United States: Muslim clerics sign up for evolution
The Imam Letter, launched this week in the US, is the latest challenge to Creationists of the three Abrahamic religions who reject evolution in favour of Creationism.
Creationism is the religious belief that all species were created in exactly the form they appear today.
Biological evolution is a scientific theory which posits that modern species have undergone major changes over time and can be traced back to earlier species from which they descended. Muslims, Christians, and Jews who accept the theory of biological evolution believe that God can create life in any way he wishes, and this could be through a process of change over time.
The letter reads in part: "We, the undersigned Imams of the mosques, assert that the Qur’an is the primary source of spiritual inspiration and of values for us... We believe that the timeless truths of the Qur’an may comfortably coexist with the discoveries of modern science."
Almost 13,000 Christian clergy have signed a similar letter. Another has been signed by nearly 500 Jewish rabbis. The Clergy Letter was launched in 2006 and now has 12,725 signatures, followed three years ago by the Rabbi Letter, which has 476 signatures.
Like its predecessors, the Imam Letter explains why it's OK for believers to accept biological evolution. It also calls for a ban on creationist teaching in science classes. "As imams, we urge public school boards to affirm their commitment to the teaching of the science of evolution," says the letter, written by T. O. Shanavas, a doctor in Michigan and member of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo in Perrysburg, Ohio.
"It shows that evolution and science can transcend what some people see as quite deep religious divisions, providing a unifying factor representing common ground between them," says Michael Zimmerman of Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, the architect of the Clergy Letter Project.
"Christians are really excited about the Muslim letter," he says. "They realise that Islam is just as fractured as Christianity, with just as many people who take their scriptures out of context to deny the truth of evolution."
Recently,an imam in London was driven out of his mosque and has suffered threats for openly declaring support for the theory of biological evolution. Likewise, in Christian communities, especially in the US, a huge number of fundamentalists continue to push for teaching of Creationism in science classes.