Halil Arda has done a great service with a new report in the New Humanist about Harun Yahya, the Turkish creationist whom I interviewed last October. He fortunately had the resources and connections to reveal far more than I was able in my articles on the man. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see that he found my work useful:
As the American journalist Nathan Schneider argued, to judge Yahya’s message on its scientific content alone misses the point: “its power, for those who are not scientifically literate, lies in its vision of redemption.”
If his information is correct, Arda adds quite a bit to what we now know about Yahya and his organization. He rightly represents Yahya’s circle as a new religious movement first and a creationism promoter second. And he seems to confirm Salman Hameed’s suspicion that Yahya thinks he’s the Mahdi:
Some, like his former colleague Islamist author Edip Yuksel, who was imprisoned in 1986 at the same time, believe Oktar was faking [insanity] to avoid compulsory military service and criminal charges. (“Which is ironic,” wrote Yuksel, “since he was indeed mentally ill; he was a delusional maniac.”) Already by this point, Yuksel reports, Oktar believed himself to be the Mehdi [an alternate spelling of Mahdi], the messiah foretold in Sunni theology.
There’s much more: sex, cocaine, court convictions, and fancy clothes. The works, in far greater detail than I was able to unearth. While I wish Arda had gone further to explore, sympathetically, why people are so drawn to Yahya, his exposé offers a great deal for Yahya observers to work with. I feel very much in his debt.