Alom Shaha at the Rationalist Association:
People often assume that because I am a science teacher and an atheist my faith in science is what led me to reject faith in a God. This is not the case – I stopped believing as a child, long before I knew anything about the Big Bang theory or evolution by natural selection – but, as I have seen in some of my own students, many religious people can lose their faith, or at least have it severely tested, as a result of learning science.
I met someone like this at a recent conference called “Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution?” organised by the Deen Institute, an organisation that claims to want to “articulate faith, not in spite of, but through scientific inquiry, critical thinking and logical reasoning, reviving intellectuality among modern Muslims.” This young man, a postgraduate biochemist at Imperial College London, told me that he had come to the conference in the hope that he would find a way to reconcile his belief in the teachings of Islam with what he described as “evidence for evolution in everything I do at work”.
He seemed deeply anguished by the fact that evolution by natural selection contradicts the core belief with which he was brought up – that the Qur’an is the literal word of Allah. When I asked him if he might consider the idea that the Qur’an wasn’t a divine document he told me that this was “impossible” for him, that his “life would have no meaning” if the Qur’an was not literally true.
His struggle is not unique. According to writer and journalist Myriam Francois-Cerrah, who chaired the conference, many Muslim science students experience “inner turmoil” as a result of studying evolution.