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Where Science Is Of Religion, By Religion And For Religion
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Such is the belief of a large part of the Muslim society in Pakistan. Many of the named and famed scientists of Pakistan have, it appears, continued to befool people over the years, talking senseless things about science and trying to give it meaning by linking it with religion. Khaled Ahmed in his post “The Religious Scientist” (The Indian Express) goes on to give numerous examples of how these scientists have misled the people of the country. He writes about a “1987 conference on “scientific miracles” under Islamist dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, where Pakistani scientists mixed religious miracle with scientific discovery. Encouraged by funding of Rs 66 lakh (half of which was provided by Saudi Arabia), our guys flew off the handle and talked rubbish about science and demeaned the divine writ of the Quran.”
One of Pakistan’s renowned physicists, Pervez Hoodbhoy also speaks about the maltreatment of science in Pakistan. Scientific phenomenon is indeed made a joke of by the Pakistani scientists. Khaled Ahmed in “The Religious Scientist” (The Indian Express) has quoted hilarious examples of the beliefs that well known Muslim scientists of the country have tried to project time and again before the people of their country. He writes:
“A scientist from Al-Azhar misinterpreted the Quran to claim that mountains were like nails holding the earth down.”
“Another 1986 conference held by the Pakistan Association of Scientists and Scientific Professions was regaled with a formula by Arshad Ali Beg of the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research to arrive at the “munafiqat” (hypocrisy) ratio of a given society.”
“Another senior nuclear scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, proposed that all energy-related problems could be solved by taming the “djinns”, because they were made of fire.”
And Ahmed goes on to say that “Many others, lured by the limelight, delivered gems of medieval gibberish in the name of Islamic science.” These statements by educated scientists really are downright ludicrous and would in all probability be out rightly rejected and ridiculed by all if they were made in India.
Do these educated people actually believe in the statements they make or do they want the public to continue to be in the state of superstitious blind belief so that those in power can continue to feed the common mass conveniently with whatever suits them.
Either of the two situations is extremely dangerous because if the leaders, the so called intelligentsia of a state fail to grow with the times, fail to advance and insist on bidding good bye to rational thought, then the State is bound to get mired in orthodoxy, dogmatism and fundamentalism which in turn would lead to further deterioration of the State.
And if it is the second case, which is more likely, that the people are being misled, then the hopes of a Pakistan rising up to defeat religious fundamentalism will be realized only if more people like Pervez Hoodbhoy and Khaled Ahmed, people of courage, speak out loud and clear in a society gradually being sucked in by fanaticism and extremism.
An increasing number of scientists and engineering students are being recruited by Middle Eastern and South East Asian Islamist groups, though a trend not just specific to Pakistan only. (Source: The Religious Scientist by Khaled Ahmed, The Indian Express). The reason for this is obviously the growing fundamentalist mindset and this undoubtedly is an extremely worrying situation.
Ahmed again states in his writing that “The gap of learning between India and Pakistan is significant because it goes beyond the argument of population ratios. One has to helplessly concede that where Muslims control their societies, the one branch of knowledge that becomes neglected is the sciences.”
If this is true, the question then arises, why is it so? In India too there are a large number of Muslims but Indian Muslims for sure would never accept the kind of ludicrous statements put forward by Pakistani scientists in the garb of religion. And it is hard to even imagine the highly respected scientists in India making statements of this nature though many of them must be Muslims too. APJ Abdul Kalam, the ex-President of India, is a world renowned scientist, most respected in the country and he is definitely a Muslim.
In Pakistan it is the power given to the ill-educated religious clergy that has aborted the growth of scientific thinking. Abdus Salam, a famous Pak scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics maintained that a direct cause of the anti-scientism of Muslims in Pakistan lay in the Islamist practice of allowing its ill-educated clergy to issue fatwas of excommunication against discoverers of new scientific facts. Actually very few scientists can do genuine work with the Sword of Damocles constantly hanging over their heads.
It is unfortunately a very sorry state of affairs. But from this situation derives a lesson which we the Indians too must learn. I can remember an episode from the past when the Hindus in India were completely taken in by a rumour of idols of Lord Ganesha drinking milk. Within hours hordes of people flocked to the temples in every nook and corner of the country with spoons and bowls of milk to feed the deity and receive his blessings in return.
Such irrational blind faith if not checked can gradually create a Pakistan out of India. Religious dogmatism is dangerous for the growth of a liberal mind set and the free advancement of science and hence adversely affects progress in all its forms.
However the secularism woven in Indian ethos has always checked the growth of fundamentalism whenever it has tried to raise its ugly head. The democratic set up of India, though infested with its own malaise, has enabled the people to stand up against those who abuse power. The people of India, Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Sikhs and every other religious group included, have a free forward looking spirit which they must not lose at any cost.
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