Harun Yahya

A controversial figure blending Islamic creationism with a lavish lifestyle and a global reach.

Adnan Oktar, known by his pen name Harun Yahya, is a Turkish author, cult leader, and Islamic creationist with a significant impact on both religious and scientific discourse. Born in Ankara in 1956, Oktar moved to Istanbul to study architecture at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, where he became deeply involved in religious activism. By the early 1980s, Oktar was disseminating his views on Islam, focusing on opposing Marxism, communism, and Darwinism, which he saw as promoting atheism and materialism. He formed a group of followers from wealthy Istanbul families, advocating a version of Islam that rejected both Sunni and Shia traditions, focusing instead on a Quran-centric interpretation.

Oktar’s early career was marked by controversy, including a 1986 arrest and subsequent diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia while in custody. Despite these challenges, he continued to build his community, focusing on creationism and opposition to Darwinian evolution. In the 1990s, his organization, the Science Research Foundation (BAV), gained notoriety for its seminars and conferences against Darwinism, wearing designer clothing to signify their modern approach to Islamic advocacy.

The publication of “The Atlas of Creation” in 2007 under the pen name Harun Yahya marked a significant milestone in Oktar’s career. The book, which argues against evolution by showcasing fossils and modern animals to claim that life forms have not undergone change, was distributed worldwide, sparking significant controversy. Critics pointed out numerous factual inaccuracies and misleading claims, such as misidentifying species and using unauthorized copyrighted photographs.

Oktar’s televangelism, notably through A9 TV, introduced a unique brand of Islamic preaching, featuring discussions on religious and current affairs amid dance segments by young women referred to as his “kittens.” This blending of conservative Islamic teachings with modern, often controversial presentations, set Oktar apart in the Islamic televangelist sphere.

Despite his claim to advocate a modern form of Islam, Oktar’s organization faced allegations of being a sex cult, leading to his arrest in July 2018 on charges including forming a criminal enterprise, sexual abuse, and financial fraud. Oktar and over 160 associates were detained, highlighting the extent of his controversial practices and beliefs.

Oktar’s work and persona have elicited mixed reactions, from support among those who appreciate his Islamic creationism and criticism of Darwinism, to condemnation and legal challenges due to his unconventional methods and the alleged crimes of his organization. His case raises questions about the intersection of religion, science, and media in contemporary Islamic discourse.