Lunar Lunacy of Another Kind
So far, this article has been concerned with the absurd conspiracy theory, propagated by misguided zealots and assorted nutcases, that the Apollo Moon landings were faked for some kind of sinister political purpose. But there are another group of zealots, who also believe that the landings were faked, but for an entirely different reason. Namely, fundamentalist Muslims.
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Islamic mythology includes a bizarre legend in which the Prophet Mohammed travelled into the sky and visited Heaven, aboard a flying white horse! His journey included a visit to the Moon; some Muslims insist that the Prophet is the only man to have been to the Moon, and that for “ordinary mortals” to do so is strictly forbidden by God.
The story goes that Mohammed’s journey was sanctioned by God, in order to reveal to him the full glory of his creation. The “magic” horse ( according to some sources, it was in fact “a fantastic creature, with the body of a horse, the face of a woman and the wings of a bird” ) was brought to him by the Archangel Gabriel, no less, who escorted him on a grand tour of the Universe, and back to Earth, all within a single day. ( The horse could not only fly, but could do so at relativistic speeds! )
Incredibly, many Muslims, even in this day and age, actually believe this ridiculous story to be true - and consequently, some of them deny to this day that the Apollo landings ever happened. An older friend of mine ( who wishes to remain anonymous, as he has many friends in the Muslim world ), was working in a strict Muslim country at the time of Apollo 11, and tells me that the local people were outraged, saying such things as “How dare the Americans pretend to land on the Moon?”
Other Muslims accept that the landings did happen, but vilify the United States for having done it, claiming that they “raped Mohammed’s Moon”.
Of course, my intention here is not to ridicule Muslims in general, or their religion. As in any religion, those who hold such extremist views are a minority. I suspect that most modern-day Muslims don’t actually take everything in the Qu’ran literally - just as most modern-day Christians don’t take everything in the Bible literally - and many accept modern science. Indeed, one of the geologists who helped to train the Apollo astronauts in geology was an Egyptian Muslim, Dr. Farouk El-Baz. Nevertheless, even some of those who adopt a more liberal stance have some pretty strange views on the matter of the Moon landings.
My friend has given me a copy of a book on “Islamic interpretation of science” - if that isn’t a complete contradiction in terms! - published as recently as 19961. Its author attempts the impossible task of equating various verses of the Qu’ran with modern scientific, and particularly astronomical, knowledge. He takes a liberal view of the Apollo landings, in that he accepts that they happened, and doesn’t condemn NASA as heretics - but he describes the missions in a single paragraph, as follows ( I reproduce it word for word, complete with his bad grammar! ):
“God Almighty has made it a duty for man to ‘see’, ‘observe’, ‘travel’, etc., to gain knowledge of how God created the Universe and made their functioning and use subservient to His moral and physical laws. In July 1969 the Moon became the first object in space to be visited thus by men. However, this task was performed within a secular rather than an Islamic world-view through the science and technology developed by a non-Islamic country, USA, by secularised and non-Muslim US astronauts.”
HUH??? What on Earth - or off it - does all that mean? What does it matter, in whose “world view” the landings happened? What matters is that they did happen; at least, unlike some of his fellows, he doesn’t deny that! Perhaps he believes that the Muslim world should carry out its own lunar landing programme, for exclusively “Islamic purposes”!
( As an aside; while the author appears to be very fond of the word “secular”, he doesn’t even use it correctly. The word means “of worldly, rather than spiritual matters” or “not concerned with religion or religious matters” - i.e. not concerned with any religion. But he uses it specifically to mean anything not concerned with his particular religion. His usage smacks of the derogatory terms, such as “heathen” and “infidel”, which every religion uses to describe everyone who doesn’t subscribe to it, including those who are equally devout followers of other faiths. It’s both linguistically and factually incorrect to describe the Apollo astronauts as “secularised”, since several of them were and are practising Christians. One - the late Jim Irwin, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 15 - later founded his own evangelical ministry. )
One other strange Muslim belief has arisen as a result of Apollo. The Qu’ran, like the Bible, forecasts the End of the World; it says that one of the events which will precede it is the Moon being split apart, or “cleft asunder”. Some Muslims - of those who accept the reality of the landings - now claim that this event has already happened, because the astronauts brought back pieces of the Moon! How long do they imagine we have left, I wonder?
The reader will have gathered by now that I don’t subscribe to any religion, or believe in any of the many versions of God. I’m an atheist, and proud of it! My views on religion in general, and extremist religious loonies in particular, will be presented in a future section of this web site.
1. S. Waqar Ahmed Husaini, Qu’ran for Astronomy and Earth Exploration From Space, Lazwal Publishers ( India ), 1996.
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