Re: [asa] FW: Resource on Islam and science

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Mon Aug 13 2007 - 14:57:50 EDT

If you google his name, you'll learn that Pervez Hoodbhoy has been one of
the leading figures in promoting the dialogue between religion and science
in Islam.


On 8/13/07, Alexanian, Moorad <> wrote:
> URL:
> Published:
> August 2007
> [Permission to reprint or copy this article/photo must be obtained from
> Physics Today. Call 301-209-3042 or e-mail with your
> request.]
> ���
> Issues and Events
> Saudi Arabia sets up research university
> The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology aims to become a
> world-class institution.
> August 2007, page 33
> King Abdullah
> Ground was broken this spring on the King Abdullah University of Science
> and Technology in Saudi Arabia. With a roughly $10 billion endowment, KAUST
> will be among the richest universities in the world. Pointing to earlier
> failed—but less well-funded—ventures, skeptics say the country would be
> better served by improving its existing educational system.
> KAUST was the brainchild of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; on top of
> providing the endowment, he is spending more than $3 billion on the KAUST
> campus and a university town on the Red Sea, about 170 kilometers northwest
> of Mecca. "It has been our leader's dream for many, many years to represent
> Saudi Arabia as a major contributor in technology and research, and also to
> drive the kingdom's economy to be more of a knowledge economy," says Nadhmi
> Al-Nasr, the interim president of KAUST.
> International and interdisciplinary
> Library and sea court of KAUST
> With interdisciplinary institutions rather than traditional departments,
> KAUST will start off with four research focuses—energy and environment,
> biosciences and engineering, materials science and engineering, and applied
> math and computational science. "We would like to address technical problems
> that are facing us as a nation but also the region and the world," says
> Al-Nasr. Solar energy and water desalination are examples, he adds. The
> university will offer only graduate degrees, and the aim is to build up to
> about 600 faculty members and a student body of 2000, with about a third of
> each from Saudi Arabia. Classes will be taught in English.
> "We are creating this from zero," Al-Nasr says, "so almost everything we
> do is a challenge. We know what it takes to become a world-class
> institution—world-class faculty, world-class students, and world-class
> research." Over the past few years, he adds, Saudi Arabia has been
> undertaking a "massive reassessment of the whole education system in the
> kingdom—not only higher education but also primary and secondary education."
> At present, he notes, Saudi Arabia invests minimally in research. "We are
> not proud of where we stand today, but we are confident that with all of
> these initiatives, topped by KAUST, that percentage [of the gross domestic
> product invested in research] will eventually match western countries."
> The university is launching several initiatives this year to cultivate
> both collaborations and a cadre of people ready to come to KAUST when it
> opens its doors in 2009. For example, grants totaling $1 billion over 10
> years will be competitively awarded to applicants from selected institutions
> worldwide to establish interdisciplinary research centers, fund individual
> investigators and postdocs, and support as many as 250 undergraduate
> students a year who commit to going to KAUST for graduate studies. Another
> tack is to engage top-notch departments to hire people for KAUST. For
> example, says Al-Nasr, "We will approach the department of chemical
> engineering at Imperial College in London with the understanding that we are
> willing to help them with their budget if they help us recruit world-class
> faculty."
> "Building a world-class institution takes time," says Imperial College's
> Richard Sykes, a member of the KAUST advisory council. "I think they've got
> all the right pieces—good funding to create good infrastructure and academic
> freedom. If they can attract the right people, then it has enormous
> potential."
> "We want our faculty to have the freedom to think out of the box," says
> Al-Nasr. Within the university enclave, women will be permitted to drive;
> some other rules of Saudi society will also be relaxed. The king has
> approved a charter that endorses academic freedom, adds KAUST advisory
> council member Frank Press, former president of the US National Academy of
> Sciences. "And in that country, approval by the king means it will be done."
> The advisory council, he adds, "insisted on this to be associated with
> [KAUST]. This is a vast experiment. It's nation changing. It's a sign that
> Saudi Arabia wants to participate in the international community of research
> universities."
> Academic culture
> The promise of academic freedom and the grand ambitions for KAUST raise
> skeptics' eyebrows. Riazuddin, director general of the National Centre for
> Physics in Islamabad, Pakistan, who spent 15 years on the faculty of King
> Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, likens
> the effort to transplanting an organ: "In the present case, even the
> matching of the transplant is not congruent with the soil. Thus I am very
> skeptical that the implant will be successful."
> "You can build a new university town, import the best equipment money can
> buy, offer good salaries to attract faculty and students," Riazuddin
> continues, "but you cannot buy an environment and academic culture." Pervez
> Hoodbhoy (see his article on page 49 of this issue) of Islamabad's
> Quaid-i-Azam University adds that it would be better to aim for
> "universities that address important needs of Saudi society rather than
> merely accumulate still more grand but essentially useless symbols." What's
> more, he says, "To really attain academic freedom, you need an open
> atmosphere where people can dress the way they want, sing and dance, talk
> about things that are not popular. . . . Without that, there shall remain a
> climate of suffocation."
> But, Hoodbhoy adds, "If the Saudi government delivers upon its promise to
> guarantee cultural, religious, and academic freedom, it will surely be a
> tremendous step forward for the country and the Arab world. Even though the
> stipulated freedom will be limited to a tiny and largely insulated
> university enclave, its implications will be profound. It will demonstrate
> to other Islamic countries that even the most conservative of states can, if
> there is sufficient political will, take a big step forward towards
> modernity."
> Toni Feder
> The library and sea court on the campus of the King Abdullah University of
> Science and Technology. (Artist's rendering courtesy of HOK.)
> copyright (c) American Institute of Physics
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Adams, Paul
> Sent: Monday, August 13, 2007 2:24 PM
> To:
> Subject: [asa] FW: Resource on Islam and science
> Posted for Don DeGraaf
> ***********
> Colleagues,
> A new thoughtful article is a very useful resource to help us relate
> to Muslim scholars and students.
> The article is, "Science and the Islamic world - The quest for
> rapprochement," by Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, Prof of Physics at
> Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
> Hoodbhoy asks and answers: ".what explains [the] meteoric rise [of
> religious fundamentalism] in Islam over the past half century?" (p.
> 54)
> Theme: "Internal causes led to the decline of Islam's scientific
> greatness long before the era of mercantile imperialism. To
> contribute once again, Muslims must be introspective and ask what went
> wrong."
> Hoodbhoy addresses the question, "With well over a billion Muslims and
> extensive material resources, why is the Islamic world disengaged from
> science and the process of creating new knowledge?" He writes,
> "[This] arrested scientific development is one important element -
> although by no means the only one -that contributes to the present
> marginalization of Muslims and a growing sense of injustice and
> victimhood." (p. 49) His article describes many facets of the
> challenges facing Muslims, and especially intellectuals, in their
> desire to learn and serve well.
> This article appears in Physics Today, August 2007, pp. 49-54.
> Anyone can access this article. Go to
> <> . On the home page, under HIGHLIGHTS
> in the center of the page, click on the title listed below. The
> entire article is there.
> In this issue of Physics Today there is also a related news story on
> pp. 33-34, "Saudi Arabia sets up Research University." King Abdullah
> has given $10 B and begun steps to create the King Abdullah University
> of Science and Technology in a new university town on the Red Sea.
> Classes will be taught in English. There is a promise of cultural,
> religious, and academic freedom.
> To read this story, you will need to go to your university library or
> find a physicist who subscribes to PT.
> Don DeGraaf
> UM-Flint, Flint, MI
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Robert J. Schneider
187 Sierra Vista
Boone, NC, 28607
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Received on Mon Aug 13 14:58:07 2007

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