Organisers behind a British conference on Islam and evolution say they nearly had to cancel the event after receiving a torrent of opposition from Muslim students at one of the country’s top scientific universities. . .
The Deen Institute, a Muslim debating forum which promotes critical thinking, had hoped to hold a conference entitled “Have Muslims misunderstood evolution?” early next year. Among the speakers invited to attend included Muslim scientists, imams who have promoted the compatibility of Islam and evolution as well as those who preach a form of Islamic creationism. . .
“Evolution is not Islamic. Prophet Adam did not have parents. A Muslim can’t believe that Prophet Adam.”
Dr Oktar Babuna, a representative from the Harun Yahya movement, is scheduled to speak at the conference alongside Shaikh Yasir Qadhi, an influential imam who accepts evolution at a micro level but refuses to countenance the idea that man evolved from anything other than Adam himself.
For me, this is a kind of time machine. First of all to the nineteenth century when the Origin of Species was published and the famous encounter between Bishop Wilberforce and Thomas Huxley:-
Then the Bishop rose, and in a light scoffing tone, florid and he assured us there was nothing in the idea of evolution; rock-pigeons were what rock-pigeons had always been. Then, turning to his antagonist with a smiling insolence, he begged to know, was it through his grandfather or his grandmother that he claimed his descent from a monkey? On this Mr Huxley slowly and deliberately arose. A slight tall figure stern and pale, very quiet and very grave, he stood before us, and spoke those tremendous words - words which no one seems sure of now, nor I think, could remember just after they were spoken, for their meaning took away our breath, though it left us in no doubt as to what it was. He was not ashamed to have a monkey for his ancestor; but he would be ashamed to be connected with a man who used great gifts to obscure the truth. No one doubted his meaning and the effect was tremendous. One lady fainted and had to carried out. . .
Not just the nineteenth century when the penalties for disbelief were social rather than legal. We're heading to the seventeenth century, Galileo and the Inquisition.
Muslims believe the Qur’an is the indisputable word of God and therefore any scientific discovery which risks proving something within their holy book as incorrect is highly controversial, particularly among the more literalist schools of thought. For example, most Muslim scholars have long accepted scientifically proven cosmology but even up until his death in 1999, Sheikh Ibn Baaz, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, continued to insist that the Sun revolved around the Earth based on his interpretation of Islamic texts.
And it's the student societies who are protesting. Well, that takes me back to more recent history:-
On April 6th, 1933, the Main Office for Press and Propaganda of the German Student Association proclaimed a nationwide "Action against the Un-German Spirit", which was to climax in a literary purge or "cleansing" ("Säuberung") by fire.
Well-known socialists such as Bertolt Brecht and August Bebel; the founder of the concept of communism, Karl Marx; critical “bourgeois” writers like the Austrian playwright Arthur Schnitzler, and “corrupting foreign influences,” among them American authors Ernest Hemingway, Jack London and Helen Keller, English writer H. G. Wells; and notable Jewish authors such as Franz Werfel, Max Brod, and Stefan Zweig were also burned.
Half a decade ago I heard a couple of Muslim scholars on Radio 4 arguing whether "I have been ordered to fight and kill all mankind until they accept Allah" is now taken literally, should be taken literally and has ever been taken literally. It was disorientating - like turning on CNN for direct coverage of the Salem witch trials.