By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor, REUTERS
AUBERVILLIERS, France (Reuters) – Four years after they first frightened France, Muslim creationists are back touring the country preaching against evolution and claiming the Koran predicted many modern scientific discoveries.
Followers of Harun Yahya, a well-financed Turkish publisher of popular Islamic books, held four conferences at Muslim centers in the Paris area at the weekend with more scheduled in six other cities.
At a Muslim junior high school in this north Paris suburb, about 100 pupils — boys seated on the right, girls on the left — listened as two Turks from Harun Yahya’s headquarters in Istanbul denounced evolution as a theory Muslims should shun.
“We didn’t descend from the apes,” lecturer Ali Sadun told the giggling youngsters. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, he said, was “the scientific basis to defend atheism.”
Harun Yahya, one of the most prolific publishers in the Muslim world, gave proudly secularist France a scare in January 2007 by mass-mailing thousands of free copies of his “Atlas of Creation” to schools and libraries across the country.
The Education Ministry quickly ordered headmasters to seize and hide copies of the large format book that, over 768 pages of glossy photographs and easy-to-read text, argues that all living things were created by God exactly as they are formed today.
It followed up with a special seminar to train teachers how to counter a small but growing group of pupils who challenge evolution with creationist theories.
In October 2007, with strong French support, the Council of Europe denounced the creationist views laid out in the “Atlas of Creation” as a religious assault on science and human rights.