With Just 10 Nobel Prizes, Are 1.5 Billion Muslims Really Fratricidal Low Achievers?

Are today's Muslims fratricidal low-achievers? Are Muslims unique in their lack of achievement and propensity for fratricidal violence? Are there other religious and racial groups which share these traits with Muslims?

It has become fashionable among Muslims and non-Muslims alike to bash followers of the Islamic faith for their lack of achievement and propensity for fratricidal violence. Some criticize Muslims for having won only 10 Nobel prizes since the prize was launched in 1901. Others lambaste Muslims for killing each other. Let's examine both of these charges in some detail below:

Muslims as Low Achievers:

Renowned atheist scholar Richard Dawkins has recently disparaged Muslims by pointing out that the entire Muslim world has had fewer Nobels (10) than Cambridge University's Trinity College (32).  He is not alone in attacking Muslims for their lack of achievements; I have heard this from many Muslim critics for many years.

What Dawkins and other critics, including well-meaning self-critical Muslims,  fail to mention, according to Christian Science Monitor, is the fact that other large (billion-plus) religious, gender and ethnic groups have won even fewer Nobels than ten won by Muslims: Hindus (four),  Chinese (eight) and Africans (nine).  Or the fact that women have only won 44 Nobel Prizes, compared with 791 for mostly white men.


It is important to note that today's Muslims and other ethnic-religious groups with very few Nobel prizes have grown up under the shadow of colonial and neo-colonial rule which followed the Industrial Revolution and preceded the launch of Nobel prizes in 1901. Going back in history, it was the Industrial Revolution that created technology which led to the ascendance of the West and the colonization of the East. It marked the beginning of a major shift in economic, military and political power from East to West.


Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor explains it as follows:

"Dawkins, as an educated man, should be well aware of the legacy of colonialism and of simple poverty…. When the Nobel Prize was founded in 1901, the vast majority of the world's Muslims lived in countries ruled by foreign powers, and for much of the 20th century Muslims did not have much access to great centres of learning like Cambridge. The ranks of Nobel Prize winners have traditionally been dominated by white, Western men - a reflection of both the economic might of the West in the past century, preferential access to education for that class of people as well as a wonderful intellectual tradition ."

Dawkins' tweet did acknowledge that "they (Muslims) did great things in the middle ages". Clearly,  the history of humanity is not just 100 years old. It did not begin with the launch of Nobels in 1901. It stretches much further back. The defining work of Muslims in earlier centuries (8th to 13th century)  built the foundation on which modern science and today's Nobel Laureates stand. It included development of decimal number system (still called Arabic numerals), Algebra (Al-Khwarizmi), the concepts of scientific method (Al Biruni)  and algorithms (Al Khwarizmi), first camera (Al Haitham), Medicine (Avicenna),  first human flight (Ibn Firnas), astrolabe (Al Frazari) etc.

In "Lost Discoveries" by Dick Teresi, the author says, "Clearly, the Arabs served as a conduit, but the math laid on the doorstep of Renaissance Europe cannot be attributed solely to ancient Greece. It incorporates the accomplishments of Sumer, Babylonia, Egypt, India, China and the far reaches of the Medieval Islamic world." Teresi by his description of the work done by Copernicus. Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, a Persian Muslim astronomer and mathematician, developed at least one of Copernicus's theorems, now called The Tusi Couple, three hundred years before Copernicus. Copernicus used the theorem without offering any proof or giving credit to al-Tusi. This was pointed out by Kepler, who looked at Copernicus's work before he developed his own elliptical orbits idea. A second theorem found in Copernican system, called Urdi lemma, was developed by another Muslim scientist Mu'ayyad al-Din al-Urdi, in 1250. Again, Copernicus neither offered proof nor gave credit to al-Urdi. Columbia University's George Saliba believes Copernicus didn't credit him because Muslims were not popular in 16th century Europe, not unlike the situation today."

Fratricidal Tendencies Among Muslims:

Muslims are killing Muslims, say the critics. This begs the question: Is this something unique among Muslims? Who kills 30,000 Americans each year? Is it not Americans? Who is responsible for the 40,000 reported homicides in India (actuals are likely much higher) every year? Is it not fellow Indians? Mostly Hindus?

Who killed Gandhi? Was it not Nathuram Godse, a fellow Hindu? Who killed Yitzhak Rabin? Was it not  Yigal Amir, a fellow Jew? Who killed Abraham Lincoln? Was it not John Wilkes Booth, a fellow American?

The fact is that almost every nation-state has had periods of excessive violence such as civil wars.  Fratricidal deaths have accounted for the great bulk of deaths in almost every nation since the beginning of time. Such deaths have occurred in great numbers in almost every society since Adam and Eve's son Cain is alleged to have killed his brother Abel. Every period of great change in human history has been almost always been accompanied by massive violence that Muslims are experiencing now.

Anti-Muslim Bigotry:

Dawkins' comments appear to be motivated by growing anti-Muslim bigotry in the West, especially because he prefaced them by saying "Who the hell do these Muslims think they are?"  But the fact that he singled out Muslims for criticism and ignored other groups who have achieved even less seems to indicate that he holds Muslims to a higher standard than others, including Blacks, Chinese and Indians who are almost as numerous. I'd prefer that Muslims see as a challenge rather than be offended by it. At the very least, it signals that Muslims are not being subjected to what George W. Bush once described as "soft bigotry of low expectation".

The Challenge for Muslims:

Are Muslims taking the challenge thrown by Dawkins seriously? The answer is a qualified yes. They are beginning to do it.

Pakistan has had an impressive 50 per cent increase in the number of research publications during just the last two years, going up from 3939 to 6200. This has been the second highest increase worldwide. SCimago, the world's leading research database, is forecasting that if this research trend from Pakistan continues, then by 2018, Pakistan will move ahead 16 notches in world ranking, from 43 to 27, and for the first time ever, will cross Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand in Asia, according to a report in The Nation newspaper.  Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Malaysia are other Muslim nations which figure prominently on SCimago rankings.

As to the violence, it is likely to continue for a while longer as vast swaths of the Muslim world sort out their differences on fundamental questions of the role of religion in society and government and settle on a model that delivers what the Muslim world needs most: good clean and responsive governance. Fortunately, there are successful models within the Muslim world in countries like Turkey and Malaysia.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Obama, Islam and Science

Educational Attainment in India and Pakistan

Biotech and Genomics Advances in Pakistan

Pakistani Students Studying Abroad

Pakistan Manufacturing Tablet PCs

Military's Role in Pakistan's Industrialization

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistan's Defense Industry Goes High-Tech

Pakistan Launches UAV Production Line at Kamra

Pakistan Going Mainstream in IT Products

Pakistan Launches 100 Mbps FTTH Access

Pakistan's $2.8 Billion IT Industry

Pakistan's Software Prodigy

Developing Pakistan's Intellectual Capital

Pakistan Graduation Rates Higher Than India's

Pakistan Conducting Research in Antarctica

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

Higher Education Reforms in Pakistan



Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Huffington Post review of a book about second Industrial Revolution:

Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson, from MIT's Center for Digital Business, have a new book out this week called, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.
--------
That's why we invited McAfee to join EMC's leadership team in Boston a couple of weeks ago to talk with us about how every business model in every industry is going to be redefined in some form by software. If the first machine age was about the automation of manual labor and horsepower, the second machine age is about the automation of knowledge work, thanks to the proliferation of real time, predictive data analytics, machine learning and the Internet of Things -- an estimated 200 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, all of them generating unimaginable quantities of data.

McAfee and Brynjolfsson's favorite example of automated work is Google's self-driving car, a marvel of ingenuity enabled by technology's ability to capture the data of so many moving variables and act on them instantly, free of human error. If a self-driving car seems far-fetched, how about software that grades students' essays more objectively, consistently and quickly than humans? Or news articles on Forbes.com about corporate earnings previews -- "all generated by algorithms without human involvement."

We used to speak about how organizations had access to databases. Now, leading organizations are building "data lakes" -- giant reservoirs of information in heterogeneous formats, to aid decision-making and to offer new services to customers. Mobile apps collect intelligence from vast networks of drivers on highways to direct us to the least congested routes between points A and B. "Massive online open courses" offer thousands of college level students access to the best lecturers halfway around the world -- at a fraction of the cost.

But progress always has a flip side -- and its critics. Sweeping technology-driven transformations are as much about disruption and dislocation as opportunity. To explore this trade-off, we at EMC are hosting a breakfast conversation in Davos on Thursday with McAfee, Brynjolfsson and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who has written about these topics in previous books and columns. No conversation about the future can ignore the human costs of progress or the discomforting question of whether everyone is adequately prepared.

On this question, McAfee and Brynjolfsson are generally optimistic about the future of technology and the opportunities for humanity. The good news is, living standards increase with gains in productivity. But why are so many innovative large companies awash in cash while unemployment rates have hardly budged?

Harvard Business School's Clayton Christensen, who has devoted a career to studying disruptive innovation, spoke with us about this recently. The challenge, he notes, is that so much of the innovation we see in the world today is efficiency-based in nature: it's about doing familiar things in cheaper, more efficient ways.

In The Second Machine Age, the great software-defined businesses of tomorrow will be the ones that usher in breakthrough innovations that do new things entirely -- the kind of innovation that generates new value by opening up unforeseen market opportunities: new products, new services, new ways of servicing customers, and new jobs. That's what the first machine age was all about. Ready or not, the second machine age is already underway. And the value and disruption it will generate will stagger us all.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-teuber/the-coming-of-the-second-machine-age_b_4648207.html
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt of a NY Post Op Ed by Bill Cosby:

I’m a Christian. But Muslims are misunderstood. Intentionally misunderstood. We should all be more like them. They make sense, especially with their children. There is no other group like the Black Muslims, who put so much effort into teaching children the right things, they don’t smoke, they don’t drink or overindulge in alcohol, they protect their women, they command respect. And what do these other people do?
They complain about them, they criticize them. We’d be a better world if we emulated them. We don’t have to become black Muslims, but we can embrace the things that work.


http://nypost.com/2013/06/09/bill-cosby-a-plague-called-apathy/
Riaz Haq said…
By Akbar Ahmad


One of the right-wing tropes about Islam in Europe, which is making alarming inroads into the mainstream, is that it represents a "culture of backwardness, of retardedness, of barbarism" and has made no contribution to Western civilization. Islam provides an easy target considering that some 3,000 or more Europeans are estimated to have left for the Middle East in order to fight alongside the Islamic State. The savage beheadings and disgusting treatment of women and minorities confirm in the minds of many that Islam is incompatible with Western civilization. This has become a widely known, and even unthinkingly accepted, proposition. But is it correct?

Let us look at European history for answers. At least 10 things will surprise you:

1. Contrary to common belief, Muslims did not first arrive in Europe with the intention of conquering it.

A small military contingent landed on the southern coast of Spain in 711 in response to the pleadings of the Jewish community, which faced harsh persecution under the Visigoth rulers. The arrival of the Muslims and their victory prevented what New York University Professor David Levering Lewis terms "the final solution." Christian leaders like Count Julian, whose daughter had been dishonored at court, had also been requesting Muslim intervention. It is precisely this reason, the support of large sections of local society, that allowed the Muslims to so easily establish their domination over Al-Andalus.

2. By describing Muslims as "backward", "retarded" and "barbaric," it is suggested that they are not capable of balancing their religion with rational thought. Yet Muslims had already attained a balance between the two positions centuries before other European societies.

The debate between faith and reason that had been agitating Muslim philosophers and had begun since the birth of Islam and its first encounters with Greek philosophy found one of its most sophisticated votaries in Ibn Rushd, or Averroës, in 12th century Andalusia. Averroës' translations and commentaries on Aristotle and Plato so influenced scholars like Thomas Aquinas that he and others across Europe, assuming his name needed no elaboration, referred to Ibn Rushd simply as "The Commentator."

3. The first man ever to fly was the scholar Ibn Firnas near Cordoba in the 9th century.

Its streets were lit and there were baths, gardens and libraries everywhere. The main library was estimated to have 400,000 books when the largest library in Europe, in Switzerland, had 800 volumes. Visitors came from all over the continent to marvel at Andalusian civilization, and a nun in Saxony called Hroswitha described it as ''the ornament of the world.''

5. Islam is frequently accused of being intolerant and rejecting harmony with other cultures and religions. Yet Muslim Spain or Andalusian civilization offers one of the most shining examples of harmony, peace and prosperity between different religions in the history of Europe.

At one point the capacity of people of different faiths to live and work together in Andalusia was illustrated by its ruler Abd Al-Rahman III in the 10th century. His chief minister was Jewish and his ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I was the Catholic Bishop Racemundo. The Spanish term La Convivencia or Coexistence describes that time in Al-Andalus. Harmony at the political level engendered creativity and prosperity. Others saw it differently. Muslim tribes fresh from the deserts and mountains of North Africa looked on Andalusian society as decadent and corrupt. They destroyed Madina-at-Zahra, the beautiful royal town built in the hills near Cordoba considered the gem of Andalusian architecture. Scholars like the great Rabbi Maimonides and Averroës were forced into exile from their beloved Cordoba.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/akbar-ahmed/right-wing-europeans-islam_b_7548098.html
Riaz Haq said…
Why Sir Syed loses and Allama Iqbal wins in #Pakistan? Rationalists vs Traditionalists. #Islam http://tribune.com.pk/story/504576/why-sir-syed-loses-and-allama-iqbal-wins-in-pakistan/ …

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy's Op Ed on Sir Syed and Allama Iqbal:

In Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq, he writes: “Yes, if the Mussulman be a true warrior and thinks his religion correct, then let him come fearlessly to the battleground and do unto Western knowledge and modern research what his forefathers did to Greek philosophy. Only then shall our religious books be of any real use. Mere parroting and praising ourselves will not do.” (“Apnay moon mian mithoo kahney say koee faida nahin”)

In his mind, the way forward was clear: Indian Muslims must learn the English language, practice the scientific method, accept that physical phenomena are explainable by physics only, and support British imperial rule against the rule of Mughals (who had by then sunk into decadence and depravity). This last piece of advice made him a target of bitter ridicule by secular nationalists such as Jamaluddin Afghani.

Sir Syed accepted the Holy Quran as divinely revealed but he frequently reminded his readers of Islam’s forgotten rationalist (Mutazilite) tradition, as in the works of Averroes. He proposed a radical reinterpretation of the Holy Quran to make it compatible with science and modernity. Among other matters this involved understanding miracles, which science cannot accept as factual. Sir Syed therefore explained the Great Flood, as well as various miracles of Jesus, to be purely allegorical and symbolic. He also interpreted Islamic laws as actually forbidding polygamy and amputation of limbs. Quite expectedly, his claims provoked a furious reaction from the ulema of the time and he was decried as a heretic.

Sir Syed’s writings are all in Urdu and, whether or not one agrees with him, his clarity in supporting modernity and science is manifest. Equally, his remedies for social reform are clear and unambiguous. On the other hand the Allama’s only serious prose is to be found in English, and he leaves key questions unanswered or ambiguous. At times, to revive Islamic civilisation, Iqbal appears to call for a return to the sword. But at other times he stresses the enhancement of khudi — a sophisticated philosophical construct roughly describable as self-esteem. This construct, however, has a plethora of interpretations. Does it belong to the physical world? Will more khudi bring more order or more anarchy?

Iqbal’s politics, routed through his soul-stirring poetry, is the real reason why he is Pakistan’s supreme icon today. In his epic poem shikwa, like Samuel Huntington, he frames the world exclusively in terms of us-versus-them and the superiority of one civilization over all others. His pan-Islamic mard-e-momin belongs to the ummah and this perfect human aspires to martyrdom: shahadat hai matloob o maqsood-e-momin. Like a falcon, the mard-e-momin is a fighter and above worldly desire: tu shaheen hai basera kar paharon kee chatanon main. These verses can be found in Pakistan Army magazines, on its recruiting banners, and are sung with great fervour.

Iqbal, unlike Sir Syed, leaves the gap between science and religion unbridged. He takes no explicit position on miracles. On the contrary, he asserts that, “Classical Physics has learned to criticise its own foundations. As a result of this criticism the kind of materialism, which it originally necessitated, is rapidly disappearing.” But no real physicist can take this statement seriously. Even with the discovery of quantum physics — which superseded and improved upon classical physics — the description of observed physical phenomena requires nothing beyond material causes. In the battle for Pakistan’s soul, Sir Syed’s rational approach ultimately lost out and the Allama’s call on emotive reasoning won. Iqbal said what people wanted to hear — and his genius lay in crafting it with beautifully chosen words. Unfortunately, his prescriptions for reconstructing society cannot help us in digging ourselves out of a hole.

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