Prime Minister Imran Khan recently arranged a dialogue among several eminent Muslim scholars of the world under the aegis of the newly established Rehmatul-Lil-Aalameen Authority. The theme was, “Islam, Society and Ethical Values,” and all the participants were emphatic in stressing the importance of inculcating core values in Muslim society as defined by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). However, none of them had a practical solution to stop the downward slide in morality and ethics in all the Muslim nations of the world.
The renowned participants of this dialogue with the prime minister were George Washington University, Islamic Studies Professor Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasir, Zaytun College President Hamza Yousuf, Cambridge Muslim College Dean Dr. Timothy Winter/Abdal Hakim Murad, Malaysian thinker Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, University of Malaya, Malaysia Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and Religion Osman Bakar, Ibn Haldun University, Turkey Rector Dr Recep Senturk, and UAE Fatwa Council Chairman Abdullah bin Bayyah.
Imran Khan opined that corruption and sex crimes are the main social evils in the Muslim world and we need the will and the means to combat these evils in our Muslim society. He said that he worries about the invasion of the social media on the faith, religious and ethical values. And that he wants to protect the youth from obscenity and pornography so easily available on the internet. The scholars agreed with his contention that Muslim youth should be protected and taught how to deal with these evils in society.
Imran Khan, with his dreams of establishing another Riasat-i-Madina, sounded rather vague and out of sync with the realities of modern society and seemed totally clueless about the serious nature of the problems faced by the Muslim nations of the world. His remarks and questions to the panel were based on a very narrow outlook and lacked any depth of knowledge of the causes of backwardness in Muslim countries. The basic problem faced by the Muslim world, according to the Turkish scholar Mustafa Alyol, is the, “reopening of Muslim minds.” It is about going back to reason, logic, freedom, tolerance and enlightenment.
The discussion with eminent Muslim scholars did not touch upon the real reasons and causes of the downfall of the Muslim nations and their poor performance in academics, research, economy, and politics. The Muslim world today is a world of youth, who make up the majority of all Muslim countries. These youngsters of the Muslim world need democracy, education, human rights and freedom of expression and speech. Muslim scholars need to look into the causes of absence of democracy and renowned academic institutions in the Muslim world. Muslim countries are rife in obscurantism and religious extremism. There is more freedom of religion in non-Muslim countries than in Muslim countries. Muslim countries are lagging behind in social and economic development indicators. Muslim nations produce very few scientists, engineers, technicians and social scientists as compared to the non-Muslim world. Muslims are now almost twenty five percent of the world population and many Muslim countries are rich in natural resources, such as oil and gas, yet Muslim countries have the scourge of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, fanaticism and religious bigotry. The Muslim world today trails far behind the western democracies in the fields of economics, education, industry, agriculture and human rights.
The discussion with eminent Muslim scholars did not touch upon the real reasons and causes of the downfall of the Muslim nations and their poor performance in academics, research, economy, and politics.
Imran Khan and the respected Muslim scholars should have discussed and delved into the causes of such a poor level of science education in Muslim countries. Today, the Muslim population of the world is over two billion. According to one study conducted a few years ago, forty-six Muslim countries put together contributed just one percent of the world’s scientific literature. India alone contributed more of the world’s scientific literature than those Muslim countries combined. A lack of interest and investment in scientific disciplines is one of the major reasons for this descent into ignorance and backwardness of the Muslim world. Ironically when such glaring examples of ignorance and backwardness are brought out by eminent scholars and educationists, like Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoye, they are insulted and vilified and even called agents of the Western and the Jewish lobby.
Narrow mindedness, ignorance, religious extremism and a potent mixture of state and religion are the real causes of poverty and backwardness. Imran Khan needs to understand that the negative impact of social media is not the cause of our problems. The obscurantist mindset of our leadership cannot think beyond its religious nose. This is glaringly evident in the new education policy and the new Single National Curriculum. The honorable prime minister should not waste his time in theological and dogmatic discussions and devote more time to encouraging scientific, logical and empirical thinking by our youth and scholars.
Today we are faced with the great danger that religious scholars will determine what should or should not be taught in our colleges and universities and this policy appears to have the blessings of the prime minister. The newly established Rahmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority has been entrusted with the task of monitoring the education system and the media, and to ensure that they conform to the requirements of an Islamic system. This has raised many questions about the objectives of this authority, headed by a very controversial person with rather dubious credentials as a scholar. There is definitely a need for some constructive dialogue with Muslim scholars and their advice, but they should focus on determining the true causes of decline in the Muslim world and not just a regressive interpretation of religious thought.