Arab Spring and scientific revival

Pervez Hoodbhoy at the World Congress for the freedom of scientific research:

The upheaval in multiple Arab countries, known as the “Arab Spring”, is certain to lead to new political structures in a part of the world hitherto dominated by monarchies and dictatorships. But this revolution against autocratic stability and despotism, which are largely responsible for keeping the Arab world in darkness, does not by itself guarantee that a scientific revival is around the corner. An Arab renaissance will happen only if appropriate cultural and attitudinal changes follow the political changes. How fast, or slow, these countries move into the 21st century will depend on how Arabs choose to reinvent their way of life.

Formidable obstructions lie up ahead. Since the end of Islam's Golden Era in the 13th century, dogmatic religious beliefs have created an anti-science culture that encourages passive acceptance of knowledge and discourages true inquiry. But science demands a mindset that incessantly questions and challenges assumptions, not one that relies upon received wisdom from holy books. The inquisitive mind is frowned upon in most traditional societies, and it is an undeniable truth that intellectual and personal freedoms are sharply restricted in Muslim countries. Lack of intellectual space prevents talented young Muslims from exercising their innate intellectual capabilities and becoming accomplished actors, directors, singers, dancers, musicians, composers, artists, and writers. This is also why there are very few Muslim Arab scientists and mathematicians who are world class.

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