February 03, 2007


An article in yesterday's edition of Le Figaro, the conservative French daily, brings newsAtlas_de_la_creation  that a new book written from an Islamic Creationist perspective, ""L'Atlas de la Création" (cover, right) is making waves in France. According to the newspaper, dozens of thousands of free copies of this diatribe against Darwinism were sent from Turkey and Germany to nearly all French schools and universities. The article does not say who paid for this expensive, lavishly-illustrated, 770-page anti-intellectual propaganda tome to be so massively distributed (although it asks the question.). Nor how whomever sent it was able to get a list of the "dozens of thousands" in educational establishments to whom it was individually addressed.

The French Education Ministry reacted by advising all educational establishments that the book does not conform to the national science-based curriculum and "should not be included in the centers of documentation and information in scholarly establishments," and commissioned a dissection and refutation of the book.

Harun_yahya The book's pseudonymous author, a Turk named Harun Yahya ( photo left -- real name: Adnan Oktar), makes a number of astonishing claims -- including that Charles Darwin is "the real source of terrorism." For example, a photo of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers carries a caption reading, "Those who perpetuate terror in the world are in reality the Darwinists. Darwinism is the only philosophy which validates and encourages conflict." Yahya also pretends to portray "the secret links between Darwinism and the bloody ideologies of fascism and communism."

I was curious about the author, and a Google search rapidly revealed that Yahya -- who says he is 50 and the author of dozens of books, and that his pseudonym was "formed from the names 'Harun' and 'Yahya' in the esteemed memory of the two Prophets who struggled against infidelity" -- maintains an expensively-designed, multi-media English-language website. On it, Yahya quotes another of his books, "The Evolution Deceit," as claiming: ""The theory of evolution is nothing but a deception imposed on us by the dominators of the world system."

An article about Yahya on Wikipedia says that he has plagiarized much of his writings from U.S. Creationist texts published here in the 1950s; that he has been in mental hospitals; and that a shadowy foundation Yahya controls -- the BAV Foundation -- has persecuted Turkish university professors who dared to teach evolution (including a number of them who won a lawsuit against him.)

One can also find on Yahya's website another of his hobby-horses: he denounces what he sees as the dark, deleterious, conspiratorial effects of Freemasonry worldwide. In a book called "Global Freemasonry," summarized on his website, Yahya claims that, "Freemasons have played an important role in Europe's alienation from religion, and in its place, the founding of a new order based on the philosophies of materialism and secular humanism. We will also see how Masonry has been influential in the imposition of these dogmas to non-Western civilizations...[how] Masonry has been used to help establish and perpetuate a social order based on these dogmas. Their philosophy and the methods they use to establish this philosophy will be exposed and criticized." Mad conspiracy theories about the Freemasons abound in the Western world -- usually as part and parcel of a dangerous reactionary politics -- and have for centuries, but they also exist in the Islamic world: in 2004, as the BBC reported, a Turkish Masonic lodge in Istanbul was bombed, with 1 dead and 6 seriously injured.

Another of Yahya's books is called, "Judaism and Freemasonry" -- and yet another is entitled "The Holocaust Hoax," a book which has led scholars to categorize Yahya as a Holocaust denier.

Contrary to the fundamentalist Christian Creationists in the U.S. who have been attacking the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution in local school boards and many state legislatures, and demanding with an alarming degree of success that Creationism be taught in the public schools, Yahya's Qur'an-based attack on Darwinism does not claim that the world and those who inhabit it were created only 6,000 years ago. Instead, Yahya admits that Earth is really 4.6 billion years old, but his "Atlas" uses hundreds of photos of fossils found over several centuries to "prove" that "the species have never changed" [sic]. This pseudo-scientific clap-trap, says noted French biologist Hervé Le Guyeder, makes this "new form of creationism even more insidious than the Christian-inspired one wreaking havoc in North America."

The photos in Yahya's "Atlas" show hundreds of fossils of fish, hyenas, ants, starfish, tree-leaves, and so on that are dozens of millions of years old, and which he then compares to photos of their actual descendants to prove his claim that "living things did not undergo a process of evolution, but were really created" [sic]. Biologist Le Guyeder commented that, "This method of argument may quite well be effective in seducing a public that is ill-informed--but the reality is that these species, which are a priori similar, are in fact very different from each other in their anatomy and genetic composition, and most of them would be incapable of reproducing between each other!"

If the millions of French ghetto youth of Muslim origin (and, for that matter, Muslim youth throughout the world) buy into Yahya's Islamic version of Creationism, the effects would be disastrous. These young people would be locked out of, and skeptical about, many of the advances in medical and scientific research in the two centuries since Darwin first articulated the theory of evolution (including the dangers of global warming, which U.S. Creationists deny exists) -- and the concomitants of such Creationist obscurantism are, as we have also seen here in the U.S with the Christian version., misogyny, homophobia, and other primitive prejudices.

For example, in a very useful essay on the website of the National  Center for Science Education entitled "Cloning Creationism in Turkey," which contains an analysis of Yahya's writing, Dr. Taner Edis of Truman State University in Missouri notes, "When, in another echo of Christian creationists, Harun Yahya digresses to denounce evolution because it describes homosexuality as natural, therefore 'seeking to legitimize perversion' (Yahya 1997: 307), this might seem bizarrely out of place in an argument that is ostensibly about biology. From a fundamentalist perspective, however, it makes perfect sense — worries about morality and social decay are intimately connected to the fundamentalist view of biology. "

Edis also points out the strong ties betweeen the foundation Yahya  controls -- Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV; the Science Research Foundation) -- and the well-funded Institute of Creation Research (ICR), the flagship Creationist institution in the U.S. In April and July 1998, Yahya's BAV held 3 "international conferences" in the major cities of Turkey, with a theme of "The Collapse of the Theory of Evolution: The Fact of Creation" -- and these conferences featured U.S. Creationist notables from the ICR like John D. Morris (son of ICR's founder Henry Morris, whose works Yahya lifts from wholesale) and Duane Gish. (At its founding in 1970, ICR was initially funded by Rev. Tim LaHaye, a major Christian Right fundamentalist leader, through LaHaye's Christian Heritage College.)

Yahya's website, by the way, links to a number of Christian fundamentalist-run Creationist websites here in the U..S., including the ICR.

What's even scarier is that Yahya's website claims that, "Many works of Harun Yahya are being currently translated into English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Albanian, Serbo-Croat (Bosnian), Polish, Urdu, Indonesian, Kazakh, Azeri, Malay and Malayalam. The target is to translate all books into English and many other languages in the near future..." One would dearly love to know who is forking over the considerable sums of money necessary for this global publication program (some suspect Yahya is getting money from U.S. Creationists); whether other countries with large Muslim populations will be targeted for an Islamic Creationist propaganda blitz as France has been; and to what degree Yahya's theories have gained a serious foothold outside Turkey in Islamic circles world-wide, especially among the young. And one can only pity those who are gullible enough to buy this illuminé's fantasies.

MORE ON YAHYA: After the above was posted, Scott Long of Human Rights Watch (he's the Director of HRW's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program), e-mailed the Euroqueer listserv -- where my post on Yahya was circulated -- to provide some additional information. Long wrote: "Harun Yahya may be new to the French, but he is a familiar face in Turkey.  My Turkish colleagues can correct me, but my understanding is that he emerged in the 1980s, when the secular, right-wing, military-backed Evren-Ozal regime was trying to reach out to disaffected religious elements.  The regime almost certainly funded him then, and he and his BAV (Science Research Foundation) continue to profit from close ties across the right wing of Turkish politics--the Islamist party in its successive incarnations, but also other political forces. (Unusually for a Turkish Islamist, he's spoken with particular respect of Ataturk.)  The question of who's paying for him probably does not have, or need, a sinister Saudi answer.  He gets resources from his murky connections in Turkish politics, where he's rumored to be a blackmailer and enforcer.  He also gets heavy support from US Christian evangelicals, who are barred by law from proselytizing in Turkey and see supporting creationism as a way in through the back door.  Several leading US creationists came to Istanbul for a conference on creationism in the early 90s, and the ties have been maintained." And, Long added, Yahya is "a nasty fellow."

Also, my confrere Bill Berkowitz -- one of the best journalists covering the U.S. right --  has now e-mailed me to say that the Darwin-caused-Hitler theory espoused by Yahya is another of his points in common with our homegrown Creationists -- last September, Bill wrote a piece for Media Transparency on a documentary touting this theory that was produced by Rev. D. James Kennedy's powerful Coral Ridge Ministries (also a fundamentalist fount of homophobia) -- the documentary's promo proclaimed, "The program features 14 scholars, scientists and authors who outline the grim consequences of Darwin's theory of evolution and show how his theory fueled Hitler's ovens." What madness......

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Posted by: Alex Jones | Jun 1, 2009 9:51:23 PM

I rarely do not comment on blogs but yours I had to stop and say Great article!!

Posted by: Alex Jones | Jun 1, 2009 9:49:31 PM

I rarely do not comment on blogs but yours I had to stop and say Great article!!

Posted by: Alex Jones | Jun 1, 2009 9:47:35 PM

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