Youngstown, Ohio students are learning creationism in school with materials from a Islamic, Holocaust-denying group accused of being a sex cult.
A curriculum map (PDF) recommends teachers in this public school district show a creationist video, Cambrian Fossils and the Creation of Species as part of 10th grade science education. The video claims that the Cambrian Explosion “totally invalidates the theory of evolution.” The Cambrian Explosion was a time period, nearly 550 million years ago, where, over the next tens of millions of years, the number of species on Earth experienced a (relatively) rapid expansion by evolutionary standards. Christian creationists regularly point to this explosion of life as evidence for creation by God and against evolution.
Blink and you’d miss the Islamic connection in the video. A black screen flashes for less than one second that says “this film is based on the works of Harun Yahya.” In the right corner, there’s a gold bubble that says, “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” in Arabic.
Anne Ross Solberg, an expert on Yahya, explained in a paper that while Oktar uses many of the same arguments as Christian creationists, and “undoubtedly takes inspiration from American-style creationism, Yahya’s creationism is far from just an American import” (PDF). He’s trying to prove that science backs up Islam.
Oktar has also hinted that he’s the Mahdi, a messianic figure in Islam, whose coming will signal the end times, and that his fight against evolution is part of fighting Islam’s Antichrist, the Dajjal.
On Oktar’s A9 channel, a group of women in tight-fitting designer clothes and dyed blonde hair help him promote Islam and attack evolution, all the while calling him “master.” Oktar refers to the women as his “kittens,” and as Slate reports, he “offers [his kittens’] beauty as evidence of Islamic creationism.”
In 2014, state Rep. Andy Thompson sponsored a bill that would allow intelligent design creationism to be taught in Ohio’s public schools. Rep. Thompson refused to comment for this article, because it did not “pertain to any pending legislation.” Still, on his campaign website, Thompson makes it clear he’s most interested in promoting Christianity.
Thompson is not the only creationist politician in Ohio. In 2009, Gov. John Kasich, who recently suspended his presidential campaign, said he wanted both evolution and creation science taught in public school science class. (Kasich’s office did not responded to repeated questions about whether he supports teaching Islamic creationism alongside Christian creationism.)
Still, like Rep. Thompson, Kasich only appears to be interested in the Christian side of things. In a November 2015 speech to the National Press Club, Kasich called for creating a “new [government] agency that has a clear mandate to promote the core, Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.” Presumably, Islamic creationism isn’t included in that.
Youngstown City School District is trying to “teach the controversy,” which is an old creationist argument for sneaking religion into schools, Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Rob Boston told The Daily Beast.
“The district is doing its students a disservice by pretending that a controversy exists when none does,” Boston said. “That the district is apparently inadvertently using material produced by an evolution-denying, anti-Semitic Islamic TV preacher who has been accused of running a sex cult only makes the situation worse.”
What happened in Youngstown, Ohio is a warning for other creationist politicians and school districts, sometimes when you use local control to teach the controversy over evolution, you’re not just opening the door for Jesus: you’re opening it for Islamic sex cults, too.