Humanists in Scotland are among a number who have expressed concern that an evangelical creationist, Dr Nagy Iskander, above, has been reappointed to sit on the education committee of South Lanarkshire council.
Iskander has been described as as one of “Europe’s most active creationists” by Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, a US-based religious ministry.
In 2013, Ham wrote:
A few centuries ago, most people in Scotland would have called themselves Bible-believing Christians. Today, very few people in this country, which gave us the Presbyterian church, would call themselves Christians anymore.
This certainly grieves Dr Iskander, and he has a passion to proclaim the gospel to Scots. This desire has taken many forms, including enclosing evangelistic CD-ROMs inside secular newspapers.
The Glasgow Herald newspaper has distributed his Advent Calendar CD-ROM during the Christmas season– during one Christmas, Nagy distributed 130,000 CDs inside this newspaper!
Ham’s words confirm that Iskander is a full-blown plonker. And doesn’t he just look like one!
According to this report, Gordon MacRae, Chief Executive of Humanist Society Scotland, said:
Parents will be disturbed that unelected and unaccountable religious representatives from fringe groups continue to take decisions on their children’s education.
In 2016 HSS published a report that revealed that 88 religious representatives had been appointed to education committees without a vote, andand it launched a campaign calling for their removal.
Ross Greer MSP, education spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, added:
It is an archaic hangover from another era to have unelected, unaccountable representatives of faith groups sit on our local education committees with full voting rights and equal status to the elected, accountable local councillors sitting alongside them.
The decisions made by these committees are of immense importance to young people and families across the country – they should be made by those our communities have actually chosen to be there. Involving the wider community should mean pupil, parent and teacher representatives on these committees, not individuals such as this gentleman.
Iskander, who has claimed that a key tenet of evolution is “really illogical”, will be allowed to vote at meetings even though he is unelected.
South Lanarkshire council, which is now SNP run, advertised last year to fill the third slot on its Education Resources Committee, which meets every eight weeks.
The ad stated:
Any person, or any church or denominational body which has a duly constituted charge or other regular place of worship within South Lanarkshire, is invited to nominate a person who is interested in the promotion of religious and moral education.
Medical doctor Iskander, an Egyptian-born Christian, was the only applicant and he has resumed his duties on the committee. He has served in a similar capacity since 1999.
Iskander is a member of the Westwoodhill Evangelical Church in East Kilbride. In the past he has said:
Creation according to the Christian faith is a supernatural act of God, so it will not be repeated and we can’t test creation in the lab. Evolution needs to take place over millions of years and we cannot test that either.
My view on this is we should mention everything – we should examine all the evidence and all the facts and have an open and civilised discussion about all of this without excluding one or the other.
In 2015, Dr Iskander gave a series of lectures at a “creation conference” and made a raft of statements outlining his beliefs.
In evolution, they think that every thing made itself. And that is really illogical. Evolution is against the laws of thermo-dynamics.
In one lecture, he said a distinction should be drawn between “operational science” and “historical science” and said:
We love the scientists and we respect them very much actually, but they were not there from the beginning so they don’t know everything. They are limited, as I said, not always telling the truth. Sometimes they are guided by the funding of the project they are working on, or something like that.
In another lecture he recounted a conversation with a physicist on the Big Bang Theory:
[He said] But what is the alternative? Do you want us to believe in creation? I said ‘yes’.
A spokesperson for the council said the appointment met the legislative requirements, adding:
Dr Iskander has been a member since 1999 and his appointments have come after a series of adverts seeking to fill the role were placed in the local and national press, the most recent being in July 2017. As such Dr Iskander is one member of the Education Resources Committee of 33 members.
The committee does not influence the way that religious and moral education is taught in schools, which is governed by central guidance under the national curriculum for excellence.
The council said Iskander had no comment to make.