When we arrived, lights and cameras were already set up to record the interview for the Harun Yahya websites. I was asked to take off my shoes at the doorstep. Oktar, who arrived a few minutes after us, was the only one in the room wearing shoes. They were black leather, worn with black slacks and a blazer over a black Versace t-shirt. His presence was impressive, and he didn't linger for small talk, either before or after the interview.and more on the Atlas of Creation:
Harun Yahya's books are just as polished as he is. They often come printed in full color on glossy paper, full of photographs and graphics. In one of his several books condemning violence, Only Love Can Defeat Terrorism, an ornamental gold border frames every page. The text is punctuated by Photoshop collages, including one of children frolicking in a grassy garden amidst Roman temples and another of dolphins jumping from a pool in the floor of a baroque palace.
Oktar oversees the design of all Harun Yahya products, assisted by 20 to 30 aides. According to Calikoglu, it is Oktar himself who insists on the extravagant and expensive look. "In the initial stages we were unable to understand the necessity of it," Calikoglu told me, but they were convinced when the approach caught on. Global Publishing, which produces and distributes Harun Yahya media, claims to churn out 18 million books per year, produces documentary films based on them, and maintains dozens of websites. According to Hakan Korkmaz, director of sales in Turkey for Global Publishing, over a million Harun Yahya books have been sold in the country in the last four years. And Korkmaz's office, located in a building on the northwest end of Istanbul, houses a call center with a staff of 30.
I think Nathan is right on the money when he says that we miss a key point if we consider Atlas of Creation as a scientific book. However, many in the Muslim world do consider him a scientist. For example, on my recent visit to Pakistan I encountered people who defended his "scientific" work against evolution and considered him a revolutionary scientist. However, Harun Yahya's views about the coming of Christ (his shift from Mahdi), when they are more widely known, are bound to rattle those who do not consider him a religious leader of a movement - but rather simply a scientist opposed to evolution. I actually think that Yahya's phase in the context of Islamic creationism will soon pass - and he may be left with followers of his particular version of Islam. We may face a bigger threat to evolution (and science) from a creationist representing a more mainstream Islam with a less eccentric personality, but who will use the publicity model of Harun Yahya. Lets keep our eyes open.
Judging the Atlas on its scientific content alone misses the point. Its power, for those who aren't scientifically literate, lies in its vision of redemption. Oktar speaks from a country torn by political upheaval and from a Muslim world struggling to regain its religion and culture after colonial domination. He also speaks to a wider world bombarded by technological innovations and endless cycles of violence. His books, which combine beatific imagery with an attack on the supposed source of all our troubles, offer a glimpse of the world redeemed. Refuting evolution is a means to that end.
"In ten years time, Jesus Christ will possibly come to this earth," Oktar proclaimed to me. By then, he continued, "all of these bloody ideologies and nonsensical ways of thinking about creation will be eradicated."
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