The opening Wednesday Forum which was attended by about 30 participants for this semester held on September 9, 2009 was marked with a presentation entitled “Evolution and Creation in the Muslim World: Ambiguities in the Moslem World”? delivered by Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir who is the director of CRCS.
The main argument presented by Dr. Bagir was the Theory of Evolution that has not been considered important in the world’s religious agenda, and the opposition to Darwin’s Theory which emphasizes on the issue of Creation in the holy book, either Qur’an or Bible. Dr. Bagir also argued that the interpretation of other anti-evolutionism is also part of the politics of identity now. Anti-evolutionism movement is spreading in many countries and in many religious communities, such as Hindus, Jews and Christians all over the world like in Latin America, Northern Europe, Australia, even in Asia such as Asian Indian, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong.
According to the presentation, Anti-Darwinism also appears in the majority of Islamic countries, like in the Middle East and North Africa. Thus, the movement of anti-evolutionism has been globalized with various religious backgrounds. The most striking reference that firmly opposed to the idea of anti-evolutionism comes from anti-Darwinism, a Turkish, Harun Yahya.
The book of Harun Yahya was published with luxurious appearance. This has a good format, printed in quality paper with interesting covers. In addition, his book was translated to Urdu, English, Russian, French and Indonesian languages. The thoughts of Harun Yahya is not only in book form but it can also be found on websites in Indonesian language and all his thinking were quoted by various news agencies of Islam in Indonesia. On the other hand, Dr. Bagir also showed VCDs of Harun Yahya attacking Darwinism, Materialism and Marxism which are also sold widely by street vendors in several cities in Indonesia. Harun Yahya spreads this idea and it affects Biology lessons in classes. School teachers accept the idea and teach in the classroom.
Dr. Bagir argued that in his point of view, the emergence of the notion of anti-evolutionism is not simply against the idea creationism, but also the idea of materialism and progression of evolution proposed by Darwin. And almost all evolutionists believe in the existence of historical linearity and rationality of thought. Therefore, the opposition to evolutionism was not only the interpretation of religious issues, but also because of the emergence of politics of identity between Western and Eastern powers. In addition, the idea that evolutionism had been recorded by Darwin in his Origin of Species in 1859 was a new discourse for the majority of Muslims, so it does not acquire a serious place for open discussion. Considering that this is a new idea, no wonder then that in the literature of Qur’an there are various different interpretations which are contradictory and ambiguous in responding to the idea of creationism.
In the question and answer session, Sita, a CRCS alumna, commended on the idea that Darwinism is also used as a tool of colonialism by assuming that the people of the colonized countries have not passed the stage of evolution as a linear and advanced as countries in Europe, therefore they deserved to be enlightened and educated through a system of colonialism. Responding to this, Dr. Bagir said that it is true that anti-Darwinism ideas are more important because of the politics of identity. This is evident in a research conducted by Scott, Miller and Okamoto (2006) which indicates that the rejection of Darwinism in Europe and America now jumped two times higher than before. It demonstrates the strength of fundamentalism, conservatism and a strong belief by an individual against a Godly idea. This can be concluded that there was a positive relationship between being more religious by the rejection of the theory of evolution. And the criticism of Darwinism is more decisive because the follower of social Darwinism applies it in colonialism, fascism and the last is terrorism.
There was also a biology student who said that in her department (Biology Faculty) at UGM, there are two standpoints, they who believe in the theory of evolution and those who do not agree with the theory, therefore it is not a surprise if students are guided by two different versions of books. Responding to the fact, Dr. Bagir said that although Darwin’s book is very rational, the books of Harun Yahya show the impression that it can be easily understood by the readers, those are colourful and interesting. Many people who oppose to the theory of evolutionism are more based on politics of identity and also because they read on Harun Yahya who often times quotes various verses of the Koran. The opponents of the theory of evolutionism do not really know and understand the thoughts of Darwin, so there is too much misinterpretation to the theory because the assumption is often expressed in rejecting Darwin’s theory which are part of the reflection on religiosity.
And at the end of the discussion, Dr. Bagir concluded saying, “you could still be a Muslim or a good Christian even if you accept evolution”.
The presentation is part of the article which Dr. Bagir writes, and is soon to be published in cooperation with an institution in Australia. The article is about the responses of various religions to the theory of evolutionism. The book is part of the 150th year celebration of Charles Darwin’s book The Origins of Species.
This post is also available in: Indonesian