New Humanist magazine has published a new expose on Adan Oktar, a Turkish “creationist” writing under his pen name Harun Yahya and best known for his Islamic theories on evolution. The New Humanist piece describes Mr. Oktar as follows
Operating from Istanbul, Yahya is the founder of the Science Research Foundation, an impressive publishing empire that boasts more than 60 websites dedicated to his writings. It provides documentary films and audio recordings in fifteen languages, including Turkish, English, Russian, Amharic and Arabic, and claims to sell more than half a million books a year, including the infamous 850-page, fully illustrated Atlas of Creation, which was sent free in two volumes to dozens of universities, libraries and prominent scientists (including Richard Dawkins) across the world. In painstaking detail, with a mass of photos, graphs and statistics interspersed with verses from the Koran, the Atlas purports to prove that Darwin was utterly mistaken, that each plant and animal was created intact, and that no modification through natural selection ever took place.
Although best known as an Islamic “creationist”, Oktar is also famous for his anti-Semitic writings including those promoting holocaust denial. An Israeli research institute reported in 2004 that Oktar had “undergone a change and become more tolerant toward Jews”, but his official biography contains statements that suggest anti-Semitism and his work titled “What Should a Moslem’s View of the People of the Book and Zionism Be?”, currently posted on his website, reflects anti-Semitic themes common to the Muslim Brotherhood. An earlier post discussed comments by Mr. Oktar calling for interfaith dialog while blaming Israeli “atheist Zionists” representing “Masonic forces” for problems in the MIddle East. In the same interview, Mr. Oktar defended the works of Muslim Brotherhood ideologues Maulana Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi and Sayyid Qutb and Mr. Oktar’s works, usually under his pen name of Harun Yahya, are often promoted on websites belonging to global Muslim Brotherhood organizations. Muzammil Siddiqi, an important U.S. Muslim Brotherhood leader, has written a letter of recommendation praising a book by Mr. Oktar and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) also promotes the his works.Reuters recently posted a profile on Mr. Oktar calling him “one of the most widely distributed authors in the Muslim world” and last May reported that Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison for creating an illegal organization for personal gain based on evidence he says was obtained under coercion. The court decision is apparently under appeal.
Following a detailed examination of Mr. Oktar’s history, including the development of a cult-like community of followers and early support from the Islamist Refah Party, New Humanist explains his reinvention as a proponent of interfaith dialog:
Sensing another opportunity immediately after 9/11, Oktar instantly shed his formerly virulent anti-Semitism and published a piece called “Islam condemns terror”, designed, apparently, to curry favour with America. Oktar’s group already had established good relations with US congressmen in 2000, when his Science Research Foundation received the endorsement of seven members of Congress and retired Senator Steve Symms, who described it as “a major influence for good among the younger population of Turkey” and praised its “commitment to democracy, preservation of national and moral values, and respect for law”. Since then Oktar has become an ardent proponent of interfaith dialogue, attempting to unify believers of all stripes against the corrupting influence of Darwinism, which he now holds responsible for Fascism, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. Most recently, he has been talking about the “Turkish-Islamic Union”, which would bring peace to the entire Muslim world under the leadership of Turkey.
New Humanist concludes with an examination of the current status of Mr. Oktar:
And there may be deeper, structural reasons for the group’s decline. In the late 1980s, after several babies were born to group members (whether Oktar’s or not is unclear), Oktar forbade sexual practices that would lead to pregnancy (his followers were limited to anal or oral intercourse). Since then there have been no more births in the group. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Oktar’s formerly aggressive recruitment has abated, too. What remains is a closed community of broken individuals. Berk, who has had to endure his fair share of slander and court cases, nevertheless feels compassion for his former comrades: “You have to understand that these are people who have sold everything they had; they sold what their parents had. They possess nothing. Many are now in their late 30s and 40s. They have lost their families and their social networks, and they have lost the ability to socialise. The only thing they know is to talk about Adnan’s distorted version of Islam.” Dilek, who broke with the a few group years ago, left two sisters behind. Her family sees them once or twice a year, when they visit guarded by a group of brothers. “They are like zombies,” she told me. “As if there is nobody inside.”Oktar continues to be a public figure in Turkey, where a two-part, five-hour interview with him was screened on national television in August. The final ruling on his appeal is due in October, and Razzan Aydinoglu told me it is very likely he will lose. But this may be just the kind of thing he would enjoy, turning it into evidence of his martyrdom. Clearly Oktar is a master of manipulation, a “cunning charlatan” as Erip Yuksel calls him, but it is not this alone that has allowed this deluded, empty man to achieve the prominence he has. He is a symptom of our own sickness. Thanks to the “War on Terror”, Oktar could paint himself as a credible alternative to radical Islam; thanks to our timidity and incompetence around issues of faith he can gain credibility as a representative of Muslim sentiment and a champion of “inter-faith dialogue”. And, most of all, for many disoriented Muslims, he provides a compelling vision of a superior Islamic science. He is a deluded megalomaniac who has artfully exploited the global resurgence of religious sentiment to cheat us all. A ludicrous man for ludicrous times.