When Turkey's Weirdest Televangelist Met Sean Ali Stone
The Turkish televangelist Harun Yahya, also known as Adnan Oktar, is a controversial figure in Turkey, controversial among other things for his litigiousness—scores of websites in Turkey, including Wordpress, have been banned at his behest—so forgive me for couching my language in the utmost of circumspection. He is best known for sending his anti-Darwinian magnum opus, the Atlas of Creation—weighing in at more than 13 pounds—to tens of thousands of journalists worldwide. No one knows where he received the money for this project. I received a copy and quite liked and appreciated the book, which is beautiful.
My father, David Berlinski, is known among other things for skepticism about the neo-Darwinian synthesis. Many years ago, when I first arrived in Turkey, Mr. Oktar invited my father to an all-expenses paid conference to discuss his views. My father was initially excited until I informed him that alas, Oktar was also known as a Holocaust denier and a rapist, that he had been charged with blackmail, extortion, possession of unlicensed weapons, sexual intercourse with minors, cocaine possession, fomenting a theological revolution, and keeping a stable of uncannily beautiful, wealthy women in concubinage. He was said to beat them regularly. The indictments against him suggested that his followers were encouraged to plunder their parents' bank accounts, sell their assets, and hand them over to his organization. He was arrested, confined to a mental hospital and diagnosed with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and schizophrenia. Some of his former followers hold that Oktar not only believes the return of the Mahdi is imminent, but that he is the Mahdi.
When I explained this to my father, he was quite disappointed; an all-expenses paid trip to visit his daughter had sounded to him like a terrific deal. Apparently, it sounded that way to Sean Stone—son of Oliver Stone, now Sean Ali Stone, for he has converted, or rather reverted, to Islam, having had—well, I suppose the correct expression would not be a Road to Damascus experience in Iran, but it was something similar. What resulted was surely one of the most hilarious—and strangely touching—hours in televangelism history.
Now, the Turkish justice system being what it is, there is no way to know whether all of the claims about Adnan Oktar are true; he says the confessions were extracted under torture (quite possible), and most of the charges were ultimately dismissed. But I've heard enough anecdotes about him from people who know him to worry that many of the stories about him are true enough. And he was, without a doubt, a Holocaust denier. (...)