Last week, the Qatari capital Doha hosted the 18th Conference of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS). This year’s theme is ““The Islamic World and the West: Rebuilding bridges through science and technology”
Nidhal Guessoum, an astrophysicist and professor of physics at American University of Sharjah, and author of Islam’s Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science, attended the conference and reported on some interesting sessions on the Irtiqa blog.
Of particular interest was a talk by Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister of Malaysia. Mohamad, who is often credited with upheaval of Malaysia’s science and research, stressed how important it is for the Islamic world to learn from the West rather than eye it with suspicion, much like the West learned from the Islamic world during the Islamic Golden Age.
While Arab states have for long regarded the West with suspicion, mainly due to certain foreign policy choices both parties have made, science has so far been one of the few forces capable of building bridges between the two. In fact, during Barack Obama’s first speech to the Arab and Islamic states from Cairo, he stressed that he would like to build bridges through science.
Science has also bridged the divide between the Islamic world and the West through the large number of Western universities that have started launching offshore campuses in the Middle East. This ranges from Weill Cornell Medical College and Texas A&M University in Qatar to New York University in Abu Dhabi. These offshore campuses are acting as links between the Middle East and their home campuses and have given birth to much collaborative science research between both regions.
The Islamic world must realize that, by the very nature of modern science, there is a need to collaborate and build on what came before if there is to be a new science renaissance in the region.
Guessoum also reports on how Mohamad stressed that, with the current upheavals and protests spreading from the Arab world to as far away as the United States and Japan, both the West and the Islamic world have much to learn from each other. He suggests that the West can learn from Islamic economic models to streamline its financial systems, while the Islamic world can learn from the rigorous advanced administrations models of Western institutions.
It is advice that scientists in the Arab world, and the greater Islamic world, would do good to heed.
You can read more from the original post here.