France's secular education system has been targeted by a Muslim creationist who has distributed to universities and lycees thousands of copies of a book that claims that living creatures did not evolve but were created in their present form.
In more than 700 illustrated pages, the Atlas of Creation displays pictures of animal and plant fossils dating back millions of years and compares them with their descendants today. It concludes that "species have never changed" and purports to prove that animals, including humans, have not evolved since their "creation".
The book's author, a Turkish Muslim known as Harun Yahya, also denounces "the deceit of evolutionists, their false claims" and it says that "covert links" exist "between Darwinism and bloody ideologies such as fascism and communism".
The books were apparently aimed particularly at establishments that specialise in sciences, many of which received several copies.
A representative of Pierre et Marie Curie University (Paris-6), France's leading scientific institution, said: "Aesthetically, it's very handsome; but from a scientific point of view it's distressing. It's against evolution and very crass."
Hervé Le Guyader, a biologist at Paris-6 commissioned by the Education Ministry to analyse the Atlas 's contents, concluded: "Such fundamental Islamism, considering the subtle, calculated blend of culture and science, appears to be extremely dangerous." The books should be kept out of the reach of pupils and students, few of whom "have the necessary intellectual baggage to refute the arguments", he said.
The Education Ministry said the book did not fit into authorised teaching programmes and that proselytism of any kind was prohibited in French education.