The Sorry State of Knowledge in Islamic Countries

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The Parmcy translation.jpg Skimming through Akbar Ahmed’s, Islam Under Siege, pp.96-97, I came across the following anecdote about lack of respect for knowledge in some Islamic societies of today;

“In January 2001 Dr. Sohail Zaidi, a distinguished Pakistani scientist in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at Princeton University, shared with me the enduring image of education in his homeland. It was a memory from his youth and it was seared in his mind. He recalled that he lived in a remote part of Pakistan and his school was at a distance. He would journey from his home to school everyday by train. The train was always full, so usually he had to fight his way into the compartments. He recalled one day, just before his exams, gathering his notes and books under his arm and jumping on to the moving train. He clung on to the railing with one hand while holding on to his treasure of knowledge with the other. To his great dismay the people inside the compartment refused to open the door to let him in although they could see his plight. He pleaded with them. They ignored him. The train now began to pick up speed. He had to decide whether to throw his books and notes away or save his life. He saved his life. All those years later he recounted the story with bitterness; his society had no respect for learning or books.

The scholar was aware that because he did not belong to an elite Pakistani family he was denied access to better schools. He was also aware that, because he was a refugee from India, he would find it difficult to work in the administrative and political structure of Pakistan, which was weighted heavily against people like him. Yet what burnt in him was an obsession to acquire knowledge. He had accumulated degree after degree in western universities.

Western universities had been good to him. He migrated to the United States. Pakistan’s loss was the gain of the West, and another scholar was lost to the Muslim world. His story reflects that indifference to ilm or knowledge that characterizes Muslim society. This is particularly poignant as ilm is so highly treasured in Islam itself.”

*The picture above is leaf from an Arabic translation of the Materia Medica of Dioscorides ("The Pharmacy"), dated 1224 Iraq, Baghdad School


Ramin Jahanbegloo: a philosopher in prison; The Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo is currently behind bars in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where he has been held in solitary confinement since April 27th, 2006, with no formal charges brought against him. Hundreds of scholars across the globe have signed an open letter to Iran's president demanding his immediate release. From ABC's Philosopher's Zone.

Anwar Ibrahim - Shakespeare, Islam and Democracy

The gods that failed; “The 280m Arabs spend a higher percentage of GDP on education than any other developing region, and yet some 65m adults are illiterate and about 10m children still have no schooling at all. There is little Arab writing, or translation from other languages: in the 1,000 years since the Caliph Mamoun, noted the authors, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain translates in a single year.”

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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on July 31, 2006 10:18 PM.

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