Creationist Fanaticism in the UK

It is sometimes suggested that your Curmudgeon is excessive in his criticism of the theocratic component of the creationist movement. But if we look to other parts of the world where creationism has achieved a more “advanced” stage, it’s clear that our criticism is more than justified.

Consider this news article in the Independent, a UK newspaper located in London: Scientist Imam threatened over Darwinist views. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A prominent British imam has been forced to retract his claims that Islam is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution after receiving death threats from fundamentalists.

Death threats? In England? What’s going on here?

Dr Usama Hasan, a physics lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, was intending yesterday to return to Masjid al-Tawhid, a mosque in Leyton, East London, for the first time since he delivered a lecture there entitled “Islam and the theory of evolution”.

What happened? Let’s read on:

But according to his sister, police advised him not to attend [the mosque] after becoming concerned for his safety. Instead his father, Suhaib, head of the mosque’s committee of trustees, posted a notice on his behalf expressing regret over his comments. “I seek Allah’s forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused,” the statement read.

His own father did that? We continue:

The campaign is part of a growing movement by a small but vocal group of largely Saudi-influenced orthodox Muslims who use evolution as a way of discrediting imams whom they deem to be overly progressive or “western orientated”.

If they don’t want anybody around who is “western” in his orientation, why are they in England? Never mind, there’s no answer to that. Ah, now the newspaper gives us a bit of background:

In January, Dr Hasan delivered a lecture there detailing why he felt the theory of evolution and Islam were compatible – a position that is not unusual among many Islamic scholars with scientific backgrounds. But the lecture was interrupted by men he described as “fanatics” who distributed leaflets claiming that “Darwin is blasphemy”.

“One man came up to me during the lecture and said ‘You are an apostate and should be killed’,” Dr Hasan told The Independent.

We have outspoken creationists in the US too, but they’re not that aggressive. Not yet, anyway. These things take time. We’ll skip some of the article, which you’ll want to read in its entirety, and get right to the final paragraph:

Most Islamic scholars have little problem with evolution as long as Muslims accept the supremacy of God in the process. But in recent years a small number of orthodox scholars, mainly from Saudi Arabia – where many clerics still preach that the Sun revolves around the Earth – have ruled against evolution, declaring that belief in the concept goes against the Koran’s statement that Adam and Eve were the first humans.

Such attitudes aren’t limited to Muslims. It’s common to the creationist mindset across all religions. When reason is absent, it doesn’t really matter what fills the void. The theological distinctions between Christianity and Islam are irrelevant to a murdered scientist.

So what do we learn from this ghastly tale? We suggest the lesson is this: If creationists aren’t kept out of our schools — and out of our politics! — what’s happening in England can happen in the US too.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Creationist Fanaticism in the UK

  1. We’ve already had fundamentalist groups proposing stoning teenagers who talk back to their parents and abortion opponents who shoot doctors. What’s shocking is how few are shocked.

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    The theological distinctions between Christianity and Islam are irrelevant to a murdered scientist.

    What IS relevant is the propensity to violence of the followers of the respective religions. A significant minority of Muslims, all over the world, are willing to resort to violence against those who do anything that can be construed as insulting to their faith.

    Christians are not forcing biologists to recant Darwin. I’m sure Ken Miller has had some nasty emails, but he has not been forced to recant for fear of his life.

  3. Gabriel Hanna says:

    I’m sure Ken Miller has had some nasty emails, but he has not been forced to recant for fear of his life.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if he had death threats. Judge Jones did. Creationists routinely link evolution and Hitler — which doesn’t encourage peaceful dialogue. It’s a different issue, but abortion doctors have been killed and clinics have been bombed. There really are crazy people out there.

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    Yes, SC, there really are crazy people out there who kill people. The difference between Islam and Christianity is that the Christian world does not have millions of people who sympathize with, fund, apologize for, and participate in, violence to impose their faith on others.

    A vanishingly small number of fanatics, with little organization and no support or sympathy from the vast majority of Christians, are responsible for killing abortion doctors. They are routinely condemned and repudiated by almost all other Christians.

    Meanwhile, Muslims kill people of other faiths routinely, even people who are perceived as being too sympathetic to other faiths

    or their friends and neighbors they’ve lived alongside for two thousand years, simply because no one is stopping them at the moment.

    You’re not exaggerating violence from Christians so much as trivializing that from Muslims.

  5. Gabriel Hanna

    Let me add something. If I had to generalize from personal experience, Muslims are rational, tolerant, and peace-loving. Of course the ones I ‘ve known are–they’re scientists, highly educated, and come from more affluent backgrounds, and voluntarily came to a country they knew was secular and largely Christian.

    But there are large parts of the world where Muslims like my friends and colleagues are not the norm, and not the holders of power.

    You can’t compare legitimately American creationism to violent Muslim fanatics, any more than you can do so with evolution and Nazism.

  6. Gabriel Hanna

    So what do creationists do to spread creationism? They give money to AIG and DI. They write barely-coherent letters to the editor. They make movies about bananas starring washed-up child actors. They elect school-board candidates and once in a great while get a state legislature to pass a law that costs that state millions in legal fees.

    To paraphrase Jules, Christian and Muslim fundementalists are not just not in the same league, they’re not even playing the same sport.

  7. Step by step, Gabe. They have a long way to go in the US, but they want to go there.

  8. SC said: “They have a long way to go in the US, but they want to go there.”

    Absolutely, they want to go there. Rushdooney may be dead, but he still has his followers, like the guy in GA who wants women jailed for having miscarriages. If they thought they could get away with tactics more violent than protests and moronic legal actions trying to get rid of science in schools, they would.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    For 234 years this country has been dominated by Christians, so when is this going to happen? Why does church membership keep falling? Why does the popular culture keep getting more irreligious and sexualized?

    It’s like Screwtape said,

    We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritansm; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.

  10. Gabriel Hanna asks:

    Why does church membership keep falling? Why does the popular culture keep getting more irreligious and sexualized?

    That makes the true believers even more fanatical. It doesn’t take a majority to impose a dictatorship. Besides, if I’m wrong then there’s no problem and I’m just a silly alarmist. But if I’m right, we should persevere in being vigilant. There’s no harm in vigilance, but there may be in carelessness. It’s sort of a reverse Pascal’s Wager.

  11. retiredsciguy

    SC states, “… the popular culture…getting more irreligious and sexualized …
    makes the true believers even more fanatical.”

    This also seems to be the case with abortion. It was Roe v.Wade that galvanized the Religious Right to action, along with the violent fringe. My gut feeling, though, is that the Fundamentalist Christians will not become violent over evolution.

    On the other hand, what has happened in England, with radical Islamists making death threats against scientists for supporting evolution, could certainly happen here.

  12. The general problem with Islamic violence is rooted in an inherent lack of religious support for living within a secular government. There is no “render unto Ceasar” in Islam. To be an true Islamic fundamentalist means rejecting any law or government contrary to the religion – therefore to such a person the death punishment for blasphemy is required, regardless of the laws of the country in which they happen to live.

    The more fundamentalist Christians are eerily similar in their attitudes toward “heretics” and others who are not like them, but unlike Islam, Christianity continues to include the rule of law as part of its core values. Thus, rather than taking up guns, Christian fundamentalists take up lawyers and politicians and seek to enforce their beliefs through litigation and legislation. (with a very few violent exceptions) I don’t see any Christian “Fatwas” in the forseeable future. And most Moslems living in secular societies have fully integrated belief in the rule of law and individual freedom into their world views – it is not actually prohibited to think that way by Islam – and send their kids to public schools and participate fully in the society.

    I think we are witnessing the final resistance of the “true believers”, who are fighting – loudly and violently in some cases – for their continued existence. The advance of science, modernity, freedom and secular governments will eventually overrun the last bastions of the ignorance and delusion.

  13. retiredsciguy

    Ed writes, “The advance of science, modernity, freedom and secular governments will eventually overrun the last bastions of the ignorance and delusion.”

    We can only hope.

  14. You know you’ve got a winning theology when it takes a death threat to be persuasive!