultural export is a key focus for Ankara. According to the hardline pro-regime newspaper Yeni Şafak, Almutawa also said: "the Turkish television series 'Dirilis Ertugrul', which narrates the story of the foundation of the Ottoman Empire, has had a big impact on Muslims in California in terms of connecting with Turkish culture."
As the New York Times has discussed, Dirilis Ertugrul is a key export of Erdoğan's Turkey. Directed by a leading supporter of Erodgan's Justice and Development Party, it triumphantly advocates Islamic nationalism as Turkey's guiding ideal. In 2018, the Turkish actor who plays the show's leading character visited Orange Crescent School to meet with staff and students.
Almutawa is also personally involved in pro-regime efforts. The Society of Turkish Americans (TURCA), which is closely connected to Erdoğan and the AKP, has written that "it is proud to have Ahmad Al Mutawa as a friend." In 2018, Almutawa attended a private dinner at the Turkish Consulate. Praising Hussam Ayloush (the director of CAIR's Los Angeles branch) for arranging the event, Almutawa announced: "Thank you Turkey for gathering the Muslim in Southern California and thanks for all what the Turkish people [sic] for Muslims everywhere."
The Islamic Society of Orange County, which established and continues to run Orange Crescent School, is closely linked to a number of prominent Islamist clerics and activists. Since 1981, its religious director has been Muzammil Siddiqi, who has also long served as a senior member of the Islamic Society of North America, a terror-tied organization that federal prosecutors have stated was established by the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1992, Siddiqi invited Omar Abdel Rahman, a leading Al Qaeda cleric, to speak at the Islamic Society of Orange County, while Siddiqui sat beside him to translate. A year later, Abdel Rahman and his followers were arrested and later convicted of involvement in a number of terror plots, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
It is no secret that the Turkish regime has been working to exert its influence over American Islam, especially as Saudi Arabia's own impact has waned. It is one thing to see known Islamist organizations welcoming Turkish officials into their conferences and private meetings, but it is deeply alarming to see children performing a dictator's propaganda so openly in American schools.