Muslim academic forced to retract evolution claim

Mar 7, 2011
Eliot Sefton

Usama Hasan received death threats after saying Darwinism was compatible with Islam

Death threats from Muslim fundamentalists have forced a British imam to retract his claim that Islam is compatible with Darwin's theory of evolution. Dr Usama Hasan, a science lecturer at Middlesex University and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, caused controversy in January when he delivered a lecture at an East London Mosque entitled "Islam and the theory of evolution".

In the lecture at the Masjid al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton Dr Hasan – whose erudite and liberal views are often expressed in the media - outlined why Darwin's theory and Islam were in harmony. But his opinions weren't well received by some of the audience with a vocal minority denouncing Hasan and accusing him of "blasphemy"

At the time Hasan dismissed his critics as "fanatics" and told the Independent: "One man came up to me during the lecture and said 'You are an apostate and should be killed'... [but] I hope my positive contribution will outweigh their feelings towards me."

Unfortunately Hasan has since received numerous threats and a planned return to the Mosque to lead last Friday's prayers was cancelled on the advice of police who expressed fears for his safety. Instead the doctor's father, Suhaib, head of the mosque's committee of trustees, issued a humiliating statement on his son's behalf which read: "I seek Allah's forgiveness for my mistakes and apologise for any offence caused."

The statement was issued just days after Dr Hasan was relieved of his position as vice-chairman and imam at the mosque because his views were a "source of antagonism in the Muslim community". The Leyton mosque is home to the Islamic Sharia Council, one of Britain's largest sharia courts.

Muslims, like some Christians, are split on the question of evolution with many believing in creationism. Moderate Islamic scholars are more tolerant of Darwin's theory provided Muslims acknowledge that God is the Supreme Being. However, religious extremists hold that to believe in evolution is to challenge the Koran's assertion that the world began with Adam and Eve.

It's not the first time that Dr Hasan has incurred the wrath of Muslim fundamentalists. In 2008, in an article for the Guardian, he wrote that: "One problem is that many Muslims retain the simple picture that God created Adam from clay, much as a potter makes a statue, and then breathed into the lifeless statue and lo! it became a living human. This is a children's madrasa-level understanding and Muslims really have to move on as adults and intellectuals."

The comments sparked outrage in some quarters with several Muslim scholars calling for a fatwa.

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