Crisis of education in Muslim world | By Tariq Aqil

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Crisis of education in Muslim world

THE recent crisis in Palestine has very glaringly exposed the total helplessness inadequacy and political impotence of the Muslim countries.

57 Muslim countries, some of them fabulously rich with their oil money were all helpless to do anything to stop the deadly onslaught or to help the Palestinians in any way. Muslim nations are backward educationally, socially, politically and economically.

We need to make a self-critical study and look at the numbers of Nobel prize winners, Olympic medals, Books published, number of scientists and we see a rather shameful list as compared to the rest of the world.

Why this sorry state of affairs in the Muslim world? The short answer is lack of education. Today we face the sad and stark reality of an Islamic world that is backward and ignorant.

They live on the myths of the past and boast about their history when the Arab culture was heads and shoulders above the European culture with great achievements in mathematics, medicine, astronomy, physics, chemistry and architecture.

The ground reality today is that most of the Muslim world is now seen as a collection of sadists, fanatics, dictatorships and monopolies of loot and plunder inflicting terror on the poor common people. Today Muslim countries have some of the lowest rate of literacy in the world, in universities world rankings there is not a single university in the Muslim world even in the first hundred.

Today India has 4381, USA 3254, China 2595 universities and the Muslim countries are shamefully absent from this list too. Turkey has only 217, Pakistan 347, Bangladesh 168, and Libya 40, Syria 37 universities.

Let us not forget that the India subcontinent had over 900 years of Muslim rule starting with the Ghauris, Lodhis, Khiljis, Syeds, the slave dynasty and finally Mughal rule of over 300 years culminating in the British rule.

The Muslim rulers of India in their rule of India built monuments to self-glory such as the Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar. Shalimar Bagh, Hiran Minar and many forts and mosques but they very scrupulously avoided building any university or research centre.

Even the oil rich Muslim countries have not bothered to invest in education when small countries with no mineral wealth such as Singapore and South Korea have made impressive strides to provide cheap and quality education to their citizens.

Knowledge is power and the source of knowledge is education. Today whether we like it or not the USA is the only superpower in the world why? Because it has some of the best fountains of education and knowledge.

Students from most Muslim countries come here for education ask any student from a Muslim country where you want to go for education the answer invariably will be USA.

The US is the only super power and power corrupts and the US is definitely guilty of committing atrocities in many Muslim countries and yet it is a magnet and the most attractive destination for students and scholars from all over the world especially Muslim countries.

Today there are about 1.3 billion Muslims in the world from the Atlantic coast of North Africa Eastward to Indonesia and the Philippines.

According to UN report in 2002 by a group of Arab scholars 65 million people in the 22 Middle Eastern and African nation’s 65 million adults in these countries are illiterate and two thirds of them are women.

Arabs have translated as many books in the last thousand years as the Spanish now do in one.

There have been only 10 Nobel Prize winners from the Muslim world since the last one hundred years.

Jewish population in the world is hardly 1.3 million and they have won 183 Nobel Prizes as compared to the Muslim population of 1.3 billion.

The economic, social and academic gap between the fortunes of the Islamic nations and those of the western democracies is not a result so much of Muslim failure as Western success.

For almost a thousand years Islamic rulers competed with Christian monarchs for dominance but lost because of lack of education which did not allow them to develop their human resources the way the Europeans did.

By the beginning of the 18th century and the decline of the Ottoman Empire it was apparent that the Muslim world was in a downward spiral.

The Islamic response was to adopt an introvert attitude and they grew more conservative and isolationist.

Religious extremism, fundamentalism and bigotry became the guiding principles for many Islamic countries. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Libya are prime examples.

In 1969 man landed on the moon and many Muslims who consider the moon as a sacred celestial clock simply refused to believe the moon landing.

During the Ottoman rule the printing press was introduced in Turkey and the Muslim clerics termed it a device of the devil and un-Islamic and the press was banned.

Oil wealth has enabled a small elite of the Muslims to get western education but it will not be wrong to say that in most countries of the Islamic world the majority of the people still remain comparatively backward and ignorant.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.

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