Little Green Footballs Fumbles the Ball by Making False Claims about Discovery Institute, Islam, and Intelligent Design

The blog site Little Green Footballs has slandered Discovery Institute, whether intentionally or not, by implying that we are in league with Islamic radicals in Turkey. They base this fantasy, apparently, on a CBC radio report of a year ago that was so poorly researched that it called Discovery Senior Fellow David Berlinski “Paul Berlinski” and referred to us as the “Christian Discovery organization.” Then they interview a host of people of varying views in Turkey who are critical of Darwinism and imply that they are all connected. They seemingly imply Discovery’s involvement in this situation based on the fact that Berlinski was invited to speak at a conference held by the municipal government of Istanbul last year. Big deal. (Berlinski, by the way, is a secular Jew, so work with that fact for a while, boys.)
If people at LGF think they can make the case that Discovery Institute is somehow soft on Islamic radicalism and terrorists, perhaps they should pick up a copy of our Senior Fellow John Wohlstetter’s new book, The Long War Ahead: And the Short War Upon Us. It is published by Discovery Institute Press and I challenge the LGF folks to read it–or any of my own writings on the Iraq War and the war on terrorism generally–and continue contending that this institute would ever have any truck with people–Muslim or otherwise–who doubt the danger of Islamic fascism.

Both the LGF blog and the CBC story have a naïve and simplistic understanding of the politics of Turkey today. As it happens, on most issues, including foreign policy, the more leftist party in Turkey is the “secularist” one that is now out of power. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), known as an Islamist party, is the more moderate party. That doesn’t mean that they are ideal. But it does mean that they are more willing, ironically, to advance freedom in the economy and religion and to support the U.S. in the war against terrorists. Christians overall backed that party in the last elections, which tells you which party they think is most tolerant. Prominent Jews have found them easier to work with. (Turkey recognizes Israel, by the way.) The European and American press, by and large, preferred them in the last elections. The secularists in Turkey, in contrast, for several decades have been the most repressive against all religions, as well as the more xenophobic on international affairs and trade.
Incidentally, the government has recently arrested members of an extreme Islamist group that it claims were planning a terrorist attack on the government!
I realize that this picture doesn’t accord with one’s expectations–or, maybe I should say, prejudices. It also doesn’t mean that issues, like whether women in universities and businesses will be allowed to wear headscarves, are trivial. But it does suggest that there is nothing wrong with attending conferences put on by the Turkish government.
Within Turkey there also are different people who are anti-Darwinian–just as in the U.S. Some are, indeed, creationists and could be called fundamentalists within Islam. Many are not. There is one controversial creationist who goes by the pen name Harun Yahya and has published a lavish book against Darwinism and has raised the ire of the government on other grounds, but we have no connection with him or his products.
In contrast, we definitely do appreciate knowing Mustafa Akyol, a very different writer whose columns appear in the Turkish Daily News in Istanbul and the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard in the U.S. He is cited favorably by such publications as Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. For a time, Akyol volunteered with Harun Yahya’s group, but he broke with it in 2003, sharply disagreeing with many of its views, especially its link to anti-semitism. Akyol is not a creationist and he does support intelligent design. He also is pro-West, pro-religious tolerance, pro-free markets and anti-terrorist. The Economist rightly describes Akyol as “an advocate of reconciliation between Muslims and the West who is much in demand at conferences on the future of Islam” and who believes in “the compatibility between Islam and Western liberal ideals, including human rights and capitalism.” (By the way, the Economist erroneously says that Akyol had a “fellowship at Discovery Institute.” Akyol has not received funding from Discovery, but he did help organize the city-sponsored conference where Berlinksi appeared.)
Would LGF like to smear Akyol because they disagree with his support for design? Are they willing to smear Discovery because we know and like Mustafa Akyol? It is bizarre!

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.