Prime Minister Imran Khan recently organized a dialogue among several prominent Muslim scholars around the world under the aegis of the new Rehmatul-Lil-Aalameen Authority. The theme was, Islam, Society and Ethical Values, and all participants stressed the importance of inculcating fundamental values in Muslim society as defined by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). However, none of them had a practical solution to arrest the downfall of morality and ethics in all Muslim nations of the world.
Renowned participants of this dialogue with the Prime Minister were George Washington University, Professor of Islamic Studies Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasir, President of Zaytun College Hamza Yousuf, Dean of Cambridge Muslim College 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, Rector of Turkey, Dr Recep Senturk, and Chairman of the UAE Fatwa Council, Abdullah bin Bayyah.
Imran Khan believed that corruption and sexual crimes are the main social evils in the Muslim world and that we need the will and the means to fight these evils in our Muslim society. He said he was worried about social media’s invasion of faith, religious and ethical values. And that he wants to protect young people from the obscenity and pornography so readily available on the Internet. Scholars agreed with his assertion that young Muslims should be protected and taught to deal with these evils in society.
Imran Khan, with his dreams of establishing another Riasat-i-Madina, seemed rather vague and out of step with the realities of modern society and seemed utterly unaware of the gravity of the problems facing the Muslim nations of the world. His remarks and questions to the panel were based on a very narrow perspective and lacked in-depth knowledge about the causes of backwardness in Muslim countries. The fundamental problem facing the Muslim world, according to Turkish scholar Mustafa Alyol, is the reopening of Muslim minds. It is about returning to reason, logic, freedom, tolerance and enlightenment.
The discussion with prominent Muslim scholars did not address the real reasons and causes for the downfall of Muslim nations and their poor performance in academics, research, economics and politics. The Muslim world today is a world of young people, who constitute the majority of all Muslim countries. These young people in the Muslim world need democracy, education, human rights and freedom of expression and speech. Muslim scholars need to look into the causes of the absence of democracy and renowned academic institutions in the Muslim world. Muslim countries are plagued by obscurantism and religious extremism. There is more freedom of religion in non-Muslim countries than in Muslim countries. Muslim countries lag behind in social and economic development indicators. Muslim nations produce very few scientists, engineers, technicians and social scientists compared to the non-Muslim world. Muslims now make up nearly twenty-five percent of the world’s population and many Muslim countries are rich in natural resources, such as oil and gas, but Muslim countries suffer from the scourge of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, fanaticism and religious sectarianism. The Muslim world today lags far behind Western democracies in economics, education, industry, agriculture and human rights.
The discussion with prominent Muslim scholars did not address the real reasons and causes for the downfall of Muslim nations and their poor performance in academics, research, economics and politics.
Imran Khan and respected Muslim scholars should have discussed and deepened the causes of such low level of science education in Muslim countries. Today, the world’s Muslim population exceeds two billion. According to a study conducted a few years ago, forty-six Muslim countries together contributed only one percent of the world’s scientific literature. India alone has contributed more to world scientific literature than these Muslim countries put together. A lack of interest and investment in scientific disciplines is one of the major reasons for this descent into ignorance and backwardness in the Muslim world. Ironically, when such blatant examples of ignorance and backwardness are presented by eminent scholars and educators, like Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoye, they are insulted and vilified and even called agents of the Western and Jewish lobby.
Close-mindedness, ignorance, religious extremism and a powerful mixture of state and religion are the real causes of poverty and backwardness. Imran Khan must understand that the negative impact of social media is not the cause of our problems. The obscurantist mindset of our rulers cannot think past its religious nose. This is 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 the scientific, logical and empirical thinking of our young people and scholars.
Today we face the great danger of religious scholars determining what should or should not be taught in our colleges and universities and this policy seems to have the Prime Minister’s blessing. The newly established Rahmatul-lil-Aalameen Authority has been tasked with overseeing the education system and the media and ensuring that they conform to the requirements of an Islamic system. This raised many questions about the aims of this authority, headed by a highly controversial person with rather dubious credentials as a scholar. There is certainly a need for a constructive dialogue with Muslim scholars and their councils, but they should focus on determining the real causes of decline in the Muslim world and not just on a regressive interpretation of religious thought.
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