London: A Muslim forum had to call off its plan on holding a debate on Islam and evolution which was scheduled to be conducted at one of Britain’s top scientific universities as Muslim students showed stronger opposition against it.
“It’s symptomatic of a bigger problem in the Muslim world where people representing practical Muslims have to be seen to be more literalist,” Adam Deen, co-founder of the Deen Institute, said.
“It’s almost like there’s an intellectual mafia movement who won’t allow any freedom of thought,” he added.
The Deen Institute, a Muslim debating forum which promotes critical thinking, planned to hold a conference entitled “Have Muslims misunderstood evolution?” early next year.
Speakers invited at the event included Muslim scientists, imams who have promoted the compatibility of Islam and evolution as well as those who preach a form of Islamic creationism.
Deen, who describes himself as a “conservative Muslim” who encourages critical thinking, said that he is surprised to face such opposition at a place of scientific study.
“As soon as it went live I was inundated with complaints,” one source involved with preparations said.
He added, “It’s sad because student societies should be desperate to host this kind of debate.”
Facing opposition from Muslim students, the Institute said that it was forced to pull out when it became clear that opposition to the event from supporters of creationism began mounting.
It is now being held without input from any Muslim student society at Logan Hall, a conference center owned by the University of London.
“We eventually had to give up of getting any support from student societies because it was seen as simply too controversial,” Deen said.
Dr. Oktar Babuna, a representative from the prominent Turkish theologian Harun Yahya movement, is scheduled to speak at the conference alongside Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, an influential imam who accepts evolution at a micro level but refuses the idea that man evolved from anything other than Adam himself.
Two Muslim scientists; American biologists Ehab Abouheif and Fatimah Jackson, will also speak alongside Usama Hasan, a British imam who preaches the commonly held scientific view that man is descended from ape-like forebears.
The divisions were also evident on a Facebook launched by the co-founder of the Deen Institute.
“If our faith is strong we can only gain from looking at, hearing and understanding difference,” wrote Amina Crashaw who criticized their colleagues for shunning scientific research.
“If this were not truth I would not be Muslim. Understanding difference include being open to finding something new to learn from the Quran. Not new facts but new depth,” she added.
Others were upset with the idea of bringing the issue of Darwinism into debate.
“This debate is a big mistake,” wrote Mohammad Ali Harrath, the founder of the highly influential Islam Channel.
“It is shifting debate to make it a Muslim issue rather than an issue between atheists and creationists,” he added.
Another commenter, Zeshan Sasjid, shares a similar view.
“Evolution is not Islamic. Prophet Adam did not have parents. A Muslim can’t believe that,” he said.