Biography

Professor Jackie Ying

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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.

Her Life

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.

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Remembering : Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (1938-2004)

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Yassin who survived the Palestinian Disaster (Al Nakba) of 1948 learned an important lesson that impacted his intellectual and political life forever, a lesson that says Palestinians can only depend on themselves and arm their people without depending on other nations or the international community.

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Childhood

Ahmed Ismael Yassin was born in 1938 in the destroyed village of Al-Joura, Majdal district, near the present-day Zionist town of Ashkelon — or Askalan in Arabic. Yassin’s father died when he was five years old.

The young Ahmed Yassin joined Al Jora elementary school and continued studying there till the fifth grade until 1948. In 1948 Nakba or the usurpation of most of Palestine at the hands of Zionist gangs the young Yassin was forced to flee at the age of 12 along with his family and thousands of other refugees southwards to the Gaza Strip after Zionist forces overran his village and threatened to kill its inhabitants. This nightmarish experience seems to have had a particularly strong impact in shaping the psychological build-up of a boy who would later become one of the Zionists most trenchant enemies. His birthplace was bulldozed, along with nearly 500 other Palestinian towns and villages in 1948, following the occupation of Palestine.

Yassin who survived the Palestinian Disaster (Al Nakba) of 1948 learned an important lesson that impacted his intellectual and political life forever, a lesson that says Palestinians can only depend on themselves and arm their people without depending on other nations or the international community.

Education

Yassin graduated from secondary school in the year 1957/1958 and managed to get a job as a teacher despite objection to his health condition. In 1959 he went to Egypt where he spent some time studying at Ain Shams University. There he received a college diploma and, more importantly, was deeply influenced by the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In 1962, shortly after his return to Gaza, Yassin was briefly detained by the Egyptian authorities in connection with his activities within the Muslim Brotherhood in opposition to the regime of then Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. He was put in a solitary confinement cell for a month, until he was released after he was proved not to be involved with the Brotherhood. His detention period affected him significantly, and “rooted the hate of injustice” in his soul, as he said in an interview.

Work under the life of agony:

In Gaza things changed and he and  his family  lived the life of refugees, similar to most of the Palestinians at that time, tasting the bitter feelings of hunger and deprivation. He used to go to the Egyptian army camps near Gaza to gather the soldiers’ leftovers and go back with it to his family.

Yassin quit school between 1949-1950 to support his seven-member family working in one of the restaurants in Gaza, and then returned back to school. In 1952, Yassin was injured while playing sport, leaving him a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. However, paralysis did not put an end to his ambitions. He worked as an Arabic and religion  teacher and later a preacher in the Gaza mosques. He turned into one of the most vociferous and most famous Khatibs in the Gaza Strip following its occupation in 1967.

Political life

In his 20’s, Yassin participated in the demonstrations that broke out in Gaza to denounce the 1956 tripartite aggression on Egypt, and showed immense public speech and political intellect . He became actively involved in the calls opposing to an international supervision over Gaza, stressing the need to regain Egyptian administration on the lands again.

Working as a preacher in Gaza  allowed him to spread the  MB ideas and to gather hundreds of supporters who later came to form the nucleus of Hamas. The message he spread was that the loss of Palestine in 1948 was merely a symptom of the stagnation of the Islamic Ummah. The solution he demanded lay in the reinstatement of Islam as a unifying political force by overthrowing all existing Arab secular regimes which he described as un-Islamic or anti-Islamic.

After the 1967 war, in which the Zionists occupied all the Palestinian territories including the Gaza Strip, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin continued inspiring the Muslims and Palestinians from the Al Abbasi Mosque’s rostrum, calling to the resistance of the occupation. He turned into one of the most vociferous and most famous preachers in the Gaza Strip following its occupation in 1967. At the same time he was involved in gathering donations to help the families of the martyrs and prisoners, later to work as a president of the Islamic Complex in Gaza.

Sheikh Yassin follows the principles and ideology of the Islamic Brotherhood that was established in Egypt in 1928 by the Imam Hassan Al Banna.

Yassin Began to Work with Mujahedin

In 1982, Yassin started to form local resistance cells under the code name Majd, with the help of some prominent Muslim Brotherhood figures in Jordan who financed his weapon purchases. Soon afterwards the Zionist occupation authorities found out and Yassin was arrested and sentenced to 13 years in prison for forming a resistance group and possessing “illegal” weapons. He also worked as a chairman of the Islamic Complex in Gaza before his arrest in 1984

In 1985 he was released from Zionist custody as part of a prisoner swap between the Zionist entity and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, headed by Ahmed Jebril.

The Sheikh Founded Hamas -1987

After his release, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin founded the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in mid-1987, along with a group of Islamic leaders including Dr. Abd al Aziz al Rantissi in the Gaza Strip. Hamas’ aims  are to resist the Zionist occupation in order to liberate historical Palestine. Hamas had a significant role in the Palestinian Intifada that broke out at that time, and was known as “the revolution of the mosques”. Since that time, Sheikh Yassin was considered the spiritual leader of the movement. Hamas carried out a number of effective attacks mainly on Zionist occupation troops in the Gaza Strip, killing a number of Zionist occupation soldiers and officers.

Arrested again

As the Intifada stepped up its momentum against the Zionist occupation, the Zionists began to think of  means to stop Yassin’s activities, so Zionist soldiers raided his home on August 1988, searched it and threatened him of punishment to Lebanon.

In 1989, two years into the first Intifada, Yassin was again arrested by Zionist occupation authorities. This time he was sentenced to 40 years in prison, charged with calling to armed resistance and charges of inciting to kill and kidnap Zionist occupation soldiers as well as founding of Hamas movement and its military wing.

Disease but No Release

Yassin spent nearly eight years in jail where he suffered a number of other disabilities and diseases including loss of eyesight in his right eye due to Zionist blows during round of interrogations, in addition to weakness in his left eye, as well as chronic otitis and lung allergy, also caused by harsh detention conditions in the Zionist jails. He also suffered from chronic inflammation in his ear, lung infection and other stomach diseases.

On 13/12/1992 a commando cell affiliated with the Qassam Brigades, military wing of Hamas, kidnapped a Zionist soldier and offered to set him free in return for the release of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and a number of other detainees in Zionist jails including sick and elderly Arab captives. However, the Zionist government refused the offer and stormed the house where the soldier was held leading to his death along with commander of the attacking unit and two other soldiers before the martyrdom of the three members of that cell in Bir Nabala near occupied Jerusalem.

Released by Fate but it was not too late

In 1997, Yassin was freed from prison after the late King Hussein of Jordan insisted that the Zionist government of Benyamin Netanyahu release him in exchange for the release from Jordanian custody of two Mossad agents who carried out an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas contingency in Amman. Yassin’s subsequent triumphant return to Gaza significantly enhanced Hamas’ status and granted the movement the position of “second among equals” vis-a-vis the Palestinian Authority.

Yassin and Oslo Accords

Yassin vehemently opposed the Oslo Accords, which he viewed as a “disgraceful capitulation” and “great deception”. Indeed, the intensive construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with the continued confiscation by successive Zionist governments of large swathes of Palestinian land, seemed to vindicate his views in the eyes of many Palestinians.

Yassin Rejects the Civil War

Prior to the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000, Yassin was placed under house arrest, with severed  telephone communications  by the PA, which was under tremendous pressure from the United States and the Zionists to “rein in” Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The Hamas leader was always careful not to allow recurrent frictions with the PA which may evolve into some kind of civil war, which he viewed as “the ultimate Palestinian red line”. Believing that a divided leadership would undermine Palestinian interests, Sheikh Yassin sought to maintain good relations with the Palestinian Authority and with other regimes in the Arab world.

Yassin insisted on the Palestinians Right of Peaceful life

During the ongoing Al-Aqsa Intifada, Yassin consistently held fast to the “robe of resistance”. He argued that freedom is earned, not granted on a silver platter, and that which is taken by force can be only recovered by force. He vehemently defended martyrdom bombings against the Zionist entity, explaining that they constituted only weapon available to the Palestinian people in the face of the enemy with far more powerful military capabilities that is hell-bent on exterminating and crushing the Palestinian people. He repeatedly demanded an end to all attacks targeting Palestinian civilians and un-uniformed Zionists. However, the Zionist entity consistently rejected all initiatives to that effect.

The first attempt to assassinate the Sheikh

Thousands of cheering supporters turned out to watch him vow revenge for the first Zionist attempt on his life in September 2003. This was mirror by millions of Muslims worldwide, having sent shock waves and new calls for Jihad throughout the Ummah.

However, for a staunchly ideological movement like Hamas — where the idea is more important than the leader — it is unlikely that Yassin’s death will seriously undermine the movement in any permanent way. In fact, he had already effectively stopped running the movement’s day-to-day affairs several years ago due to his deteriorating health and relatively old age.

Sheikh Yassin lived his life in his humble home in the Al Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City. He survived with minor injuries a failed attempt on his life by the Zionist occupying forces on September 6, 2003 while he was visiting a friend in Gaza. He was only lightly injured in his right arm. Nonetheless, he remained until his death the most effective and eloquent spokesman of Hamas and the entire Palestinian Islamic camp, despite his severe physical disability.