Are Republicans Being Bamboozled by a Hedonistic Religious Crook?

The Daily Beast
The Daily Beast

It’s a tiny religion featuring fembots, creationists, and a leader who says his Holocaust Deception book was a mistake. Why are so many in the GOP appearing on its TV network?

On May 24, 2012, Senator Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, gave an innocuous interview to a visiting journalist from Turkey.  “There are a lot of good people who would love to see peace, if only the hatred that exists were to vanish,” he said.

What Senator Kyl could not have known is that the “journalist” with whom he was speaking was actually part of a religious organization whose leader has spent time in jail amid accusations of extortion, forced sex, and bizarre, cult-like behavior.

The apparent duping of Senator Kyl, along with several other Republican members of Congress, is but the latest the story of Harun Yahya (“Aaron John”), which refers both to the Turkish Islamist-turned-creationist Adnan Oktar, and the controversial organization which he heads. As exhaustively researched in a 2013 dissertation by the Norwegian scholar Anne Ross Solberg, The Mahdi Wears Armani (PDF), Oktar has been a master of reinvention for decades.

In the mid-1980s, in the context of widespread instability in Turkey, Oktar was the charismatic, educated leader of a small “born again”-style Muslim community, distinguished by the wealth and elite status of its members. Oktar wore traditional Islamic attire, and preached a return to Muslim values. His was one of many Islamic organizations at the time, cropping up like religious weeds in the cracks of the secular Turkish pavement.

But in 1987, according to Solberg, Oktar was arrested for “making propaganda with the aim of weakening or destroying national sentiments” by the Istanbul State Security Court. Solberg reveals that Oktar “was imprisoned for 19 months, first in a regular prison and then later transferred to the criminal ward in Bakirköy Hospital, where he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.”

Remarkably, this episode was only a temporary setback.  Oktar called it persecution, and upon his release in 1990, he consolidated leadership of the group, centered on a nucleus of close followers he called ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters,’ now operating as the “Science Research Foundation” (Bilim Araştirma Vakfı in Turkish), which has served ever since as a primary outlet for the dissemination of Oktar’s ideas.

It is at this time that the name “Harun Yahya” begins to refer to Oktar himself, although since “Harun Yahya” is the author of over 300 books, it is unlikely to be a single man’s pseudonym. In this second period, Harun Yahya gained power and influence in Turkey. Exploiting political connections, the sect cut deals with municipalities run by the Islamic Welfare Party, a predecessor to today’s ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP)—including, apparently, Recip Erdogan’s Istanbul. (The JDP has since severed ties with Harun Yahya, some media reports notwithstanding.)

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Source: The Daily Beast | Jay Michaelson

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