Creationist guru of Muslim world convicted at trial as leader of ‘rape cult’

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Fifteen years ago, the name Harun Yahya was known worldwide as maybe the foremost global source of creationist literature and teachings. A man in Turkey named Adnan Oktar had adopted this as a pseudonym, the words “Harun Yahya” referring to the Biblical names Aaron and John. An assessment of Harun Yahya in 2008 by Taner Edis suggested that Oktar was “the public face of the brand”, and that the literature and materials promoting creationism had actually been written and produced by a larger group of writers: “Harun Yahya’s Legal Troubles”. Whatever is the case, the man Adnan Oktar developed a global following and had enormous influence on curricular materials and teaching of biology across many majority-Muslim nations.

Earlier this year, after a long trial, Oktar was convicted of crimes related to sexual assault and blackmail. A number of news accounts cover this; Bloomberg has one that also presents the background of Oktar as the creationist idol: “Turkey Sex Cult Chief Sentenced to More Than 1,000 Years in Jail”.

A Turkish Islamic televangelist was sentenced to 1,075 years in jail on Monday for running a decades-old cult whose members were accused of crimes ranging from sexual assault to blackmail, money laundering and even espionage.
Adnan Oktar, who wrote books on Islamic creationism under the pseudonym Harun Yahya, was put on trial in Istanbul alongside 236 other alleged members or enablers of his network, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Early in 2020, after Oktar’s arrest, the Daily Sabah of Istanbul printed several stories detailing the charges against him and revelations at trial. This story describes the testimony of some of the women who were victims: “Former members expose bizarre inner workings of Adnan Oktar cult”. I want to draw attention to this paragraph:

Oktar was a household name in the 2000s, but his prominence dates back to the 1980s when he was arrested for "promoting theocracy" for his views. He resurfaced in 1999 when he was charged with blackmail, although he was found mentally ill by a court and spent months in a psychiatric hospital before his release. He made a comeback with a series of anti-evolution books and launched a TV station in 2011.

I’ve often felt frustration at the way that biological science has been made subject to demagoguery. Some would say that it shows that biology has high stakes, that politicians and the public care about it. The reality is just the opposite. Politicians are relatively free to say ridiculous things about biological science precisely because the public at large will not punish them for lying about it.

Many of the high-profile figures who make a living from scaring people about evolution education are in reality evil people. They make a living by swindling people out of money. Sometimes their righteous act is a cover that they have concocted to distract people from their real agenda.