The Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) 2003 has been published by the UNDP. Before its publication I had written an article: ‘A Critical Appreciation of the AHDR (2002)’. An unpublished copy of this article was mailed to the Chief, regional Programme Division, UNDP (Regional Bureau of Arab States).* The present appraisal supplements the comments made on the AHD report (2002).
The Arab Human Development Report (2003) – Comprehensive and Well Focused
The Arab Human Development Report 2003 is far more comprehensive in its approach. It is sharply focused and the goals are well defined. It is noted for its clarity of thought and the data again have been very well marshaled and adequately used to substantiate the analysis. The Report, however, has not used the cartographic tool of analysis effectively. Even a map of the Arab region is not provided. In this macro study of the Arab region, inclusion of case and micro studies relating to poverty, education, obsolete industries and poor infrastructure would have substantially reinforced the arguments presented in this Report. This, however, should not detract readers from the high quality of this Report. Its recommendations, if sincerely implemented, can realize the visions projected in the Report. It is indeed a competent, inspiring, perceptive and visionary Report. It outlines in clear terms the path that the Arab and the rest of the Muslim world ought to pursue, in order to walk with honour and dignity and on equal terms with the developed world, which is forging ahead due to phenomenal progress of science and technology. If it falls to pursue the path prescribed in the Report, the Muslim world will be perpetually condemned to backwardness, economically, educationally and technologically.
* The Article was published in No. 3 issue of 2004 of the Hamdard Islamicus.
The Report rightly highlights that the prevailing political system in most of the Arab countries is the principal obstacle which must be eliminated if the Arab world has to emerge as a knowledgeable society in order to compete on equal terms with the developed world. It appropriately underlines the fact that all activities related to trade and commerce, agriculture and industry, administration, and all other services in the developed world are knowledge based. Hence the Report stresses that “knowledge closely approaches a religious obligation that Arabs ought to honour and exercise it. It points out the way on the Arab journey to a dignified and prosperous future. The pursuit of knowledge is prompted by religion, culture and history and the human will to succeed. Obstructions on the road are the work of mortals, the defective structure of the past and present social, economic and above all political one. The Arab must remove or reform these structures in order to take the place they deserve ill the world of knowledge at the beginning of the knowledge millennium.” (AHDR 2003, p. 13).
It is interesting to note that the AHD Report ( 2003) takes care of and even emphasizes “some of the issue that I had raised in my article titled: ‘Strategy for renaissance of Science and Technology in Islamic Countries’ on the AHDR ( 2002) ( visit website : www.ummulkitab.com). The historical factors are critically important and it is an established historical fact that the Arab led the world in all the fields of knowledge and made path breaking contribution in the fields of science and technology from the 9th to the 14th centuries. This has been diagrammatically expressed in Figs. 7, 8 and 9 of the article mentioned above. The remarkable achievements of the Arab scientists in the past should assure the Arabs of their inherent intellectual capabilities and should inspire them to repeat their past achievements and even excel them. This Report does emphasise the importance of religion and of the Qur’an but has failed to highlight the inspirational role which the Qur’an can play in scientific achievements of the Arabs and other Muslim communities. An adequate knowledge of the Qur’an can be effectively used to curb radicalism, obscurantism and fanaticism among the Muslim intellectuals. Nonetheless, the Report does make a notable contribution in determining the right direction for the growth of science and technology and emergence of a knowledgeable society in the Arab world to ensure its future in the knowledge based society of the millennium. Not only the Arab but the entire Muslim realm should emerge as a strong knowledge based society in the current millennium.
Before proceeding future, I would like to draw the attention of the principal author of this Report and its publisher to Milad Hana’s statement in box 6,2.page 119, that “ Judaism emerged with the Prophet Abraham in the City of Or in lraq and then moved on to Palestine… historical journey.” This is factually incorrect, historically unsubstantiated and above all contradicts the Qur’anic verses. Kindly refer to the Surah Al-‘imran ( 111-67) where it is clearly stated that Abraham (AS) was neither a jew nor a Christian. In the Surah al-Hajj (XXII: 78 ) Abraham (AS) is associated with the name Muslim and in many verses Prophet Muhammad (SAW) has been asked to follow the religion of Abraham such as the Surah al- nahl ( 120 and 123 ) etc. It would be more correct to state that Abraham was the founder of the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam which consummated during the Prophetic mission of Muhammad (SAW). I do hope that the leader of the core group will kindly give due consideration to the point raised above and that the incorrect statement which contradicts the holy Quran will be appropriately modified or deleted.
Political Support Critically Important and Its Transformation in the Arab Region from Despotism and Dictatorship to Democracy- A Prerequisite for Emergence of a Knowledge Based Society
Political stability and enlightened support of the political elite, in any society, for the development of science and technology are the key determining factors in the emergence of a knowledge based society. The Report (2003), however, draws a very gloomy picture of the present political scenario which in most cases is either despotic or dictatorial and unenlightened and therefore down right antagonistic to scientific and technological development. The ruling elite in the Arab region are more concerned about preserving their own privileges and political control than promoting and ensuring the economic, educational and technological progress of the people of the state. This has led to excessive concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few and therefore impacts regressively on social and economic development. The people just cannot express their views freely and frankly on the affairs of the state as is highlighted in Fig. 1 (corresponding to Fig. 5 of the Report 2003, p.8).
The AHDR (2003) very poignantly points out that the people of the Arab world are totally opposed to autocratic, despotic and dictatorial rule and are most favourably disposed to a democratic form of government. The convergence of these two factors can adversely affect the political stability of the entire Arab region, may the entire Muslim world. With these factors operating powerfully the ruling elite, in most of the Muslim countries, are sitting on an active political volcano which may violently erupt any moment with disastrous consequences. It may lead to political instability through terrorist activities and violent revolutionary upsurge. The continuation of violent protests in Algeria for more than a decade and the change of government through popular revolt against the king of Persia should serve as grave indicators of the shape of things to come. They can, however, be avoided if the ruling class in all the Arab and Muslim countries act sagaciously, and concede the right of the people to participate in managing the affairs of the state. (Fig. II corresponding to Figs. 1 to 4 in Box 2, p. 19).
The ruling class should itself initiate political reforms to avoid political disaster. The sudden shift to democratic form of government from the present autocratic and despotic system may prove chaotic and most likely will completely destabilize the state. There are three historical models which may be considered and the one that is best suited, keeping in view the exigencies of the situation, may be adopted. One basic principle, to be borne in mind, is that the change or transition in the form of government should be gradual and evolutionary, not radical and revolutionary. The three models are:
The idealistic Islamic government under the Caliphate of ‘Umar (R.A.) It accorded highest priority to the Qur’anic injunctions and the Traditions of the Prophet (SAW) and consequently to the welfare of the people. It was an honest and just administration without any discrimination. The poor and the rich, the meek and the mighty and the ruler and ruled were all equal in the eyes of law. Consultation with people on the affairs of the state was frequent and there was total freedom of speech and the principle laid down by the first Caliph, Abu Bakr (R.A.) was scrupulously followed: “Help me if I am in the right. Set me right if I am in the wrong”. There was total freedom of speech, honest dissent or difference of opinion was welcomed and appreciated.
Source: Arab Human Development Report, HDR, U.N.D.P. 2003, p. 28
Corresponding to Fig. 5 AHDR 2003, p. 28
The second model is the liberal, enlightened ‘Abbaside caliphate in Baghded and the Umayyad caliphate in Seville and Cordove in Andalus ( Spain). These rulers were genuine lovers and promoters of knowledge. Scholars were financially well supported and enjoyed full freedom to pursue their research. Scholars from all religions were cordially welcomed, encouraged and supported without discrimination. The Caliphs themselves were great scholars and fully participated in intellectual discourses.
The third model is benevolent despotism of Fredrick the Great of Prussia and Peter the Great of Russia in the 19th century. Fredrick the Great of Prussia used to call himself the First Servant of the State. Peter the Great personally visited the shipbuilding yards of Holland in order to modernize shipbuilding industry in Russia. Both the rulers subordinated their personal interest to the development, welfare and prosperity of their respective kingdoms. They encouraged the immigration of scientists and technologists from the rest of Europe and provided them with the necessary facilities and incentives to pursue their scientific and technological vocations. The prosperity of the two kingdoms enhanced the position and popularity of their respective rulers.*
Finally the existence of an efficient, congenial, liberal, democratic and forward looking political and administrative system is a must if the targeted exponential growth of academic, industrial and infrastructure has to be accomplished, in order to catch up in the near future, with the economically advanced countries. It will also call for massive financial investment which will be feasible if all the Muslim countries from Indonesia and Brunei in the east to Morocco and Mauritania in the west agree to pool together their resources. This can certainly be accomplished without the injection of foreign capital if the Muslim countries make a united and determined effort. The existing political system is not only not conducive but actually hostile to accelerated growth of knowledge based social and economic development. It is not oriented to stimulate socio-economic development on the desired lines, in the right direction and at the required pace to enable the Arab region and other Muslim countries to emerge as one of the major economies of the world. The existing ruling
* (However, both used force and tyranny to introduce changes) – Ed
class, in almost all the Muslim countries, will have to make considerable sacrifice in their current power, perks and privileges in order to ensure sustained growth of the economies of their respective countries. They can choose one of the aforesaid models for their transition and eventual transformation to a fully democratic political system guided by the Islamic values. The Report rightly argues that “an unsupportive policy and institutional environment for scientific research, an archaic environment for development for scientific and artistic freedom and creativity could negate such progress”. (AHDR-2003, p.83).
The Arab ruling elite can choose anyone of the three aforesaid models but the need of the hour is that the Islamic states need enlightened and benevolent ruling class which will subordinate its personal, princely and autocratic authority to the interests of the people at large. This will, however, constitute the transitory stage and should eventually lead to a democratic form of government with the rulers assuming a constitutional role. This political transformation of the Arab region and the rest of Muslim world to a democratic form of government cannot be held back any longer. In case the ruling elite conspire to forestall the process, they will be doing it at their own peril.
Prompt Transformation of the Islamic World Including Arab World into a Knowledgeable Society
We are living in a knowledge based hitech society and the knowledge gap between the developed and developing world including the Arab region and all the other Islamic countries is ever widening (Fig. III corresponding to Fig. 1, p. 40 of the Report -2003). The AHD Report (2003) has rightly stressed that this must rapidly bridged by increasing substantially investment on education. In the 2002 Report an allocation of 02.0 percent of the GDP has been recommended. This may not be adequate hence it is recommended that the annual investment on education may be raised to 5.0% of the GDP to ensure high quality education, including research, at all levels. The quality of education at the school level should measure upto standards maintained in the developed countries. The school education lays the foundation for the future scholastic achievements among the students and inspires them to acquire advanced knowledge and technologies skill.
While maintaining high standards of teaching at the university level special emphasis has also to be laid on research and development (R&D) which can be accomplished only if the research laboratories are adequately equipped and research facilities are comparable to the facilities available in the developed world .Further, the scholars ought to be allowed total freedom ,with no impediments ,to pursue their research .if an intellectually and financially favourable environment can be created without political interference then the sky will be the limit of the accomplishments of scholars in the Islamic world in social sciences ,sciences and technology .
Establishment of Centres of Excellence in Education and research
In order to ensure the emergence of a knowledgeable Muslim society the establishment of Centres of Excellence in higher education and research is absolutely essential and must be resolutely pursued .in order to accomplished this, an excellent infrastructure for quality modern school education must be developed. We should not be content with just 100 percent literacy which is not a very difficult goal to reach every Muslim country must ensure that all the children of the country, without any exception , both male and female are provided the best of modern education by highly competent teachers and should have the fullest opportunity to display their talents it must be recognized that the human resource is the best resource available on earth. Every Endeavour should be made meticulously nurture their resource at every stage of human life right from childhood. The primary and secondary stages of school education lay the basic foundation for the development of scholastic talents among the children. They are the real nurseries from where the future scientists, social scientists, various professionals, entrepreneurs, industrialists and political leaders sprout. If the nursery is poorly maintained, the quality of products will naturally be of a low grade. Therefore we cannot afford to compromise on the quality of school education. It may be noted that in all the developed countries, school education is free, compulsory and of the highest quality as well.
The quality of education should be considerably improved at the university and advanced research levels because they produce the specialists and professionals who manage and control the various specialized services of the country. Such specialized centres of academic excellence cannot be multiplied like primary and secondary schools and even colleges. They are capital intensive institutions; require significantly large investment in order to maintain quality and international standards. Consequently they have to be located in a few selected centres which will function as Nodes or Centres of Excellence for higher education and advanced research. In order to promote such Centres of Excellence funding and monitoring agencies must be created to determine their location, their specialized character, monitor the quality of their education and the quantum of investment required to establish and sustain them. These funding and monitoring agencies should be liberally funded, fully autonomous, free from governmental interference and should include only scholars and scientists of eminence. They will also regularly monitor the functioning of these Centres of Excellence so that academic excellence is maintained.
The AHD Report 2003 rightly stresses that these centers of Excellence cannot emerge unless there is a strong synergy among the elements of the knowledge system including knowledge capital, knowledge production, and knowledge dissemination in the overall social and economic structure to ensure efficient operation of the system. (Fig. IV corresponding to Fig. 1.2. AHDR 2003, p. 4).
Among the developing countries one of the finest models of academic excellence has merged in India both for the promotion of university education and research, and industrial and scientific research outside the university system. The government of India by an Act of Parliament appointed a number of autonomous bodies i.e. the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) and Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) etc. The UGC looks after the funding of existing universities and establishing new universities. Within the university system it has promoted significantly the development of centers of excellence in teaching and research at the Masters, Doctoral and Post Doctoral levels in specialized branches of sciences and social sciences such as Astrophysics, Paleobotany; Geophysics, Molecular Biology,
Nuclear Sciences, Genetics, Economics, Area Studies etc. Similarly the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has set up a chain of Scientific Laboratories in applied and specialized fields of sciences such as Atomic and Space Sciences, Industrial Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Geophysics, Oceanography etc. A Department of Science and Technology has also been created to supplement the research funding in sciences in the universities and research institute across the country. The ICAR takes care of research in agriculture, horticulture, dairy and allied areas. In the domain of technology advanced Institutes of Technology, with international collaboration, were established with the state of the art training and research facilities. The products of these Institutes of Technology have been, to a substantial degree, instrumental in the rise of Information Technology (IT) in the Silicon Valley of USA. By virtue of this multi-pronged strategy to promote science and technology in India, it has one of the largest pools of skilled scientists and technologists in the world. It would be worth emulating this model in the Muslim countries across the globe. The Organization of Islamic Conference or the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) should appoint a Pan-Islamic Committee of Distinguished Scientists and Technologists to work out a coordinated and comprehensive plan for advanced teaching and research in science and technology for the Muslim countries on a long term basis, say 15 to 20 years. We have to move fast and act together unitedly if we have to emerge as a frontline region in science and technology. That we can achieve it is clearly demonstrated by Malaysia in Information Technology and Pakistan in Nuclear Technology. Any indecisiveness or pause in this regard will indeed be disastrous.
Hostile Academic Environment Against Muslim Countries in the West – Policy Formulation to Attract Foreign Talents in Muslim Countries Reversing the Brain Drain Trend
Since September 11, 2001 incident when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan, New York, USA were attacked by terrorists, the atmosphere has become hostile to Muslims in general and to Arabs in particular in the academic institutions in USA, particularly in the advanced fields of science and technology. Consequently advanced centres of scientific research and technology in USA have become inaccessible to Muslims. In order to overcome this inaccessibility a well
Corresponding to Fig. 1.2 AHDR 2003, p.41
conceived plan has to be developed. The report brings out the point that the number of Arab students has sharply declined ranging between 25 and 31 percent within a short period of 3 years i.e. 1999 to 2002-2003. This is because either the Arab students have withdrawn from American universities or they have not been admitted. In this hostile, unfriendly and unhelpful environment against the Muslim world in the developed countries and particularly in the United States of America which economically, scientifically and technologically is the most advanced country in the world the Muslim countries have to make a determined and united effort to counteract this move. They must now seriously evolve a coordinated strategy to develop a series of counter magnets or nodes of academic excellence and industrial research centres to attract scholars in general and Muslim scholars in particular to work in these centres of academic excellence and nodes of industrial research. It is crucially important for both, the survival of the Muslim world and for their rapid progress in science and technology, that they should reverse the brain drain trend and change the direction of the flow from the developed countries to the Islamic World, particularly in the present hostile and unfriendly political environment when our credentials are viewed with suspicion. This can be made feasible by creating an academically congenial, economically beneficial and politically supportive environment to attract the best scientific talents, Muslims and Non-Muslims, from across the world for the exponential growth of science and technology in the Muslim countries. The time seems to be opportune, firstly because of the competition among the developed countries to attract such talents and secondly due to slackness of economic recovery and consequent loss of jobs and weakening of economic opportunities in hitech professions in the United states which is the prime mover of economic growth in the world. A recent data released by the National Science Foundation (USA) shows a substantial drop in the number of American students opting for science courses and also a significant fall in the number of foreigners because of Visa restrictions which have become very stringent of late (New York Times, Nov. 20, 2003). It may be noted that what applies to the Arab World is equally valid for the other Muslim Countries.
Enshrining Quar’anic Values in the Educational System of the Arab and other Islamic Countries
The authors of the 2002 AHD Report had identified three key deficits of the Arab society. They are the deficits of knowledge, freedom of speech and action, and women empowerment. The 2003 Report while recognizing the importance of Qura’nic education has failed to identify the absence of Qur’anic knowledge as one of the key deficits in the Arab world and other Muslim Countries.
In my critical appreciation of the 2002 AHD Report I had suggested that the deficit of Qur’anic knowledge and understanding ought to be added as the fourth key deficit in the Arab region and the other Muslim countries. The value system of the Muslim societies is enshrined in the Qur’an but regrettably there is total lack of understanding of the dimensions of the Qur’anic values. The teaching of the Qur’an has been completely isolated and eliminated from the mainstream of modern education which, therefore, deprives modem education of its spiritual foundation. Consequently, Qur’anic education is limited to a group of scholars who have no idea of the multifaceted dimensions of the Qur’anic revelations. They learn the Qur’an either to memorise it without understanding its meaning and significance or as a source of Islamic jurisprudence. Since these religious scholars are the only ones who have some understanding of the Qur’an, however incomplete and inadequate, their interpretation of the Qur’an is biased and archaic, and reflects a narrow outlook. These religious scholars have now developed a vested interest in keeping the Qur’anic education isolated from the mainstream of modern education. It is submitted in all humility that the superstructure of the contemporary knowledge based societies in the Muslim world should be raised on the spiritual foundation provided by the Qur’an.
The Qur’an provides a wide spectrum of knowledge of diversified aspects of human and spiritual life. The following eight dimensions of Qur’anic revelations can broadly be identified: (1) Attributes of Allah, (2) Five Pillars of Islam, (3) Historical Perspective in the Qur’an/, (4) the Miraculous Character of the Qur’an, (5) Islamic Ethos and Value System, (6) Qur’anic encouragement to Learning and Scientific research ,(7)Scientific Revelations in the Qur’an, and (8) Accountability to Allah and the Day of Reckoning (See Fig. V reproduced here from Dimensions of Qur’an
Revelations the Article on AHDR (2002): Strategy for Renaissance of Science and Technology in Islamic Countries).
A thorough acquaintance and understanding of these dimensions of the qur’an by the scholars in the mainstream of modern education will provide them with a comprehensive framework of knowledge, a much wider canvas to work upon and a very powerful instrument to stimulate and inspire scholars to accomplish excellence in acquisition of knowledge. This will also broaden their vision of knowledge. The embedding of Qur’anic education with modern education will produce a new generation of Qur’anic scholars who will be well grounded equally in modern and Qur’anic education. They will, on the one hand, check the veracity of the interpretation of the Qur’anic verses furnished by the religious leaders and on the other hand will be able to appreciate the significance of the Qur’anic verses in the context of contemporary development of society. Let us not overlook the universal relevance of the Qur’anic revelations. Thus the Qur’anic verses can be viwed as the stimulator for the advancement of knowledge in diverse fields of sciences and social sciences, and providing the right directions for research and development in science, technology and industrial development. The Qur’anic approach to the development of science and technology will make them more ethical and humane in their outlook and orientation. Thus with the reinforcement of Qur’anic knowledge modern education will always aim at excellence and will be motivated to promote welfare of humankind. Hence the Qur’anic vision of the acquisition of knowledge, will lend greater dynamism to the following Five Pillars of the strategic vision of knowledge as identified in the AHD Report 2003:
1.Unleashing and guaranteeing the key freedoms of opinion, speech, and assembly through good governance.
2.Disseminating high quality education and making it available to all.
3.Indeginising science, universalizing research and development in social activities and keeping up with the information age.
4.Shifting rapidly towards knowledge based higher value-added production.
5.Establishing an authentic, broadminded and enlightened Arab general knowledge model that encourages cognitive learning, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity while promoting the Arabic language, cultural diversity and openness to other cultures.
Promotion of Nodes of Industrial Development
The Muslim countries are gifted bountifully with natural resources but because of the lack of knowledge and skill, absence of entrepreneurship and lack of political support no major industrial node has emerged in anyone of the Muslim countries barring of course a few exceptions. They are still by and large producers and exporters of primary goods and manufactured goods involving middle level technology. That the Muslim countries lack high level of skill is also borne out by the fact that the technically skilled jobs outsourced from the USA have mostly gone India, China, South Korea. Philippines and Taiwan. In view of the existing gloomy industrial scenario in most of the Muslim countries particularly in the Arab world there is need for a sustained and co-ordinated effort by the Muslim countries to scientifically and systematically assess their natural resources and draw up a pragmatic plan to stimulate the growth of major industrial centres based on the availability of natural resources in the respective countries. These industrial nodes will function as magnets of growth, will attract significantly other ancillary and tertiary functions. The pooling together of human, natural and financial resources of all the Muslim countries will be required to ensure the success of such a major endeavour. It is not the intention here to present a detailed plan of such an industrial development. This will have to be taken up by a Pan Islamic Commission of Natural Resources and Industrial Development to be appointed by the Organization of Islamic Conference. It may, however, be mentioned that there shall be a close link and collaboration in research among the industries, research centres in the universities, and industrial research laboratories.
Development of Excellent Transportation and Communication Network
The development of the state of the art transport and communication network is a prerequisite for the growth of centres of excellence in advanced teaching and research and for the sustained growth of industrial magnets. The presence of high quality transportation, communication and information technology will ensure fast movement of ideas, men and materials within the Islamic realm and with the world outside. Malaysia can provide the lead both in the development of communication
network and information technology. Collaboration can be worked out with Japan and South Korea which lead the world in cable technology. Details can be worked out by a Pan-Islamic Infrastructure Development Commission which should be set up by the Organization of Islamic Conference. It is, however, suggested that emphasis should be placed on Public Transport and Mass Transit System as was done in the Soviet Union before its collapse in the early nineties. Possession of individual cars as a major mode of transport, as in the Developed Countries, should be discouraged because of its manifold disadvantages.
Dimensions of Qur’anic Revelations
Language Issue and Development of Science and Technology in the Arab World and other Muslim Countries
The language as a vehicle of Communication is critically important. We fully endorse the view of the authors of the report that the Arabic language should be developed as a language of science and technology as was done in the historic past (9th to 14th centuries). This will make science and technology accessible to the common man which in turn will boost up phenomenally social and economic development. The Arabic language has the potential to re-emerge as a language of science and technology. However, its evolution as a modern scientific language will take considerable period of time. But time is the essence of the matter and it is running out. In order to overcome the immense difficulties to be encountered to accomplish this stupendous task a twin track language strategy was suggested in the first Article on AHDR (2002) Report as follows:
The teaching of science and technology be done through the medium of Arabic using scientific and technological terms in English where Arabic equivalents are not available.
The teaching of foreign languages, particularly English or French, may be speeded up and intensified throughout the Islamic realm including the Arab region. Those parts of the Arab region which were under French colonial occupation and where French was formerly used as medium of instruction and is well understood, the teaching of French language be strengthened and the competence of scholars to speak, read and write in this language should be encouraged and improved. In the rest of the Arab region and the other Muslim countries the teaching of English ought to be encouraged. Bangladesh, Brunei, Cameroon, Maldives, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan have developed high level of proficiency in English and use it as a medium of instruction from the school to the university. These countries can also help those Arab countries which are not acquainted with French, to acquire proficiency in the English language in order to help them to understand and assimilate scientific and technological terms speedily. It is being therefore suggested that the entire Arab Region should become bilingual developing proficiency in either Arabic-English or
Arabic-French. There is no other alternative. Bilingualism will open the Arab world to other cultures as well which is strongly recommended in both the AHD Reports.
Establishment of Bureau of Translation to Translate into Arabic scientific and Technological Works in Foreign Languages
The translation of scientific works into Arabic from foreign languages such as English, French, German, Russian and even Chinese and Japanese should be undertaken on a top priority basis and on a massive scale. Competent scholars should be invited on attractive terms of service to take up this monumental task. This is the only way to restore Arabic language as a language of science and technology. Presently the translation work in the Arabic language is a mere trickle as can be observed from (Fig. V corresponding to Fig. 2.9. p. 68 of the AHDR 2003 ). This has to be magnified into a torrent by translating millions of pages annually from foreign languages. The figure, regrettably, demonstrates that even small countries like Israel and Hungary far exceed the Arab world in translation activity. The AHDR (2003) pertinently stresses that “science cannot be developed without institutions dedicated to this purpose and without promoting the vacation of scientific culture can only pass from one society to another, whether by means of translation or the transfer of scientists and know how, if the requisite infrastructure and institutions for embracing science and owning it are in place”( AHDR – 2003, p. 69 ). The Bureau of Translation will be one of the key institutions to ensure the renaissance of science and technology in the Arab region and other Muslim countries and will sustain it on a lasting basis.
The paucity of knowledge wealth and knowledge capital and absence of effective knowledge i.e. the application of knowledge to problems of human life has exacerbated the problem of social and economic development in the entire Islamic realm. In order to impart dynamism to the depleted and moribund economy of the Muslim countries and to raise their competitive ability to face the global challenges in banking, trade and commerce, manufacturing efficiency and information technology the Report ( AHD-2003) rightly stresses that there is no alternative but to develop, “well organised and well functioning knowledge system. No other development investment promises greater exponential returns in an era of knowledge intensity and knowledge driven competition. Cutting this Gordian knot is one of the most formidable challenges facing the developing countries” (p. 38, AHDR – 2003).
Besides the poverty of knowledge two other major obstacles which have stunted the growth and development of the Muslim countries are the intolerant, suffocating political system and the lack of unity among the Muslim countries. Consequently they fail to project a united well formulated and cohesive response to international events. The ruling elite in the Muslim countries, whether they are despots or dictators, have to liberalise and democratize the political system in order to fully utilize the creative potential and ingenuity of their respective peoples. They must do it for their own survival and carry the people with them for the defense of their respective political territories against the aggressive design of any potential enemy in the future. The people of the Muslim countries are full of energy, intellect, ingenuity and creative ability but they lack the political and financial support to realize their full potential. Because of oppressive political system where freedom of speech, action and though are suppressed, the human capital stays dormant and passive and can not be optimally utilized to stimulate growth. Consequently they are dependent on the developed countries to meet their consumer needs and total defense requirements. This makes them economically weak and politically submissive. It is time that the Muslim countries cast off their passive and submissive role in international politics and economy and start playing an active and assertive role inspired by the Qur’anic vision, and in conformity with the richness and diversity of their resources and size of their population.
The leaders of the Muslim countries must realize that a hostile environment has been deliberately created against Islam because the developed West feels threatened by the rising conversions to Islam. The Islamic values are in harmony with human nature and conflict directly with western secular values which have totally segregated religious values from public life. This is substantiated by the forcible removal of the Ten Commandment Monument from the lobby of the Supreme Court in the State of Alabama in USA.
It is most frustrating that the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has already created the relevant agencies for economic and educational development of the Islamic realm but has signally failed to utilize them effectively. They should be energized to act proactively as forceful catalytic agents to stimulate total transformation of a decadent economic region with poor quality of education to a dynamic region marked for its quality of sophisticated industrial products and excellence in education and research at all levels, well spread out into the entire Islamic realm.
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) should initiate positive action for a coordinated economic development of the Islamic countries. The Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) must be used to revitalize the entire educational system within the Islamic realm. We do hope that the Organisation of Islamic Conference will use these two organs i.e. the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) to bring out radical transformation of economy and education so that they are improved and advanced significantly to meet the emerging challenges in these fields with competence and confidence in the 21st century. It is suggested that the IDB should appoint a high powered Pan-Islamic Economic Commission including distinguished economists and other social scientists drawn from the world over to draw up an integrated and well co-ordinated economic development plan for the entire Islamic realm. It should identify the centres where nodes could be developed. It should draw up an economic development plan, both long term and short term, which should accelerate knowledge based industrial development, increase job opportunities in hitech industries, stop the brain drain and eventually reverse the trend, and start attracting talents from across the world, particularly from the developed countries. This could be realized if the entire Islamic realm including the Arab region emerges as a dynamic area of academic excellence, transformed into a knowledge based society with centres of academic excellence, both teaching and research, well distributed all over the Islamic realm. They will constitute the key asset as knowledge capital, and if effectively used will transform the entire Islamic world into a region of light and learning. In order to accomplish this goal the ISESCO should appoint Pan Islamic Commission for Educational Development which should also see to it that the multifaceted dimensions of the Qur’anic revelations are thoroughly embedded in the mainstream of modern education in the Muslim countries.
In order to meet the western challenge the Muslim countries have to sink their differences and unite to make a united response to the challenges they face in international politics and economy. The Muslim countries should unite since their own survival is in grave danger. We may recall that when the Byzantine rules were trying to exploit the internecine war between Air Mu’awiyah (R.A.) and the fourth Caliph ‘Ali (R.A.) in the mid 7th century A.D. and making incursions into the Syrian territory, Amir Mu’awiyah (R.A.) wrote a strong letter to the Byzantine emperor that he and his cousin would resolve their differences and unite to crush the Roman military incursions. This was enough for the Romans to retreat to their original positions and stop military expeditions into the Islamic territory. Such a decisive moment has arrived again in the contemporary history of the world of Islam. The future of the entire Islamic realm is imperiled and the challenge can be met only by a united stand sinkinig all differences, minor and major.
The present disunity among the Arab countries in particular and the Muslim countries in general will be fully exploited to sow the seeds of discord so that the differences are magnified. The Muslim countries are politically marginalized and economically exploited. They should be vigilant and watchful to counter such malicious moves of the forces antagonistic to Islam. Through unity the 1.3 billion Muslims can distinctively assert their strength and importance. They can play a salient and determining role in shaping international events. However, they must use their strength intelligently and with sagacity and not with brute force which may prove counter productive as the former Malaysian Prime Minister (Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohammad ) rightly said: “It is winning the struggle that is important, not angry retaliation, not revenge.” He further emphasized: “ We must build up our strength in every field, not just in armed might. Our countries must be stable and well administered, must be economically and financially strong, industrially competent and technologically advanced. This will take time, but it can be done and it will be time well spent.”* This constitutes the key to our future and we must implement it rigorously in order to secure our future.
The author expresses his gratitude to the UNDP for their kind permission to reproduce the figures from AHDg (2003); to Mr. Faizur Rahman for carefully going through the article and offering comments; to Dr. Mrs. Geetha Reddy for the reproduction of figures from the AHDR (2003); and to Mr. Mohammad Pasha for keying in the text into the system and taking the printouts.
* Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohammad in his presidential address to the Organizational Islamic Conference, held on 16th October, 2003 in Kuala Lumpur and attended by the Heads of all the Muslim countries.