Early last month, a conference was held in London, entitled “Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution?” under the auspices of The Deen Institute, an organization which aims at promoting engagement between the Islamic tradition and modernity. The event sparked off a debate on social media and op-ed columns regarding the place of evolution in the Islamic worldview.
The conference, whose lectures were recently published online, brought together scientists like Prof. Ehab Abouheif and Prof. Fatimah Jackson with theologians like Dr Usama Hasan and the prominent Shaykh Yasir Qadhi. Also invited was Dr. Oktar Babuna, representing the hardcore creationist ideas of Harun Yahya, who is deemed by many Muslim scholars to be a charlatan. Sadly, by the end of the day, Babuna was reduced to such a laughing stock that even Qadhi distanced himself from him.
Some commentators have described this conference as marking a Galileo moment for Muslims. I would argue that this isn’t quite the case, as Islamic religious authority is decentralized, and there is no formal ‘religious establishment’ that has binding authority over Muslims. With even the historic center for Sunni learning, al-Azhar University, and influential scholars like al-Qaradawi accepting that Muslims could believe in evolution–though neither seems to–it doesn’t seem like this is a serious issue in theology. Rather it seems to be so only in the popular Muslim consciousness. As Muslims continue in the path of learning, as encouraged by the Prophet, I hope that a more nuanced attitude to this issue will emerge at a popular level, and then we can focus on more important discussions like that of climate change or alleviating poverty. This conference was an important step in that direction.
Reuters – May 16, 2011
Muslim creationists are currently touring France preaching against evolution and claiming the Qur’an predicts many modern scientific discoveries.
Followers of Harun Yahya, a well-financed Turkish publisher of popular Islamic books, held four conferences at Muslim centers in the Paris area at the weekend with more scheduled in six other cities.
Harun Yahya, one of the most prolific publishers in the Muslim world, gave proudly secularist France a scare in January 2007 by mass-mailing thousands of free copies of his “Atlas of Creation” to schools and libraries across the country.
The Education Ministry quickly ordered headmasters to seize and hide copies of the large format book. It followed up with a special seminar to train teachers how to counter a small but growing group of pupils who challenge evolution with creationist theories. In October 2007, with strong French support, the Council of Europe denounced the creationist views laid out in the “Atlas of Creation” as a religious assault on science and human rights.
“People who defend evolution can’t accept the existence of a Creator,” Sadun said at La Reussite (“Success”), one of the few Muslim-run private schools in France.
“Life is not the result of chance, it’s the creation of a higher power, which of course is Allah,” he said in fluent French, adding that the confiscation of the “Atlas of Creation” was similar to book-burnings staged by the Nazis in the 1930s.
A teacher at the La Reussite meeting said French educators called him an Islamic fundamentalist for his creationist views, but he thought they were actually secularist fundamentalists.
Harun Yahya’s Atlas of Creation, the lavishly illustrated Islamic creationist book that first turned up in Turkey, then France and other European countries and prompted a disapproving resolution by the Council of Europe, is now being mailed to universities in Scotland, the Sunday Herald there reported. The paper reported the following: I find it quite staggering, said Aubrey Manning, emeritus professor of natural history at the University of Edinburgh. He houses his seven copies in a cupboard in the zoology department’s staff room. Every academic I know says they’ve got one of those… According to Taner Edis, a physicist at Truman State University in the US who has written several books on Islam and science, Oktar is the leader of a small religious sect and an art school drop-out.
By CORNELIA DEAN In the United States, opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schools has largely been fueled by the religious right, particularly Protestant fundamentalism. The book says that creatures today are just like creatures that lived in the fossil past, so evolution must be impossible. Now another voice is entering the debate, in dramatic fashion. It is the voice of Adnan Oktar of Turkey, who, under the name Harun Yahya, has produced numerous books, videos and DVDs on science and faith, in particular what he calls the deceit inherent in the theory of evolution. One of his books, Atlas of Creation, is turning up, unsolicited, in mailboxes of scientists around the country and members of Congress, and at science museums in places like Queens and Bemidji, Minn.