Muslim students, including trainee doctors on one of Britain’s leading medical courses, are walking out of lectures on evolution claiming it conflicts with creationist ideas established in the Koran.
Professors at University College London have expressed concern over the increasing number of biology students boycotting lectures on Darwinist theory, which form an important part of the syllabus, citing their religion.
That Muslim students have Creationist beliefs isn’t too surprising. There’s plenty of evidence of robust Creationist belief as being the Muslim mainstream. Though a minority of Muslims accept evolution in a manner conventional among theistic evolutionists, the majority seem to reject this interpretation. I recently had an interaction over Facebook with a Bangladeshi cousin who queried me whether I accepted “Darwinism,” a theory for which he contended “there was no proof.” I responded that the only reason I continued to talk to him was that he was my relative and it seemed a minimal level of courtesy (I generally “avoid boring people”). The background here is that my cousin comes from a very affluent secular background. My uncle doesn’t pray. This was an issue for my late grandmother, but his sojourn in the Persian Gulf turned him off to organized religion. Also, my uncle’s wife does not cover her hair. Finally, my cousin is sent to a private school where all instruction is in English, and he is very fluent in the superficial aspects of American pop culture. One can extrapolate from that the potential attitude of more genuinely religious Muslims when it comes to evolution.
But the bigger concern here is the walkout. It’s one thing to disagree with a perspective, but a disturbing aspect of some corners of modern academic discourse is the acceptability of shielding oneself from offensive or contradictory opinions. Most of the kids in my high school came from conservative Protestant or Mormon backgrounds and were skeptical of evolution, but they didn’t boycott the class when my biology teacher cursorily touched upon the topic. The fact that university students would behave in such a manner strikes me as particularly disturbing, because they should be held to a higher standard. Secondary education is about learning the basics, but higher education should be about learning to think, and taking in differing perspectives is an essential aspect of that process.
All that being said, it shouldn’t be surprising that British Muslims in particular behave so bizarrely. They’re pretty out of step with the norms of the British public on some “hot button” cultural issues. A few years ago Gallup asked Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain, Germany, and France, a variety of questions. Out of 500 Muslim Britons surveyed exactly 0 accepted the proposition that homosexuality was morally acceptable. This does not mean that no Muslims in Briton accept a tolerant attitude toward homosexuality. Rather, they’re such a small minority than even an N = 500 could miss them! In that context a walkout due to the offensiveness of evolution in the nation which proudly claims Charles Darwin seems less surprising. Cultural diversity is great!
Addendum: The link is from a British publication. Therefore, I’m open to the possibility that aspects were exaggerated or fabricated. On the other hand, evolution skepticism from British Muslims has been widely reported in other sources, so I think it is plausible overall.