Creationist Cult Leader Adnan Oktar Sentenced To Prison

 Adnan Oktar aka Harun Yahya, who styles himself as an Islamic preacher and expert on creationism, has been sentenced to three years in prison, not because of his beliefs, but as the outcome of a long-running case against him in which he was accused of blackmailing his acolytes, the young offspring of wealthy Turks, by, among other things, threatening to release to the media secret videos of them engaging in sex. This had a particularly chilling effect on his female followers. When I interviewed him at his home several years ago, he was under house arrest on these charges. His glass-walled house is set in a terraced garden that covers a large part of a hillside overlooking the Bosphorus on the Asian side, a property worth many millions. During the interview, it became clear to me that — in my opinion, at least — Mr. Oktar knows next to nothing about Islam, not surprising since he has no training in it.

It surprises me that, although these things are widely known about him in Turkey, he still manages to attract followers, including the two well-educated, intelligent young men who brought me to the interview. There is a cultish element to his operation. He wears black Armani and, I was told by people who said they had witnessed this, his well-dressed acolytes recruit followers in fancy upscale nightclubs.

The western press has played along and given him international notoriety by describing him as a Muslim preacher and Islamic author without mentioning the court case against him, which even the most rudimentary research would have revealed. This notoriety and the vast sums of money he spends on publishing fancy-photo creationist tracts and mailing them around the world have increased his popularity globally, a perfect example of hype creating reality. The AKP and the Fethullah Gulen movement’s support of creationism in Turkey has had the effect of increasing Oktar’s legitimacy, even though neither the AKP nor Gulen’s people claim affiliation. Yet there they were last summer — Oktar’s acolytes — manning a week-long exhibition of creationist posters in the public hall of the Tunel subway in Istanbul, for which they would most certainly have had to get city permission. How did that happen?

Richly litigationist, Oktar’s organization relentlessly pursues anyone who makes the slightest criticism of him in public. Even if he doesn’t win, the legal onslaught is so unremitting that it serves to quash criticism of him. Last year, Turkish courts banned some well-known international websites on the basis of Oktar’s libel claims. (click here, here and here for some of my previous posts on this issue.)

The Reuters article I quote below (click here) implies that the case against Oktar is similar to the case against the Islamic ruling party, AKP, when in fact they are entirely different matters. Perhaps Oktar is played up in the west as ‘the Islamic creationist’ because that’s a familiar figure and therefore you can know what side of the issue to come down on. Truly understanding the complexities of Islam — and who represents what ‘side’ — in Turkey or elsewhere can be confusing and too time-consuming to lay out for a news sound-bite. Better the devil we (think we) know…

…Controversial Turkish Islamic author Adnan Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday for creating an illegal organization for personal gain, state-run Anatolian news agency said. A spokeswoman for his Science Research Foundation (BAV) confirmed to Reuters that Oktar had been sentenced but said the judge was influenced by political and religious pressure groups.

Oktar had been tried with 17 other defendants in an Istanbul court. The verdict and sentence came after a previous trial that began in 2000 after Oktar, along with 50 members of his foundation, was arrested in 1999. In that court case, Oktar had been charged with using threats for personal benefit and creating an organization with the intent to commit a crime. The charges were dropped but another court picked them up resulting in the latest case. Oktar planned to appeal the sentence, a BAV spokeswoman said…

Istanbul-based Oktar, who writes under the pen name Harun Yahya, has created waves in the past few years by sending out thousands of unsolicited texts advocating Islamic creationism to schools in several European countries… Oktar’s publishing house has published dozens of books that have been distributed in more than 150 countries and been translated into more than 50 languages. He has a wide following in the Muslim world…

But Turkish commentators say the group’s books, numbering more than 200, are probably written by a pool of writers, a charge the author denies.

76 Responses to “Creationist Cult Leader Adnan Oktar Sentenced To Prison”

  1. What Jenny has said brought to my mind the saying “Kadinin sirtindan sopayi, karnindan sipayi eksik etmeyeceksin.” Come on everyone! Let’s bang heads on desk.
    .
    I find it hard to believe that it is that bad all across. I also find Bulent’s supply-side idea practical and worth one’s while. An electronic library of printed-on-paper books (after the NexFlix movie rental business model, so to speak).
    .
    Bulent, have you seen Sony Reader or Amazon’s Kindle? Rather, have you seen what they call paper display, which is what these devices use? It is so cool: you have pretty much the same look as that of a printed page, low radiation, easy on the eye. It doesn’t have the same feel unfortunately. No pages to finger-flip through, but they try to give that effect by animation. Other advantages include keyword searches, bookmarking and annotation, and font magnification to reader’s satisfaction.

  2. And don’t forget “Kizini dovmeyen dizini dover”.

  3. Nihat,
    .
    Yes, I know what e-paper looks like, I’ve seen early samples years ago but no I haven’t used the devices. Not yet anyway. Ideally I’d want 4-5 of those running linux or at least operating with non-proprietary text and data/annotation formats and no DRM. I want a bunch so they can be planted in various places around the house like I do with books. Kindle fails on the DRM front, Sony’s might be OK though.
    .
    My low tech solution with PDF documentation is a duplex laser printer and a comb binder. That way annotations can be done in pencil, little post-it placeholders work, and the thing can be held on one’s lap or on the desk w/o eating up screen real estate. If searches or copy&paste are needed, acrobat or xpdf can be used on the e-copy. Also, nothing bad happens when you drop the ‘e-manual’ or it slips from the messy desk.

  4. Kindle now does PDF.

  5. One reason why I brought up electronic readers/e-books was I thought they could address the access problem experienced by bookworms in Turkey, however rare they may be and irrespective of DRM restrictions. Can’t you, for example, buy an e-book at Amazon at a cheaper price than for its hardcopy and download it right away, without S&H costs or customs worries?

  6. I just found a poem in my inbox. The poet is a certain Ahmet Selçuk Ilkan. I can’t make out who that is; he may or may not be a name I am supposed to know. It is, I guess, safe to say that he is a “dinosaur.” The poem is in Turkish, and I am pasting it here “as is” (/w apologies to English speakers) for its relevance to our discussion and to Bulent’s cultural observations.
    .
    ———-
    Sevgili oglum
    Bugün tam on yedi yasindasin
    Görüyorum ki artik
    Her seyin farkindasin
    Ama ne zaman ararsam seni
    Ya diskoda
    Ya barda
    Ya da televizyon karsisindasin
    .
    Haklisin oglum
    Devir artik bu devir
    Sen de çemberini çagina göre çevir
    Senin neyine
    Resim roman siir
    Senin neyine
    Sanat vesair
    Ne diyor meshur televizyon büyükleri
    Vur patlasin çal oynasin
    Devir artik bu devir Nasilsa
    Son dügmesi de koptu insanligin
    Vefa can çekisiyor arka sokaklarda
    .
    Umut mendil salliyor giden trenlerin ardindan
    Onur, adres ariyor mezarliklarda
    Dostluklar çöp tenekelerinde sahipsiz
    Ve anahtar teslimi asklar satilik köse baslarinda
    Hem de üç kurus mutluluklara. ..
    .
    Ama sen de haklisin
    Sana mi kaldi
    Kurtarmak vatani
    Sana mi kaldi
    Uyandirmak yatani
    Sana mi kaldi
    Duvara yapistirmak
    Bu memleketi satani
    Anasini aglatani….
    .
    Gel gör ki oglum
    Senin de kurtulusun yok bu gidisten
    Ne etsen- ne yapsan
    Bir dügün
    Bir bayram
    Bir lale devri
    Hangi ekrana baksan

    Kim kiminle evleniyor
    Kim kiminle çildiriyor
    Kim kime daldan dala
    Gelinim olur musun diyor
    Kimisi sahte gelin
    Kimisi zengin bir prens
    Kimisi de insanliktan bir yudum bir nefes
    Bekliyor da bekliyor
    .
    Bak her gün ayri bir kanalda
    Bambaska bir ‘ünlüler çiftligi’
    Her kanalda söhret olmanin dayanilmaz hafifligi
    Ve iste böyle
    Pazara dökülüyor bir bir
    Herkesin yumak yumak ipligi
    Yillar var ki oglum
    Birileri iste
    Bizi hep böyle gözetliyor…
    .
    Ve sen de görüyorsun ki
    Bu sahneler
    Bizi ne de güzel özetliyor
    Kimin umurunda yarinlar
    Kimin umurunda çocuklar
    Kimin umurunda bu isyankar çigliklar
    Bir kavgadir
    Bir yaristir
    Bir rezalettir gidiyor.
    .
    Kime sorsan
    Cevaplar dünden hazir
    Halk böyle istiyor oglum
    Halk böyle istiyor
    .
    Gel gör ki
    Bir reyting ugruna
    Ne ‘günesler batiyor’ oglum
    Ne günesler batiyor….

  7. Bulent,
    I never answered your question about what school the 2 male acolytes attended. I can’t find my notes right now and don’t remember the schools, but I remember being impressed. At least one of them had an M.A.. I think we spoke English in the car, although the interview with Oktar was in Turkish.

  8. Nihat, it appears Kindle is usable abroad but with limited functionality (ie no wireless connectivity). You still seem to need the physical hardware and that needs to be shipped to an US adress. I could manage this at some monetary and time cost, but that doesn’t solve the general problem.
    .
    The ‘Halk böyle istiyor’ part in that poem reminded me of this:Koyluleri nicin oldurmeliyiz?. That poem is from a different era and is about the parents of this present ‘halk.’

  9. Jenny,
    .
    Thanks anyway. What branch of social science deals with that kind of gullibility among the smart&educated? Any links?
    .
    An M.A. here means at least 16 years of formal education. Especially in earlier times, Adnan Hoca’s writings required not much more than mere literacy to peg him. I don’t understand the process. (Our half-serious reaction as snooty engineering students when his people appeared in Bogazici U. was saying stuff like ‘they got the view but not the brains’ or ‘oralara essek baglasan bitirir zaten’ (you could tie a donkey in front of those departments and he’d graduate) about the social science students.)

  10. I found my notes: One guy had an MA in International Relations from Istanbul University.

  11. Hmm. I tried to find out, at least for undergraduate studies, what kind of entrance exam score (and percentile rank) was required for that department in the past. Unfortunately I couldn’t manage to get that from the OYSM site (ran out of patience with blank documents and incomplete links). I don’t have much hair left to pull, but others might. This info must be online but I seem to be unable to find it. Here’s the link:

    http://www.osym.gov.tr/BelgeGoster.aspx?F6E10F8892433CFFAC8287D72AD903BE8F59EC4393613791

  12. BM,

    I’m toying with the idea that of an online library for physical books where people can check out books using a temporary charge/hold on their credit card.
    .
    We have the package delivery infrastructure, and for about $2 (retail) you can have a book or two delivered. This is roughly the cost of two trips using municipal public transportation in Istanbul if you stay on the same continent.
    .
    Add to this the expense of real estate here, and the numbers probably work out in favor of a warehouse-like facility in a cheaper part of Western Turkey if the aim is getting the books to the people in an economical manner (and you can serve the entire country with an online facility).
    .
    Of course there’s no reason why a foundation university with an existing library and staff cannot offer this service (even for a modest fee).

    This does sound like an idea whose time has come; but I am not sure.
    .
    The thing is, it has to be financially largely self-sustaining once it has been set up –otherwise it would be a flash in the pan.
    .
    How would you go about setting it up?
    .
    Where would you get the books?
    .
    How many people would you need to run it with?
    .
    Are non-public (even if non-profit) entities allowed to loan out books?
    .
    Probably more importantly, how would you handle the actual loaning of the books –what if they never get returned; what if they get returned but are worn beyond re-use?
    .

  13. CA,
    .
    This thread got carried over to Yuksek Okce’s blog. I’ll answer here, but perhaps we should continue over there.
    .
    The thing is, it has to be financially largely self-sustaining once it has been set up –otherwise it would be a flash in the pan.
    .
    Yes.
    .
    How would you go about setting it up?
    .
    I’d start by pricing small warehouses set up in large enough plots of land in Western parts of the country and see what kind of pricing one can get from the package delivery companies for pick up (or to see if pick-up makes sense). You might not even need fast (or wired) internet connectivity in that location, or electricity from the grid.
    .
    Where would you get the books?
    .
    Sahaflar, directly from publishers (ie deals) donations etc. It wouldn’t be just books, it would be [bound] periodicals too. Especially for foreign books, one model could be acquiring them on request and charging the cost and then giving ‘strore credit’ to the patron over time.
    .
    How many people would you need to run it with?
    .
    Probably just a couple at the start.
    .
    Are non-public (even if non-profit) entities allowed to loan out books?
    .
    This would be the kind of thing they’d ban here, wouldn’t it? I don’t know. If you step on toes they might get our wonderful politicans to make it illegal. (Especially if you carry other content, like Netflix does.)
    .
    Probably more importantly, how would you handle the actual loaning of the books –what if they never get returned; what if they get returned but are worn beyond re-use?
    .
    If they never get returned, you turn the ‘hold’ on the credit card into an actual charge (obviously it might not be that simple. If one were to do this, money would need to be spent on lawyers first). Worn beyond reuse with the borrower refusing to pay might trigger a ban (both person and address) rather than a charge because the legal stuff might be complicated and costly.

  14. CA,
    .
    How would you go about setting it up?
    .
    I gave a different answer above because I assumed that you were asking about an independent outfit. This would best be done as an extension of a university library. I’d preferably be a private/foundation university to trigger replication of this among others who want to make a name for themselves. (I’ve seen an ads for a foundation university in ek$i sozluk, so we know at least one of them spends money on such stuff).

  15. CA, roughly speaking…
    .
    It could be a membership organization. Members finance the acquisition of the new books they like, while having access to the whole pool of books (by borrowing). In other words, each member has a deposit made –you make a deposit even if you don’t request new books– and is in good standing as long as (s)he keeps returning borrowed books. Say you loved a book you borrowed and want to keep it. You do that, but replenish your deposit to continue borrowing.
    .
    It’d be especially sweet if members could do the shipment to one another, without a central warehouse to which each book is returned between checkouts. Actually, this may be an essential component of the system for cost effectiveness.
    .
    Are non-public (even if non-profit) entities allowed to loan out books?
    .
    And in Turkey, that’s the kind of question we ask ourselves. I wish it wasn’t.

  16. Nihat,
    .
    It’d be especially sweet if members could do the shipment to one another, without a central warehouse to which each book is returned between checkouts. Actually, this may be an essential component of the system for cost effectiveness.
    .
    I thought about that. People aren’t used to that kind of sharing (they don’t really understand the music download programs work this way). There’s an increasing number who are used to shopping online with credit cards though. What you are saying is indeed very sweet, but can quickly sour people to the idea when glitches happen and would cause headaches for the organizers (ie folks who run the database) who’d end up dealing with the complaints. Also, women tend to be careful about these things, they might not mind getting, say, Lady Chatterley’s Lover from a library facility, but they might mind getting it from or shipping it to a male and disclosing both their address and ‘interest.’ (People here hit on women working in customer support even. Though that might work both ways, some support girl once said ‘gencim, guzelim, bekarim‘ to me on the phone here. I’d done nothing to trigger that other than remarking that whatever outage I was complaining about must be making their jobs hard over there or somesuch innocuous thing.)

  17. I just had an idea. Why doesn’t YOK doesn’t do something useful for a change and create an online repository of all the theses and dissertations created in the country? We could have an opt-in or opt-out system that encourages students, for the greater good of their country, to submit their works to the public domain. Well-off universities could retain a graphic designer to polish them first. Maybe even sell them, sharing the proceeds with the authors.
     
    It would be like UMI Dissertations.
     
    Students are constantly churning out monographs that gather dust. Why not put them to use? We’d have a treasure trove of reliable information. At least no worse than what’s on the market. They’d be dry reading but who can complain for the price?

  18. Emre, something similar to what you want exists in some form. I haven’t signed up and checked it out due to my pathalogical aversion to dealing with our academic bureaucrats. Here’s a link:

    http://www.ulakbim.gov.tr/cabim/bs/mis/uye/

  19. That’s not going to cut it! The whole point of my proposal is that we reduce the barrier to accessing information. It has to be easier than going to the library or the book store, otherwise what is the point?

  20. BM,

    I’ll answer here, but perhaps we should continue over there.

    Yes. Let’s.

    But, before that, let me write a few things about some other suggestions:

    Nihat’s idea of peer-to-peer distribution is a great one. It could also be removed of privacy concerns too.
    .
    Here’s how:
    .
    You work closely with the delivery/transport/cargo company (DTCC) and give each shipment a distinct ID number. When that ID number gets picked up by the DTCC, you simply reroute it to the new recipient –without it ever coming back to your offices.
    .
    Trouble may arise when the item is found to be in unusable state (i.e. when someone has to pay damages). It then becomes a he-said-she-said issue. This needs to worked out.
    .
    I would also love to see Emre’s suggestions to come through.
    .
    But, I am afraid it’d be more realistic to plan for a skiing trip in hell before that happens. Public institutions here don’t do that sort of useful thing anymore –they have been said to have done such thing 80 years or so (through Halkevleri etc.), but that’s about it.
    .
    I would be more than glad if those no good for nothing public institutions managed to stay out of this all together.

  21. CA,
    .
    But, I am afraid it’d be more realistic to plan for a skiing trip in hell before that happens. Public institutions here don’t do that sort of useful thing anymore –they have been said to have done such thing 80 years or so (through Halkevleri etc.), but that’s about it.
    .
    That’s partly why I didn’t even bother to check the facility out and just gave the URL. It is like the joke about bad boyfriends turning women on to other women, those people gave me libertarian inclinations…
    .
    I would be more than glad if those no good for nothing public institutions managed to stay out of this all together.
    .
    Benden uzak, Allah’a yakin olsunlar. (This is an ambigous cross between a curse/blessing. It means ‘may they be away from me and close to God.’) At least there seems to be a concerted effort to accomplish or fake the latter lately.
    .
    I agree with your assessment of and the suggestion about Nihat’s P2P idea, that’d be wonderful.

  22. I am having a busy weekend. Doing slave work to represent Turkey at a local festival. Good discussion. Will try to get back with you later.
    .
    When and how the discussion mover over to YuksekOkce’s place totally escapes me at the time…

  23. This is an ambigous cross between a curse/blessing. It means ‘may they be away from me and close to God.’

    ideal proximity being attainable only through quietus.

  24. Nihat,

    When and how the discussion mover over to YuksekOkce’s place totally escapes me at the time…

    My fault –or, rather, this blog’s software’s fault–; I tried to post here a dozen times and all the time it ate them.
    .
    Out of frustration, I then posted to YO’s blog.

  25. Out of frustration, I then posted to YO’s blog.

    Then I mistakenly thought YO was asking me about this and responded to her, which got her interested and she started asking questions. We can move over there if there are still things to be said. There doesn’t seem to be much point in holding this conversation in English. Here’s the last comment:

    http://yuksekokcedenmemleketmanzarasi.blogspot.com/2009/08/jet-imamlar-evden-burjuvaya-3g-ile.html?showComment=1251091307691#c2638557287636615649

    (If you don’t know what a ‘jet imam’ is, youtube is your friend (and a clownish one at that)).

  26. Turkish educators take note: Students Get New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

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