Muslim Creationism and the Curious Case of Harun Yahya: A Look at a High-Profile Muslim Creationist and His Christian Friends in the U.S
Carrier, Marc, Skeptic (Altadena, CA)
IN 2O07 SEVERAL UNITED STATES CONGRESSMEN, educators and scientists each received a weighty parcel postmarked in the UK. (1) It contained a book entitled The Atlas of Creation, a Muslim creationist attack on evolution authored by someone called Harun Yahya. (The books and articles by Harun Yahya cited in this article are available for download as PDF files on the BAY Website, http://www.harunyahya. com/en.m_book_index.php.) European scientists and educators also received the unexpected gift under similarly nebulous circumstances. (2) The French minister of education Gilles de Robien withheld the book from schools, mandating biologist Herve le Guyader, a professor at the University of Paris VI, to carry out an analysis of its contents. He qualified the author's science as "appallingly poor" (All citations in French translated to English by the author.)
Shortly after, reacting to attempts at adding creationism to the curriculum of European schools, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe gave majority support to a memorandum raising concerns over a "radical return to the past" (3) Delivering the report to the parliamentarians, Anne Brasseur, Liberal Democrat member of the Luxembourg Parliament, held up Yahya's Atlas of Creation--not without difficulty since the 800-page album weighs 5 kilos (over 11 lbs.)--saying that a problem previously perceived as unique to America had reached Europe as creationist movements (many of them Muslim) demand inclusion of religion to science classes.
Recent events backup Brasseur's statement. Turkey, long seeking membership in the European Economic Community, is described by many as a hotbed of creationism; in staunchly Roman Catholic Poland, former Deputy Minister of Education, Miroslaw Orzechowski, called evolution a lie; in 2004, Serbian Minister of Education, Liliana Colic ordered schools to stop teaching evolution without giving creationism equal time; while a recent study shows that 30% of the Swiss reject evolution, the highest percentage in Europe. (4)
Anne Brasseur fielded questions from journalists, and the name of Harun Yahya came up once again. She admitted having little information on the man, but that the organization distributing his Atlas of Creation obviously disposed of generous funding, although the source of money remains unknown. Beyond the onerous cost of printing the richly illustrated color book, the publishers shipped thousands of copies throughout the world at enormous expense.
So who is this mysterious fellow, Harun Yahya?
Some believe Yahya is the pen name of a pool of writers working under the sponsorship of Istanbul's Science Research Foundation (5)--Bilim Arastirma Vakfi in Turkish (thus the acronym BAV). A dedicated website (6) explains that Harun Yahya is the pen name of Adnan Oktar, founder of BAV. Several photos of Yahya/Oktar show him tall, tanned and posing in his trademark white suit, looking very much like an aging lothario.
The site is an odd mix of candor and discretion. The online bio (7) relates that Yahya/Oktar, born in Ankara in 1956, entered Istanbul's Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts in 1979 where "Aggressive atheist and materialist trends predominated among students as well as staff." (8) He thus took it upon himself to bring these wayward Muslims back to the true path by "telling those around him of the existence and oneness of Allah." (9)
Yahya/Oktar claims to have read the major works of materialist philosophy, and that he "performed wide-ranging research into the theory of evolution--the alleged scientific foundation of these ideologies." (10) But he presents little more than the usual toxic conflation of social Darwinism and evolution, creating a spurious link between science and communism, fascism and atheism. The online text also presents a segment of Oktar's life under the chapter heading The First Smear Campaign and Torture in a Mental Hospital, (11) relating an alleged conspiracy against Oktar coinciding with the publication of his book Judaism and Freemasonry: "misleading reports, false information and slanders about him [Yahya/Oktar] began appearing in various publications. …