A Life of Passion, Commitment and Hard Work: Professor Jackie Ying
Jackie Y. Ying is someone whose life defies expectations and stereotypes at every turn. In the largely male-dominated field of scientific research with few prominent Asians or Muslims, Professor Ying is a female, Chinese-Muslim whose work in the field of nanotechnology has earned her accolade after accolade throughout her career, earning her the position of Executive Director of the Institute and Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) under Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) in 2003 and a spot in the list of the 500 Most Influential Muslims, published annually by Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISSC).
Her Work and Achievements
At age 36, Professor Ying became the youngest full Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and two years later became the youngest member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the world’s oldest academy for medicine and natural sciences. In 2008, she earned a place as one of only eight women in a list of 100 Engineers of the Modern Era, compiled by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, honouring individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of engineering.
In 2003, she was handpicked by Philip Yeo, then Chairman of A*Star, to head the newly-formed IBN, where she still serves as Executive-Director. Her laboratory’s research in the field of nanotechnology has applications in biomedical sciences and the environment among others, with research including the creation of an artificial kidney, advanced solar cells and carbon sequestration. Professor Ying is also the Editor-in-Chief of Nano Today, a journal ranked 2nd in the Institute for Scientific Information’s (ISI) Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.
Professor Ying has 290 articles and 120 patents to her name, and presented more than 330 lectures at international conferences.
Despite her prominence in her field and having been interviewed by the media both in Singapore and abroad, Professor Jackie Ying has been tight-lipped about her personal life, never divulging much information about her family, or her conversion to Islam several years ago.
Born in Taiwan, at age 7 Professor Ying came to Singapore, where her father was a lecturer of Chinese Literature at Nanyang University (the current Nanyang Technological University). Her passion for science developed during her teenage years spent both in Singapore, where she studied at Raffles Girls School, and New York, when her teachers instilled in her a love for chemistry.
Mentor and Role Model
Her desire to pass on her passion for science to the younger generation is apparent. Professor Ying credits her mentors at the chemical engineering department at MIT with providing her with invaluable advice and support, and she intends to cultivate this culture of mentorship to the next generation of scientists here in Singapore.
In 2003, IBN established the Youth Research Programme, to give secondary and tertiary level students the chance to experience life in the world of biomedical research through attachments, workshops and lab visits. The Youth Research Programme allows the institute to identify young talents and every year, 200 students are mentored by a researcher under the programme, with many keeping in touch with their mentors.
Professor Ying has spoken at Transformations, a forum organised by Mendaki on individual, familial, organisational and societal change, and the Young Muslims Scientist Seminar, organised by The W.R.I.T.E. Club, an initiative under Masjid Al-Istiqamah. She has also spoken at Creating a Nanotechnology Toolbox, a talk organised by the National University of Singapore Muslim Society (NUSMS), on nanotechnology as well as her experience in the field of research as a Muslim academic.
Professor Ying is also one of the mentors under Mendaki’s Project Protégé, mentoring and inspiring Muslim youth wanting to go into the field of science, and giving them the opportunity to immerse themselves in a research project carried out at her laboratory.
Passion and Hard Work
All of the above is just scratching at the surface of Professor Jackie Y. Ying’s life and work. With Professor Ying herself acknowledging that she puts in 70-80 hours a week at what she does, she is a living testament to the need to have both passion and a commitment to hard work when pursuing one’s goals. Professor Ying is an inspiration, not just to women or Muslims, but all people regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender or nationality.
Eric S. Margolis
Eric S. Margolis
WESTERN politicians and media have been scolding Turkey’s prime minister Recep Erdogan over anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara.
What began as a local protest over the foolish plan to raze trees in Gezi Park near Istanbul’s bustling Taksim Square quickly exploded into major protests thanks to the ham-handed response of Istanbul police, who tear-gassed and beat demonstrators. Turkish police have never been famed for gentleness.
Erdogan’s curt dismissal of the crowd as “looters” further inflamed the situation. In the West, Erdogan was accused of growing authoritarianism and trying to remake Turkey into an Islamic state.
Even the normally sensible Economist magazine accused Turkey’s leader of trying to become a new Ottoman sultan.
What hypocrisy. These were the same western newspapers and politicians who ardently backed Turkey’s former governments that were little more than sock puppets for the military. The very same opinion-makers lauded Egypt’s brutal dictator, Hosni Mubarak, as a “statesman”.
So-called NGOs like Freedom House and Amnesty International, cat’s paws for western governments, attacked Erdogan.
The demonstrators in Turkey’s cities were mostly young, secular and indulging in a springtime flash riot, facilitated by new social media and support from abroad.
Many were rightly angered by Erdogan’s wrong-headed decision to take a lead role in trying to overthrow Syria’s government, a key trading partner for Turkey.
Others, by his plans to limit public drinking and the eternal dispute over women’s head scarves.
What we have been witnessing is an attempt by anti-Erdogan secularists and far rightists, joined by members of Turkey’s long quiescent far left, to achieve what they could not do at the ballot box: ousting Erdogan’s moderate Islamic AK party from power.
These are the same forces who made a terrible mess of Turkey when they were in power from the 1940’s until the 1990’s: coups, riots, murders, regular financial crisis, and brutal human rights violations.
The United States and its media have turned against Erdogan primarily because of his clashes with Israel. Pro-Israel groups in the US are now taking the lead in calling for Erdogan’s ouster. Washington’s conservatives see him as too independent and unreliable.
Over the last decade, Erdogan transformed battered, bankrupt Turkey into an economic powerhouse by imposing sound finances and releasing the pent up power of the commercial class that had long been stifled by the cartels and monopolies of the secular leadership for whom the 1930’s anti-Islamic dictator, Kemal Ataturk, remains a state deity.
Ataturk was a great national hero who saved Turkey from being carved up by the western powers, Greece, and the Soviet Union. But he proved a destructive political leader, tearing up Turkey’s historical roots and religion and replacing them with a vague form of 1930’s state fascism.
Erdogan has indeed grown mildly imperious; success and the lack of any real political opposition has gone to his head. But he is not yet a new sultan and shows few signs of trying to become one.
He has brought real democracy to Turkey, financial stability, and brought it close to European social and legal standards.
Syria aside, Erdogan has made great strides in restoring Turkey’s regional leadership and power.
As Turks used to say, “Turkey is the centre of everything.” Erdogan remains the Middle East’s most popular leader.
Turkey’s able president, Abdullah Gul, who may become a rival of Erdogan in elections, has helped calm the waters. Gul remains the good cop while Erdogan the bad.
Remember, in the last election, Erdogan won a landslide in Turkey’s fractured political system, taking almost 50% of the vote in a poll with an over 80% turnout.
Recent demonstrations have sent Turkey’s stock and bond markets into a tailspin, threatening a financial crisis after a decade of calm and steady growth.
Erdogan is on the edge of achieving a real peace with Turkey’s rebellious Kurds – the most important advance in modern Turkish history. One suspects Turkey’s generals, some of them itching to stage a coup, and their foreign allies, are trying to derail Kurdish peace talks by encouraging the demonstrations.
It took the AK Party a decade to defang the generals and push them out of politics. Are Turkey’s pashas trying to stage a comeback?
Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist, writing mainly about the Middle East and South Asia. Comments: email@example.com
Graduating from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), 20-year-old Iqbal El-Assaad is possibly the youngest Arab doctor ever.
Iqbal El-Assaad is the youngest medical doctor to graduate from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) in its ten-year history. When Iqbal was a toddler, she learnt algebra by watching her older siblings study. Before El-Assaad’s fifth birthday, her favourite pastimes were reading books and solving mathematical problems.
Following her graduation, Nature Middle East spoke to Iqbal about what it’s like to be a 20-year old medical doctor and hear what she plans for the future.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in medicine?
I made the decision to be a doctor myself when I was 12 years old. Growing up as a Palestinian living in Lebanon, I saw much suffering among my people since the Palestinians in Lebanon did not have health insurance.
My family and I visited the camps and saw how harsh the conditions there were. I saw many parents who see their children suffering but they can’t help them because they don’t have the money to do that. These visits to the camps made me feel that it is my responsibility to study medicine and try to help these people. Many of them cannot even afford the medication they need.
What role did your family play in your decision to pursue medical school?
I am the youngest among my siblings and my father first noticed when I was two-and-a-half years old that I was keen to learn when he was teaching my brothers. For my dad, education is always number one – especially for a girl. He always said that the boys will eventually find work but education is a girl’s weapon in the future. We grew up on this idea and my dad always encouraged me that if I have a dream I want to pursue, my parents would always help me.
I went to a private school in Lebanon that was based on the Lebanese curriculum, not an American school. After paying my tuition for the first two years, the principal of the school gave me a full scholarship. I used to skip grades and I was always the youngest person in my class.
I graduated from high school when I was 12 and Khaled Abany, who was then the education minister in Lebanon, honoured me as the youngest student to ever finish high school. I told him that I dreamt of being a doctor and he promised to try to secure a scholarship for me. The next day he contacted Sheikha Mozah [the Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development] and she promised me a full scholarship to study at WCMC-Q.
Was it challenging being the youngest student in college?
The toughest time was when I first arrived in Qatar. I felt a lot of pressure because Qatar Foundation had given me the full scholarship without any tests. So I wanted to prove myself and prove that I was up to the trust people put in me.
The Lebanese education system prepares you very well for college so in terms of science and maths I found I was very well prepared.
I grew up with students who were always older than me so I am used to dealing with older people and I am mature enough to work with them. I always liked to study with friends in school and that carried on in college. This interaction has helped improve my way of thinking so that eventually people don’t even notice there is an age difference.
What is your next step now after graduation?
I am leaving soon for a three-year residency at the Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. After that I want to apply for a fellowship in paediatric cardiology, which will take three more years. I then want to come back to the Middle East and work between Qatar and Lebanon – to pay Qatar back. They have been sponsoring me for the past six years. I also want to go back to Lebanon to help my Palestinian people because they are the main inspiration for me to be a doctor and I would like to fulfil my childhood dream to make a difference to their lives.
I can’t say exactly why, but I just love it. In our third year in college I found I was really happy to be able to help little kids. I also see the hardship of Palestinian children living in camps in Lebanon and that is part of the reason why I want to pursue paediatrics
Are you interested in doing any research?
I definitely want to pursue research. I did research during the summer of my second year and I fell in love with it. I even published at that time and was involved in two other studies. I really like the idea of discovering something new.
I hope in the future I can join an academic health centre where I can treat patients and also work in research.
What advice would you have to young people who would pursue medicine?
The only advice I would have is for students to study hard and make use of the opportunities in Qatar. Having world-class universities here in the Middle East is beyond imagination. This is the most important stage in their lives and they have to work for it.
For premed students, enjoy your lives now! It is a good time especially if you have good friends and it is not really too hard so you can get the best of both worlds.
Source : http://www.nature.com
By Prof Datuk Dr Zaleha Kamaruddin, the Rector of the International Islamic University Malaysia
Although permitted in the Quran, there are two different views on the practice, men are generally in agreement but most women are not in favour of it.
POLYGAMY remains a controversial issue not only in Malaysia but many Muslim countries around the world. It has been the subject of many debates but is actually far from settled (Latest: newly-formed polygamy club propagated by Ikhwan).
According to a Malaysian anthropologist, Prof Azizah Kassim, whenever the issue of polygamy is debated in Malaysia, the conclusion that can be made is that men are positive while most women abhor it.
Why have such polemics occurred, and what are the causes behind these conflicts, especially in a situation where, despite its legal validity, polygamy has been largely perceived by many as a practice which fails to protect the rights of women?
Writings relating to the legal position of polygamy show that there is an agreement among Muslim jurists (classical and modern) that this practice is permitted in the Quran.
However, during the late 19th century, Sheikh Muhammad Abduh, a reformer who was the Grand Mufti of Egypt, in his Tafsir al-Manar questioned the practice of polygamy in a modern society.
He mentioned that polygamy might have once been useful and practical in early Muslim society but it could no longer be viewed in the same light in today’s society where it has, more often than not, been misused and has caused much pain and suffering among women.
His views are shared by many other jurists and thinkers, such as Rashid Redha, Muham-mad al Ghazali and Azizah al-Hibry.
On the other hand, there have also been writers and jurists who vehemently oppose any form of limitation on a practice which has clearly been permitted in the Quran.
Sheikh Muhammad Shaltut, Abu Zahrah, Aisha Abdul-Rahman, Zainab al-Ghazali, Mustafa al-Siba’i and Sheikh Abul-A’la al-Mawdudi are of the view that those who try to reinterpret the Quran in relation to polygamy are actually going against the very teachings of Islam.
Although there are two different views on polygamy, many Muslim countries today acknowledge the fact that polygamy can be abused, and have made improvements to the laws to curb such exploitation.
In Malaysia, steps have been taken to include the incorporation of specific provisions controlling the practice of polygamy through the Islamic Family Law Enactments of each state.
Latest research conducted by Dr Raihanah Abdullah has shown that the main cause for abuse in relation to polygamy in Malaysia stems from the lack of understanding on the concept and execution of justice. This has led to a prolonged antagonism and has caused various reactions from the public, especially women’s organisations.
The National Council for Women’s Organi-sations says it is not seeking to abolish polygamy, but opposes the way in which polygamy is being practised.
Issues of enforcement including finding better solutions to ensure justice and welfare for the wives and children need to be addressed.
Researchers have shown that one solution to the problems brought about by polygamy would be strict compliance with the conditions of polygamy based on the true teachings of Islam.
It is the absence of such realisation that has led to various difficulties associated with polygamy.
From the legal perspective, in order to rectify the situation, there is a need to consolidate the laws and to formulate a uniform approach to polygamy. Discrepancies in the law have allowed men, as Gavin Jones puts it: “…to ‘shop around’ and find another state where his application will succeed”.
Although the Government has made efforts to achieve uniformity in the laws for all Malaysian states, unfortunately, the aim was not achieved as when it was finally enforced, the states had discretionally amended several matters in the provisions of the law.
Researchers have shown that lighter penalties and limited jurisdiction between states also contribute to the inability to put a stop to the contravention of these laws.
The imposition of a minimum fine of RM1,000 and mandatory imprisonment ranging from as short as one month to a year should be imposed on offenders.
However, this view has also been objected to. It is argued that mandatory imprisonment would not solve the problem but instead aggravate it, as these men would not be able to maintain their families while serving prison time.
Aside from that, a more detailed review in deciding polygamy applications should also be made.
Judges should also play a more proactive role in ensuring that an applicant is truly capable of being fair before allowing his application. The views of existing wives should also be taken into consideration.
Besides educating the existing wife on her rights in a polygamous union, she should also be facilitated in making claims for maintenance against her husband should he fail to provide for her.
This should be done without the wife having to file an application for maintenance but be ordered by the judge during her husband’s application for polygamy.
A review of the law on the amount of maintenance – which had been abolished earlier – should be reintroduced.
There should also be provisions to prohibit husbands from changing the economic status of the existing wife and children.
There is also a need to expedite enforcement of other rights as well, such as claims for jointly acquired property.
It would be extremely unfair for the wife, who has worked equally hard as her husband, to suddenly share not only her husband, but also their property, with another woman.
These proposals are being looked into by the relevant authorities and some have been included among the amendments to the Islamic Family Law Bill said to be soon tabled in Parliament.
However, one should remember that the law has limitations, especially in matters relating to the heart.
Australian tax laws should be amended to attract Islamic finance and other forms of alternative finance to benefit the economy, says CPA Australia.
In a submission to the Board of Taxation, CPA Australia says Islamic Finance will ultimately boost the Australian economy and help establish Australia as a financial services hub in the Asia-Pacific region.
Paul Drum, head of business and investment policy, CPA Australia, said attracting capital and investment through Islamic finance is a huge opportunity for Australia and would ultimately be good for economic growth.
‘Australia has emerged from the global financial crisis with strong economic position and a good regulatory regime. With our geographic position we are well placed to attract this increasingly significant component of global finance, and we need to take advantage of that,’ he said.
‘As a net importer of capital it is essential that we establish the right framework to attract and maintain a wide range of capital and financial products. Achieving this will be key to addressing many of our key economic issues including the funding of major infrastructure projects.’
Islamic finance is based on the principles of Islamic law (Shariah) which prohibits earning interest and instead focuses on profit sharing based on the buying and selling of tangible assets such as property.
‘Islamic finance offers huge potential for Australia’s financial services sector, but tax laws will need to be amended to accommodate other forms of alternative finance.
‘Some of Australia’s tax laws have a very specific legal based application which can exclude forms of alternative finance. Taking a broader economic and macro approach to policy in this area will be more beneficial and provide better long term benefits for Australia. It’s also more consistent with how tax law has developed in other areas such as taxation of financial arrangements.’
The CPA Australia submission also suggests Australia could adopt a similar approach to the United Kingdom, where only minor legal and regulatory reforms were required.
‘To achieve all of this will require significant work to align the accounting and tax treatment of Islamic and other alternative financial products. This must be a priority and CPA Australia looks forward to contributing to this process.’
By Imran Khan, Pakistan politician
My generation grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak. Our older generation had been slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British. The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan.
Despite gaining independence, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis.
I read Shakespeare, which was fine, but no Allama Iqbal -the national poet of Pakistan. The class on Islamic studies was not taken seriously, and when I left school I was considered among the elite of the country because I could speak English and wore Western clothes.
Despite periodically shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in school functions, I considered my own culture backward and religion outdated. Among our group if any one talked about religion, prayed or kept a beard he was immediately branded a Mullah.
Because of the power of the Western media, our heroes were Western movie stars or pop stars. When I went to Oxford already burdened with this hang up, things didn’t get any easier. At Oxford, not just Islam, but all religions were considered anachronism.
Science had replaced religion and if something couldn’t be logically proved it did not exist. All supernatural stuff was confined to the movies.
Philosophers like Darwin, who with his half-baked theory of evolution had supposedly disproved the creation of men and hence religion, were read and revered.
Moreover, European history reflected its awful experience with religion. The horrors committed by the Christian clergy during the Inquisition era had left a powerful impact on the Western mind.
To understand why the West is so keen on secularism, one should go to places like Cordoba in Spain and see the torture apparatus used during the Spanish Inquisition. Also the persecution of scientists as heretics by the clergy had convinced the Europeans that all religions are regressive.
However, the biggest factor that drove people like me away from religion was the selective Islam practiced by most of its preachers. In short, there was a huge difference between what they practiced and what they preached.Also, rather than explaining the philosophy behind the religion, there was an overemphasis on rituals. I feel that humans are different to animals. While, the latter can be drilled, humans need to be intellectually convinced. That is why the Qur’an constantly appeals to reason. The worst, of course, was the exploitation of Islam for political gains by various individuals or groups.
Hence, it was a miracle I did not become an atheist. The only reason why I did not was the powerful religious influence my mother wielded on me since my childhood. It was not so much out of conviction but love for her that I stayed a Muslim.
However, my Islam was selective. I accepted only parts of the religion that suited me. Prayers were restricted to Eid days and occasionally on Fridays, when my father insisted on taking me to the mosque with him.
All in all I was smoothly moving to becoming a Pukka Brown Sahib. After all I had the right credentials in terms of school, university and, above all, acceptability in the English aristocracy, something that our brown sahibs would give their lives for. So what led me to do a ‘lota’ on the Brown Sahib culture and instead become a ‘desi’?
Well it did not just happen overnight. Firstly, the inferiority complex that my generation had inherited gradually went as I developed into a world-class athlete. Secondly, I was in the unique position of living between two cultures. I began to see the advantages and the disadvantages of both societies.
In Western societies, institutions were strong while they were collapsing in our country. However, there was an area where we were and still are superior, and that is our family life. I began to realize that this was the Western society’s biggest loss. In trying to free itself from the oppression of the clergy, they had removed both God and religion from their lives.
While science, no matter how much it progresses, can answer a lot of questions – two questions it will never be able to answer: One, what is the purpose of our existence and two, what happens to us when we die?
It is this vacuum that I felt created the materialistic and the hedonistic culture. If this is the only life then one must make hay while the sun shines – and in order to do so one needs money. Such a culture is bound to cause psychological problems in a human being, as there was going to be an imbalance between the body and the soul.
Consequently, in the US, which has shown the greatest materialistic progress while giving its citizens numerous rights, almost 60 percent of the population consult psychiatrists. Yet, amazingly in modern psychology, there is no study of the human soul. Sweden and Switzerland, who provide the most welfare to their citizens, also have the highest suicide rates.Hence, man is not necessarily content with material well being and needs something more.
Since all morality has it roots in religion, once religion was removed, immorality has progressively grown since the 70s. Its direct impact has been on family life. In the UK the divorce rate is 60 percent, while it is estimated that there are over 35 percent single mothers. The crime rate is rising in almost all Western societies, but the most disturbing fact is the alarming increase in racism. While science always tries to prove the inequality of man (recent survey showing the American Black to be genetically less intelligent than whites) it is only religion that preaches the equality of man.
Between 1991 and 1997, it was estimated that total immigration into Europe was around 520,000 and there were racially motivated attacks all over, especially in Britain, France and Germany. In Pakistan during the Afghan war, we had over four million refugees, and despite the people being so much poorer, there was no racial tension.
There was a sequence of events in the 80s that moved me toward God as the Qur’an says: ‘There are signs for people of understanding. ‘ One of them was cricket. As I was a student of the game, the more I understood the game, the more I began to realize that what I considered to be chance was, in fact, the will of Allah. A pattern which became clearer with time. But it was not until Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’ that my understanding of Islam began to develop.
People like me who were living in the Western world bore the brunt of anti-Islam prejudice that followed the Muslim reaction to the book. We were left with two choices: fight or flight. Since I felt strongly that the attacks on Islam were unfair, I decided to fight. It was then I realized that I was not equipped to do so as my knowledge of Islam was inadequate. Hence I started my research and for me a period of my greatest enlightenment. I read scholars like Ali Shariati, Muhammad Asad, Iqbal, Gai Eaton, plus of course, a study of Qur’an.
I will try to explain as concisely as is possible, what ‘discovering the truth’ meant for me. When the believers are addressed in the Qur’an, it always says ‘Those who believe and do good deeds.’ In other words, a Muslim has dual function, one toward God and the other toward fellow human beings.
The greatest impact of believing in God for me, meant that I lost all fear of human beings. The Qur’an liberates man from man when it says that life and death and respect and humiliation are God’s jurisdiction, so we do not have to bow before other human beings.
Moreover, since this is a transitory world where we prepare for the eternal one, I broke out of the self-imposed prisons, such as growing old (such a curse in the Western world, as a result of which, plastic surgeons are having a field day), materialism, ego, what people say and so on. It is important to note that one does not eliminate earthly desires. But instead of being controlled by them, one controls them.
By following the second part of believing in Islam, I have become a better human being. Rather than being self-centered and living for the self, I feel that because the Almighty gave so much to me, in turn I must use that blessing to help the less privileged. This I did by following the fundamentals of Islam rather than becoming a Kalashnikov wielding fanatic.
I have become a tolerant and a giving human being who feels compassion for the underprivileged. Instead of attributing success to myself, I know it is because of God’s will, hence I learned humility instead of arrogance.
Also, instead of the snobbish Brown Sahib attitude toward our masses, I believe in egalitarianism and strongly feel against the injustice done to the weak in our society. According to the Qur’an, ‘Oppression is worse than killing.’ In fact only now do I understand the true meaning of Islam, if you submit to the will of Allah, you have inner peace. Through my faith, I have discovered strength within me that I never knew existed and that has released my potential in life. I feel that in Pakistan we have selective Islam. Just believing in God and going through the rituals is not enough. One also has to be a good human being. I feel there are certain Western countries with far more Islamic traits than us in Pakistan, especially in the way they protect the rights of their citizens, or for that matter their justice system. In fact some of the finest individuals I know live there.
What I dislike about them is their double standards in the way they protect the rights of their citizens but consider citizens of other countries as being somehow inferior to them as human being, e.g. dumping toxic waste in the Third World, advertising cigarettes that are not allowed in the West and selling drugs that are banned in the West.
One of the problems facing Pakistan is the polarization of two reactionary groups. On the one side is the Westernized group that looks upon Islam through Western eyes and has inadequate knowledge about the subject. It reacts strongly to anyone trying to impose Islam in society and wants only a selective part of the religion. On the other extreme is the group that reacts to this Westernized elite and in trying to become a defender of the faith, takes up such intolerant and self-righteous attitudes that are repugnant to the spirit of Islam.
What needs to be done is to somehow start a dialogue between the two extreme. In order for this to happen, the group on whom the greatest proportion of our educational resources are spent in this country must study Islam properly.
Whether they become practicing Muslims or believe in God is entirely a personal choice. As the Qur’an tells us there is ‘no compulsion in religion.’ However, they must arm themselves with knowledge as a weapon to fight extremism. Just by turning up their noses at extremism the problem is not going to be solved.
The Qur’an calls Muslims ‘the middle nation’, not of extremes. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was told to simply give the message and not worry whether people converted or not, therefore, there is no question in Islam of forcing your opinions on anyone else.
Moreover, we are told to respect other religions, their places of worship and their prophets. It should be noted that no Muslim missionaries or armies ever went to Malaysia or Indonesia. The people converted to Islam due to the high principles and impeccable character of the Muslim traders. At the moment, the worst advertisements for Islam are the countries with their selective Islam, especially where religion is used to deprive people of their rights. In fact, a society that obeys fundamentals of Islam has to be a liberal one.
If Pakistan’s Westernized class starts to study Islam, not only will it be able to help society fight sectarianism and extremism, but it will also make them realize what a progressive religion Islam is. They will also be able to help the Western world by articulating Islamic concepts. Recently, Prince Charles accepted that the Western world can learn from Islam.But how can this happen if the group that is in the best position to project Islam gets its attitudes from the West and considers Islam backward? Islam is a universal religion and that is why our Prophet (peace be upon him) was called a Mercy for all mankind.