Although negative reactions accompanied the reception of Darwinism in the Islamic World from the beginning, a full fledged Islamic creationist movement did not appear before the 1970s. Originally it was restricted to Turkey, where Islamic groups attempted to undermine the materialist foundation of Marxism and Kemalism. From the late 1990s onwards the subject became popular among Muslims in the diaspora. This was due to the efforts of Adnan Oktar alias Harun Yahya, a hitherto marginal figure in Turkey, to propagate his ideas via the Internet. The Internet allows him to adapt his propaganda constantly to new issues and creationist and anti-creationist publications and to recruit volunteers willing to translate his books. Thanks to the combination of a neglected subject with the innovative use of new media Oktar gained the opinion leadership in this field. Even movements, the founders of which had attacked Darwinism, now refer to Oktar as main authority on this issue. However, he failed to gain an equal degree of attention for topics like conspiracy theories and eschatology. In these fields he had to compete with a bulk of existing material in conventional media. The success of his former disciple Mustafa Akyol shows that using the Internet as main means of propaganda may restrict the political impact. He became the chief Muslim ally of Christian creationists in the USA by managing to get published by respectable “old media”. For him the Internet only fulfils an auxiliary function.Regarding Harun Yahya's impact, Martin points out an interesting distinction between Turkish and non-Turkish audience:
I am curious here as to the difference of Yahya's image within Turkey and abroad. For example, Yahya may be seen in Turkey more in line with anti-Kemalists and Nursi-like movement and his position within the society is defined according to that (though he may disagree with that characterization). Whereas, for non-Turkish Muslims, the Turkish context is missing and it is the presentation (the glossy books, sophisticated website and documentaries, etc) that defines his image - and he is seen as a scholar and a scientist facing down the West and western dominance. Thus, Islamic creationism may have a different face inside Turkey (and the Turkish diaspora) than outside.
In Turkey itself Harun Yahya's ideas are primarily promoted by other media than the Internet. Öztürkler, a Turkish educationist who has analysed the impact of Islamic creationist ideas on the educational system, shows that lise (high-school) students who object to Darwinism have derived their ideas from his books and video-CDs.With regard to his international audience the picture changes considerably. Links to his websites are to be found on a broad array of web-pages. Organisations dedicated to the "Islamisation of Knowledge" refer to his websites to bolster their claims. By avoiding controversial subjects he becomes acceptable for different movements which are extremely hostile to each other. Among Muslims with a South Asian background his English website is linked by both Sufi oriented Barelwīs as well as their archenemies, the puritan Deobandīs. In the West his popularity is not restricted to migrant communities, he also reaches out to converts. His articles are reprinted in "traditional" Islamic media like the "Islamic Voice" from Bangalore.
In general it is remarkable that at least at present websites of Turkish Muslims living abroad seldom refer to Harun Yahya sites. As in Turkey itself his success is due to the dissemination of books and audio-visual materials, in particular through mosque associations of the Islamist Millî Görüş movement and friendly reports in its daily ‘Milli Gazete'.
Martin concludes about the use of the internet:
As Anderson and Eickelman have remarked‘[the Internet] has the potential to promote greater openness in the Islamic decision-making process as well as to reinforce entrenched views.' The success of Harun Yahya's activities may serve as a proof for the second aspect. As his critics referred to in this text have demonstrated Harun Yahya's argumentation is based on a dogmatic preconception and the proofs he presents are mostly forgeries and misquotes. Apparently the fact that these refutations are easily available on the net does not hamper Harun Yahya's success. Easy access to information alone does not increase the desire to question one own's concepts. The slow and weak response to Harun Yahya's campaigns further highlights the negative aspect of the ambiguity exposed by Anderson and Eickelman: in certain contexts the possibility to publish a lot in a short time works to the disadvantage of scientific thought and a rational discourse.Yes, this is correct. But scientists need to not just counter Harun Yahya (this will give him even more publicity), but to present a more positive alternative narrative that does not threaten core religious values and that weaves together the importance of science with the scientific evidence for evolution. More importantly, that connects science and evolution to everyday life (before you call me completely naive, I'm not saying that this is easy - but that it is possible: see Sagan's Cosmos). Yahya's science is terrible - but his message connects for many at an emotional level. Scientists need to bring an emotional connection to evolution.
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