Islam and Evolution

In recent weeks there has been a bit of a buzz in the press (National, Scientific, Sceptic and Religious) about an Islamic Imam by the name of Dr Usama Hasan.

In summary, Dr Usama Hasan recently gave a talk at the Mosque he holds a his position at about Evolution. During the talk some of what he said was objected to and discussion got a little heated. In the argument and counter-argument that followed the Dr has cancelled a further appearance and a retraction has been published on his behalf.

For The Independent’s take on the story see here:

Now I have just spent an hour or so reading some of what is being said on the subject.

The national press are reporting that deaths threats were made against Dr Usama Hasan and the retraction and subsequent cancellation are in response to those death threats. The finger of blame is pointed at Saudi Muslims.

One thing that occurred to me when reading this is that whenever we get stories of Muslims being unreasonable in the UK press, there is always a reminder that Saudi Muslims practice a stricter version of Islam than that which we see on our fair shores. So the Saudi link is not surprising, but equally I feel concerned that its also not proven. It also feels a little bit like we are being intentionally fed information that leads us to distrust anything that is Muslim, especially that which is associated with Saudi Arabia and its neighbours. However, since my knowledge is limited further speculation from me on that would be ill advised, especially as I am not one to pander to conspiracy theories, its far more likely to be sloppy journalism, of which there are many examples.

The scientific and sceptic press and commentary takes a predictable line. They praise the Imam for his open stance to scientific evidence and hold him up as an example of enlightened religiosity. This praise is quickly followed by disgust at the closed minded individuals who shouted down this poor man who was only telling the truth and has suffered death threats and infamy as a result.

Religious comment is the most interesting. Christian comments are mainly along the lines of support for the moderate Imam.

It’s the comments from and among Muslims that are the most polarised and in some way bothered me about the whole affair. A brief run down of the type of comment I have read is as follows:

  • There were no death threats, its been blown out of proportion to create a stir
  • The biggest trouble actually came from white British Muslim converts
  • The fact the Christians support him proves his is a problem
  • Evolution is a lie and Dr Usama Hasan should be removed from his post
  • Dr Usama Hasan actually started the fracas by insulting his audience

The most striking thing for me on reading some Muslim blogs was the assertion of the creation of Adam from clay. Being from a Christian background and having never paid any attention to Islam, when I read things on Islamic forums that echo my Christian knowledge it makes me stop and ponder on just how much is shared between the two.

On the flip side, it is also concerning that Muslims share the same distrust of Christians that I did of Muslims as a Christian. I guess that should not surprise me, but its still concerning. There is probably much more common ground between the two religions that they are each prepared to admit.

What was the more enlightening was just how many Muslim blogs and comments there were expounding the notion that Evolution is a lie and that any Imam who teaches it should be removed form his post. The accusations aimed at him regarding his Muslim faith were much fiercer than I have ever seen aimed at a Christian church leader.

While its foolish to assume that the blog comment proportions accurately reflect the Muslim populace, there were still far more Muslim comments refuting evolution than there were defending it. In fact the defence was a very small minority, which is the opposite of my experience of Christians and evolution in this country.

I’m not sure what to make of these events but it does seem that the Muslim community in this country is going through a bit of a challenge and I only hope that those who espouse the truth of evolution win over and that those who do promote it are allowed to have their say and do not face death threats, real or imagined.

I am reminded of the Salman Rusdie and The Satanic Verses episode, lets hope it doesn’t go that far.

British Schools, Muslim Rules

Not surprisingly, there is much talk on the web this week about the recent Panorama programme featuring British Schools teaching British Muslims the Saudi national curriculum. Of particular focus is the fact that these imported text books teach young children that homophobia and anti-Semitism is okay. Some commentators have put it far more strongly than that.

This sort of bigotry is deeply concerning and children should not be taught it. It encourages segregation and isolation of people groups, which is harmful to everyone. This wasn’t the only thing that bothered me though; the text books features were not in English, which is absurd, schools in this country should teach in the national language, English, and from text books published to this country’s national curriculum. Importing foreign language books that teach to another national curriculum puts those children at a disadvantage in this country. That’s before you get onto the subject of the racist and bigoted matter therein.

Not surprisingly, and even understandably, there are many comments from Muslims saying that this is a twisted reporting of Islam and that not all Islam is like that and the British press are on a witch-hunt against Islam. The question I would like to ask those people is “why are you not joining the people who are rightly criticising those extreme views featured?”.

If Muslims are concerned that there is not anything good about Islam in the British press or on the TV then they should make an effort and change that themselves. Go public in criticising the bigotry of the Saudi curriculum that is being taught in British schools, go public in supporting those who want rid of the absurd system that has allowed this to happen. When the British public see Mulims joining them in fighting prejudice and bigotry then they will see Islam being positive. If all that the British public see is Muslims complaining when some parts of Islam are justifiably focused on as wrong then of course it will reinforce any negative views that are already held.

Of most concern for me in the programme was the fact that the schools are not Ofsted inspected, but instead are inspected by a separate organisation, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which inspects faith schools. Faith schools should adhere to this country’s national curriculum first and foremost and the teaching of faith should come secondary to that, minus the homophobia, anti-Semitism and any other bigotry. Self imposed seclusion will only damage religious credibility even further.