I’ve always had mixed feelings about The Huffington Post. They make money with notorious clickbait and yet don’t pay their non-staff writers. Their UK political editor is someone who, despite being an Oxford graduate and a journalist, chose his words rather poorly when speaking of non-Muslims, especially atheists (he did apologize for it). Steven Novella has written several times on the HuffPo’s promotion of pseudoscience.
Knowing those things, however, could not prepare me for the fact that Adnan Oktar, alias Harun Yahya, a notorious Islamic creationist, is a HuffPo contributor. Let me rephrase it so that those who don’t know who he is can feel the outrage: the Muslim Ray Comfort — with a generous dash of Harold Camping — writes for HuffPo.
Harun Yahya has written 234 (!) books (all available for free online) on topics like Islamic apocalyptic conspiracy theories, the Holocaust, and the evils of Romanticism. His favorite theme, Islamic Creationism, can be found in nearly all of his books, even the ones not about his views of the science of evolution. Despite being advised (and, according to some whispers, funded) by American Creationists, he thinks that “Darwinism” is not only factually and scientifically incorrect, but also pure Western-created evil designed to subjugate Muslims.
After years of exclusively using the Harun Yahya identity, the man behind it, Adnan Oktar, has emerged into very public view. He has a talk show called Building Bridges TV on his television network (not to be confused with the Muslim American TV channel, Bridges TV). All the appalling glory of the show, hosted by women Oktar calls his “kittens,” has been covered by Slate. I personally think the worst part is the dancing, if their version of Gangnam Style is any indicator.
At first blush, the listing of Oktar’s contributions to HuffPo doesn’t look too terrible. One piece appears to be pro-science (even though he’s bad at science) and another pro-women. The problem is that the average HuffPo reader is likely unaware of who Oktar is and what he does. In the same way that Ray Comfort uses politeness, Oktar uses his platform on HuffPo to lull people into a false sense of security. By presenting only his most palatable, sanitized views to the public, he can portray himself as not as dangerous as he actually is.
And mark my words, he is dangerous. When I was a religious Muslim teenager, I happened upon a copy of his Evolution Deceit. The book appealed to my budding distrust of “the West” as well as to my love of science. The fact that the man used a pseudonym appealed to my conspiracy-theory-primed mind: I thought that he must be telling some hard truths if he couldn’t use his real name and face. I read his books, with their glossy color illustrations and exciting-looking covers, to bolster my fading faith in Islam. Obviously, that adrenaline-shot of Harun Yahya to my flagging faith wasn’t enough to stop its death march, but I understand all too well the seductiveness of Harun Yahya’s writings. He is a slick, skilled promoter of pseudoscience, adept at disguising the ludicrous nature of his claims in intellectual-sounding language.
There are legitimate Muslim scientists, one of whom I had the honor of speaking with last year, who are doing good work deserving of promotion. In lieu of helping them with their cause, the HuffPo has given a conspiracy-theorist Islamic creationist yet another megaphone by which he can promote his frankly absurd views. Any amount of awkward dancing and lip-service to female empowerment cannot hide Adnan Oktar’s promotion of conspiracy theories and anti-science in the form of Islamic Creationism. It is utterly irresponsible for The Huffington Post to lend this man an air of legitimacy by providing him a platform.
I urge you all to join in me in calling attention to Oktar’s body of work and to his anti-science agenda. Even if the HuffPo continues to feature him, it’s important that anyone who reads his work knows who he is and what he is about. In addition to spreading the word, you can let the HuffPo know that you aren’t okay with giving Adnan Oktar a platform by tweeting @HuffingtonPost/@HuffPostBlog, posting on their Facebook page, and/or emailing them at [email protected].