Adnan Oktar (born 1956), also known as Harun Yahya, is a Turkish author referred to as “the biggest propagator of ijaz literature” as well as an Islamic creationist. In 2007, he sent thousands of unsolicited copies of his book, Atlas of Creation, which advocates Islamic creationism, to American scientists, members of Congress, and science museums.
Oktar runs two organizations of which he is also the Honorary President: Bilim Araştırma Vakfı (literally, “Science Research Foundation”, BAV, established 1990), which promotes creationism and Milli Değerleri Koruma Vakfı (literally, “National Values Preservation Foundation”, established 1995) which works domestically on a variety of “moral issues.” In the last two decades, Oktar has been involved in a number of legal cases, both as defendant and plaintiff.
1956 (age 56–57)
|Other names||Harun Yahya, Adnan Hoca|
|Known for||Islamic creationism, Anti-Zionism, Anti-Masonry, Ijaz Literature|
Adnan Oktar was born in Ankara, Turkey, in 1956, and raised there through his high school years, where he studied the works of Islamic scholars like Said Nursi, a Muslim Kurdish scholar who wrote Risale-i Nur, an extensive Qur’anic commentary which includes a comprehensive political and religious ideology.
In 1979, Oktar came to Istanbul and entered Mimar Sinan University. These years were marked with violence and repression which led to the installation of a military junta following the coup of September 1980.
The environment in Turkey was one of political and cultural instability, threatened by Cold War politics, and a clash between Kemalist secular modernisers and a rising tide of Islamic militancy.
In this environment he regularly attended the Molla Mosque in Fındıklı locality, close to the academy of fine arts where he studied interior architecture, to pray regardless of threats. Edip Yuksel, who knew him during those years, described him as a “Sunni zealot.”
In the early 1980s, he gathered young students around him to share his views of Islam. These students belonged to socially-active and prosperous families of Istanbul. From 1982 to 1984, a group of 20 to 30 was formed.
They were joined by private high school students who were from socially active and well-known families with a high economic status who had become newly religious. Yüksel said Oktar presented his teachings “gently and in a modern fashion to the children of the privileged class, without intimidating them … a refined and urbanized version of Said Nursi.”
In his religious teachings, Oktar argued against Marxism, communism and materialistic philosophy. He attached special importance to refuting the Theory of Evolution and Darwinism because he felt that it had been turned into an ideology used to promote materialism and atheism, and numerous derivative ideologies. He personally funded a pamphlet entitled the Theory of Evolution which combined “mysticism with scientific rhetoric.”
In 1986 he enrolled in the Philosophy Department of Istanbul University. Oktar appeared as the cover story of Nokta (The Point) magazine, reporting how he gathered with his friends and held lectures in a mosque. Many university students, mostly from Bosphorus University, one of the most prestigious universities of Turkey, started to participate.
Adnan Oktar’s name began to appear regularly in the press, sometimes in the headlines. Later that year he published a book titled Judaism and Freemasonry based on conspiracy theories that state offices, universities, political groups and media were influenced by a “hidden group”. Adnan Oktar later qualified those remarks (see “Conspiracy Theories” below).
Oktar was arrested, charged with promoting a theocratic revolution for which he served 19 months, though he was never formally charged. In 1986, Oktar spent 10 months in a mental hospital, but he complains that he was not mentally ill but a political “prisoner” who was punished because of the publication of his book, Freemasonry and Judaism.
Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Oktar built up his community. His followers were especially active recruiting at summer resorts along the Sea of Marmara. The social organization within the group became more hierarchical and took on a Messianic nature. Oktar says that due to the anarchy and terror in those years, he was unable to continue his studies. He had already begun working on his books, so when he left school he devoted his energy to his books.
In 1990, he founded the Science Research Foundation (SRF, or, in Turkish, Bilim Araştırma Vakfı, or BAV). Oktar founded the Science Research Foundation to hold conferences and seminars for scientific activities “that target mass awareness concerning what the real underlying causes of social and political conflicts are”, which he describes to be materialism and Darwinism, though some media describe the BAV as “a secretive Islamic sect” and “cult-like organization, that jealously guards the secrets of its considerable wealth”. Members of the BAV are sometimes referred to as Adnan Hocacılar (“Adherents of Adnan the Hodja”) by the public
In 1994 the Islamist Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), the predecessor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), won control of the municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara. The new mayors (in Istanbul this was Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now Turkey’s Prime Minister) sought broader support.
The journalist and editor Fatih Altayli wrote that Oktar made business agreements with municipalities under the control of the Welfare party. This accusation was denied by Oktar, and resulted in libel suits against Fatih Altayli with various results. In 1995, Oktar founded Foundation for Protection of National Values (FPNV or in Turkish Millî Değerleri Koruma Vakfı), through which he networks with other conservative Turkish nationalist organizations and individuals based on the ideology of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.
In 1997, after another military intervention, the “bloodless coup” of 1997, the government of Erbakan stepped down and the Welfare Party disbanded. According to the New Humanist, the current AKP government avoids political connections with Oktar and his organization.
In September 1999 Adnan Oktar was arrested and charged with using threats for personal benefit and creating an organization with the intent to commit a crime (see “Legal issues” below). After a court case lasting two years the charges were dismissed. After 11 September 2001 and the WTC attacks, he published a book, Islam Denounces Terrorism.
Between that time and the present, BAV has organized hundreds of conferences on creationism in Turkey and worldwide. He built a large publishing enterprise with publications sold though Islamic bookstore worldwide. He is considered “one of the most widely distributed authors in the Muslim world”. His television show is viewed by many in the Arab world.
Oktar has been preaching about the “Turkish-Islamic Union”, which would bring peace to the entire Muslim world under the leadership of Turkey. In 2007 he sent out thousands of unsolicited copies of his Atlas of Creation advocating Islam and creationism to schools and colleges in several European countries and the USA. In 1999, the case was reopened by another court (see “Legal issues” below).
Oktar was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. But the verdict was appealed and in May 2010 it was overturned. During these years he engaged in numerous libel suits with various results (See “Legal Issues” below). In some cases he was successful in blocking high-profile websites in Turkey for slander (see “Blocking Internet Sites” below), including that of Richard Dawkins, as well as the complete WordPress-site.
In 2010, Oktar was selected as one of the top fifty of The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan for his dissemination of creationism in an Islamic context, and other extensively distributed publications on Islamic topics.
Oktar has written numerous books under the pen name Harun Yahya. “Harun” refers to the biblical Aaron and “Yahya” refers to the New Testament John the Baptist. His books on faith-related topics attempt to communicate the existence and oneness of God (Allah in the Qur’an) according to the Islamic faith, and are written with the main purpose of introducing Islam to those who are strangers to religion.
Each of his books on science-related topics stresses his views on the might, sublimity, and majesty of God. A sub-group within this series are the series of “Books Demolishing the Lie of Evolution”, a critique of the ideas of materialism, evolution, Darwinism, and atheism.
These publications argue against evolution. They assert that evolution denies the existence of God, abolishes moral values, and promotes materialism and communism. Oktar argues that Darwinism, by stressing the “survival of the fittest”, has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism. An argument not unexpected in Turkey when during the political turmoil before a 1980 military coup, communist bookshops touted Darwin’s works as a complement to Karl Marx.
Truman State University physicist Taner Edis, who was born in Turkey, says the secret to BAV’s success is the huge popularity of the Harun Yahya books. “They’re fairly lavishly produced, on good-quality paper with full-color illustrations all over the place,” he says. “They’re trying to compete with any sort of science publication you can find in the Western world. And in a place like Turkey, Yahya books look considerably better-published than most scientific publications.” Many of his books have been made into high-resolution videos which are freely downloadable on the Internet.
The spread of organized Christian creationism to Islam began in the 1980s, when the Muslim minister of education in Turkey turned to the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a Christian institution then located near San Diego, California, for help in developing twofold curriculum that would teach evolution and creationism side by side. In 1990, the Science Research Foundation (BAV in Turkish) was formed in Istanbul, headed by Oktar.
For many years Oktar drew on the writings of young earth Christian creationists to develop his case against evolution. However, Islam does not require belief in Young Earth creationism, and making use of the fact that earth may have existed for billions of years, Oktar later produced material which was more similar to Intelligent Design. In fact, Harun Yahya’s website was listed as an “Islamic intelligent design” website by the Discovery Institute. However Oktar does not embrace use of the term ‘Intelligent Design’ due to its lack of specific mention of God, calling it ‘another of Satan’s snares’.
In early 1998, the BAV launched its first campaign against evolution and Darwinism. Thousands of free copies of Oktar’s book, The Evolution Deceit, and the booklets based on this book were distributed throughout Turkey. They regularly ran full-page ads against evolution in daily Turkish newspapers and even ran an ad in the U.S. magazine TIME. The funding of the campaigns is unknown. BAV spearheaded an effort to confront Turkish academics who taught evolutionary biology A number of faculty members were harassed, threatened and slandered in fliers, leading to legal action against BAV (see “Legal Issues” below).
In 2005, Professor Ümit Sayın summed up the effect of the BAV’s campaign when he said to The Pitch:
In 1998, I was able to motivate six members of the Turkish Academy of Sciences to speak out against the creationist movement. Today, it’s impossible to motivate anyone. They’re afraid they’ll be attacked by the radical Islamists and the BAV.
In September 2008 Oktar issued a challenge offering “10 trillion Turkish lira to anyone who produces a single intermediate-form fossil demonstrating evolution”. He has stated: “Not one [fossil] belongs to strange-looking creatures in the course of development of the kind supposed by evolutionists.” Dr Kevin Padian at the University of California has criticized the notion that such fossils do not exist, stating that Oktar “does not have any sense of what we know about how things change through time. If he sees a fossil crab, he says, ‘It looks just like a regular crab, there’s no evolution.'”
Taner Edis has said “there is nothing new in the Yahya material: scientifically negligible arguments and outright distortions often copied from Christian anti-evolution literature, presented with a conservative Muslim emphasis” concluding it “has no scholarly standing whatsoever”. According to Richard Dawkins, Oktar “doesn’t know anything about zoology, doesn’t know anything about biology. He knows nothing about what he is attempting to refute”.
In France, scientists spoke out against the book, and American scientists are unimpressed.
The Atlas of Creation
Oktar published volume 1 of his Yaratılış Atlası (The Atlas of Creation), with Global Publishing, Istanbul, Turkey in October 2006. Volumes 2 and 3 followed in 2007. A dedicated website (yaratilisatlasi.com, English atlasofcreation.com) registered to Global Yayıncılık (Global Publishing), Istanbul, went online also in 2007.
At 11 x 17 inches and 12 pounds, with a bright red cover and almost 800 glossy pages, most of them lavishly illustrated, “Atlas of Creation” is according to the New York Times “probably the largest and most beautiful creationist challenge yet to Darwin’s theory, which Mr. Yahya calls a feeble and perverted ideology contradicted by the Koran”. Tens of thousands of copies of the book have been delivered, on an unsolicited basis, to schools, prominent researchers and research institutes throughout Europe and the United States.
Biologist Kevin Padian from the University of California, Berkeley, said people who had received copies were “just astounded at its size and production values and equally astonished at what a load of crap it is.” adding that “[Oktar] does not really have any sense of what we know about how things change through time.”
Gerdien de Jong, one of five biologists at Utrecht University who received a copy of the book, has described its reasoning as “absurdly ridiculous”.
Biologist PZ Myers wrote: “The general pattern of the book is repetitious and predictable: the book shows a picture of a fossil and a photo of a living animal, and declares that they haven’t changed a bit, therefore evolution is false. Over and over. It gets old fast, and it’s usually wrong (they have changed!) and the photography, while lovely, is entirely stolen.”
The Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe wrote in a report that “None of the arguments in this work are based on any scientific evidence, and the book appears more like a primitive theological treatise than the scientific refutation of the theory of evolution.”
Oktar propagates a number of conspiracy theories, beginning with his 1986 Yahudilik ve Masonluk (Judaism and Freemasonry). The book suggests that the principal mission of Jews and Freemasons in Turkey was to erode the spiritual, religious, and moral values of the Turkish people and, thus, make them like animals, as stated in what Oktar refers to as their use of “Distorted Torah.” Oktar asserts that “the materialist standpoint, evolution theory, anti-religious and immoral lifestyles were indoctrinated to the society as a whole” by Jews and Freemasons.
His theory of a global conspiracy of Freemasonry is expounded in his book Global Masonluk (English Global Freemasonry) and on his websites Masonluk and Global Freemasonry. According to Oktar, Freemasonry is “the main architect of the world system based on materialist philosophy, but which keeps that true identity concealed.” Oktar called the theory of evolution a Masonic conspiracy initiated by the Rosicrucians.
Oktar’s recent publications declare Darwinism and Materialism to be conspiracies responsible for anti-semitism and terrorism. In recent publications and interviews (since 2004), Oktar qualifies his condemnations of Zionism and Freemasonry by adding the word atheist before them, as in atheist Zionists and atheist Freemasons.
Holocaust Denial and Affirmation
In 1996, BAV distributed its first book, originally published the previous year, entitled Soykırım Yalanı (The Holocaust Deception). The publication of Soykırım Yalanı sparked controversy. This book claims that “what is presented as Holocaust is the death of some Jews due to the typhus plague during the war and the famine towards the end of the war caused by the defeat of the Germans.”
A Turkish painter and intellectual, Bedri Baykam, published a strongly worded critique of the book in Ankara’s daily newspaper, Siyah-Beyaz (“Black and White”). A legal suit for slander was brought against him. During the trial in September, Baykam exposed the real author of The Holocaust Lie as Adnan Oktar. The suit was withdrawn in March 1997.
In 2001, the Stephen Roth Institute, of Tel-Aviv University, listed Oktar as a Holocaust denier due to the publication of The Holocaust Lie. Three years later the Stephen Roth Institute expressed the opinion that Oktar had increased his tolerance toward others, asserting that “he now works towards promoting inter-religious dialogue”. calling upon all Muslims to have “a tolerant and friendly attitude toward other religions”.
In 2006, BAV published a book affirming the Holocaust, called The Holocaust Violence. The Holocaust Violence states “The Nazis subjected European Jews to indisputable and unforgivable cruelty during World War II. They humiliated, insulted and degraded millions of Jewish civilians, forcing them from their homes and enslaving them in concentration camps under inhuman conditions… Certainly the Jewish people, of whom 5.5 million died in concentration camps, were the worst victims of the Nazi barbarity.”
In a 2007 interview with The Guardian, Oktar denied writing The Holocaust Lie, a claim that The Guardian stated was “hard to believe.” The next year in an interview with Der Spiegel, Oktar claimed The Holocaust Lie had been written by a friend who had published his own essays using Oktar’s pen-name, “Harun Yahya”, on his own. Oktar disclaimed the first book, and said the second book reflected his own opinions.
In 2009, Oktar expressed his new views on Jews in his own words, “hatred or anger toward the line of the Prophet Abraham is completely unacceptable. The Prophet Abraham is our ancestor, and the Jews are our brothers. We want the descendants of the Prophet Abraham to live in the easiest, pleasantest and most peaceful manner. We want them to be free to perform their religious obligations, to live as they wish in the lands of their forebears and to frequently remember Allah in comfort and security.”
Nevertheless, that year the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described Yahya as “an anti-Semitic Turkish writer whose articles demonize Jews who support Israel as “godless” and blames them for committing atrocities.” The ADL also argued that Yahya quotes Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy and still cites The Holocaust Deception in the articles on his site.
Other Legal Issues
In addition to the slander trial over The Holocaust Lie, Oktar has been involved in other cases. Although most are unrelated to creationism or religion, a BAV spokesperson says Oktar is being persecuted “because of his ideas.” Physicist Taner Edis of Truman State University, who has followed the case closely, says given the political pressures on Turkey’s justice system, that’s “not entirely implausible.”
In the summer of 1986, Oktar was arrested for his statement “I am from the nation of Abraham and Turkish ethnicity” in a newspaper interview. Oktar was arrested for promoting a theocratic revolution for which he served 19 months, though he was never formally charged.
In 1991, Oktar was arrested for possession of cocaine, which he claimed had been planted in one of the books in his library by the security forces, who, he said, also spiked his food with cocaine. He was later acquitted.
A number of faculty members who taught evolution were harassed, threatened and slandered in flyers that labeled them “Maoists”. In 1999, six of the professors won a civil court case against the BAV for defamation and were each awarded $4,000.
In 1999, Oktar was arrested and charged with using threats for personal benefit and creating an organization with the intent to commit a crime. BAV’s lawyers claimed there were several human rights violations during this police operation, as well as the use of violence during the arrest and afterwards. The judicial process lasted over two years, during which most of the complainants retracted their claims. As a result, cases against Oktar and other BAV members were dismissed.
The 1999 case was reopened by another court in 2008. The indictment from the prosecutor’s office, made public by Cumhuriyet, claimed blackmail and extortion. Among other things, it claimed that BAV used its female members to attract young scholars from rich families with the promise of sexual favors in exchange for attending events. It was claimed that the sexual activities of thousands of people were videotaped with hidden cameras for the purpose of blackmail. Members who wanted to leave the group were threatened that the tapes would be made public. In the face of all these allegations against BAV, the Chairman of the Court announced in the hearing on 29 February 2008, that testimonies obtained through unlawful means may not be considered as evidence based on article 148 of the criminal code.
Oktar was convicted of creating an illegal organization for personal gain. He and 17 other members of his organisation were sentenced to three years in prison. Oktar appealed the verdict. In May 2010, the Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and dismissed the charges.
Blocking of Internet Sites
Since 2007 Oktar has successfully had the Turkish government block public access to several websites. In April 2007, Oktar filed a libel lawsuit against the owners of Ekşi Sözlük, a virtual community similar to everything2. The court reviewed the complaint and ordered the service provider to close the site to public access. The site was temporarily suspended so the entry on Oktar could be expunged and locked. Then access to Süper Poligon, a news website, was also restricted following Oktar’s complaint. In August 2007, Oktar got a Turkish court to block WordPress.com throughout Turkey. His lawyers argued that blogs on WordPress.com contained libelous material, which WordPress.com was unwilling to remove.
Edip Yuksel, a Turkish writer who knew Oktar in the 1980s, had his own website banned in Turkey due to Oktar’s complaints. In addition, Yuksel wrote a Turkish-language book, The Cult of the Antichrist, but has yet to find “a publisher willing to brave Mr. Oktar’s lawyers.”
On 19 September 2008, a Turkish court banned Internet users in Turkey from viewing the official Richard Dawkins website after Oktar claimed its contents were defamatory, blasphemous and insulting to religion, arguing that his personality was violated by this site.[ The ban was lifted on 8 July 2011.
In September 2008, a complaint by Oktar led to the banning of the internet site of the Union of Education and Scientific Workers. This was followed by a block of the country’s third-biggest newspaper site, Vatan, in October.
On 21 March 2011, Oktar started television broadcasting on A9 satellite channel where his interviews and night lectures are broadcast live.
Oktar’s books and brochures appear in Turkish with “Vural Yayıncılık” (“Global Publishing”), Istanbul. English translations of Oktar’s books appear with “Ta-Ha Publishers”, London, UK; “Global Publishing”, Istanbul, Turkey; “Al-Attique Publishers”, Ontario, Canada and “Goodword Books”, New Delhi, India.
Publication media includes: Books, booklets, pamphlets, children’s books, journals, documentaries, audio books, CDs, posters and over a hundred websites. The total number of books and brochures published by Oktar number in the hundreds. The works are lavishly produced, on good-quality paper with full-color illustrations and sold in Islamic bookstores worldwide.