Inter-faith Creationism?

It is no longer surprising to see deeply conservative religious thinkers reach across religious lines to work together.  Could we soon see effective Muslim-Christian coalitions to support the teaching of creationism?

Perhaps as a model, interfaith creationists could consider Robert George and Hamza Yusuf’s collaboration.  The two leading intellectuals, one Catholic, one Muslim, co-wrote an open letter to hotels, requesting the removal of pornography from television options.

Even more apt, we could consider the fact that American creationism has always used the work of fellow creationist writers from different religious traditions.  In the 1920s, as my grad-school mentor Ronald Numbers argued, Catholic writers such as Alfred McCann were favorites among ferociously Protestant creationists.  More recently, this tradition has continued with the creationist embrace of Jonathan Wells’ work.

Could this tradition of creationist ecumenism work to bridge the Christian-Muslim divide?

There is no doubt that both religions harbor fervent creationists.  A recent article in The Economist detailed recent creationist developments among Islamic populations.  The article cited a study by Salman Hameed of Muslim attitudes to evolution.  That study found that 20% of Muslims in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan embraced evolution.  In Egypt, only 8% did.

As The Economist article describes, “controversial” Turkish evangelist Adnan Oktar, known as Harun Yahya, has long conducted an energetic creationist campaign in Muslim circles, including a series of conferences in the USA.

Of course, the conservative theology behind both Islamic and Christian creationism creates some barriers.  Orthodox religious thinkers on both sides will be wary of working with people from opposing traditions.

But there has also been a long tradition of cooperation.  As Ronald Numbers pointed out in The Creationists, in the mid-1980s, the Institute for Creation Research received a telephone call from the minister of education of Turkey, requesting teaching materials (Creationists, 2006, pg. 421).  In 1992, a Turkish creationism conference invited ICR stalwarts Duane Gish and John Morris as keynote speakers.  Professor Numbers also describes the founding in 1990 of the Turkish Science Research Foundation (Bilim Arastirma Vakfi, or BAV).  In Numbers’ words, “For years BAV maintained a cozy relationship with Christian young-earth creationists, feting them at conferences, translating their books, and carrying their message to the Islamic world”  (Creationists, 2006, pg. 425).

For a long generation, then, Muslim and Christian creationists have worked together.  The question is not whether such cooperation can happen.  Rather, the question is whether and when these efforts will gather enough support to become a major influence on the politics and policies of creationism and evolution education.

 

 

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