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Convergence of Islamic World, West need of hour

DOHA: The Islamic World and the West should come together to address the socio-economic problems facing them that have triggered mass protests in many countries, the opening session of the 18th conference of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS) was told yesterday. The two-day conference titled “The Islamic world and the West: Rebuilding bridges through science and technology” is being organised by the Islamic World Academy of Sciences (IAS) in collaboration with the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID). Deputy Premier and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs H E Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud; Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia; Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Founding Patron of the IWAS, Jordan and its president Prof Abdel Salam Majali were among those who addressed the opening session. Mahathir said not only the developing countries but also the developed countries were witnessing mass protests, due to the failure of their governments. “Protests are going on in many developing and developed countries, although the reasons may be different. People are not satisfied with their governments. We are witnessing collapsed financial systems in the West. Countries are becoming bankrupt,” said Mahatir. “The whole world should come together to reconsider the methods of governance. New ideas are required to tackle the crises,” he added. Al Mahmoud said Qatar was proud to host this annual global scientific community gathering, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of IAS. He underlined the strong emphasis on the value of knowledge in the Islamic faith, explaining how the Holy Quran encourages Muslims to learn and to acquire knowledge. Al Mahmoud reaffirmed Qatar’s keenness to promote science and knowledge referring to the Education City and the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP ). Qatar has allocated a large part of the national income to support scientific research and development, said Al Mahmoud. Al Majali noted that failed economic policies and a failure of science-based development were among the factors that have aggravated the societal tensions in the region. “Governance in the majority of Arab countries is in a state of turmoil. Arab regimes are torn between upholding national security — as they perceive it — and maintaining social order on the one hand, and generally adopting good governance practices on the other; these practices include promoting democracy and the ‘rule of law’, promulgating accountability and combating corruption,” said Al Majali. He said the region had been facing “a number of time bombs that have been on the radar for at least a decade.” The first manifests itself in the centralisation of power in many OIC countries, that led to rural areas losing their ability to manage their own affairs. This is failure in the local government policy. The second time bomb is the increase in population which is resulting in unemployment and over-stretching the services sectors. Muslims are young with at least 25 per cent of the population of OIC countries below 15 years of age. This is a double-edged sword for decision-makers. The third time bomb manifested itself in the inability of economies to achieve sustainable economic growth, particularly if the region’s huge expenditure on weapons is taken into account. “These, together with the lack of freedoms and disrespect for human rights, have been the failure of Policies,” said Al Majali. On the role science in the turmoil, he said the majority of OIC countries spend less than one-half of one percent on research and development. “The numbers for human resources active in science are low, and apart from Egypt, Turkey and Iran, the critical mass of researchers is not there in many countries. Moreover, apart from Malaysia, most OIC countries hardly export any high technology products,” said Al Majali. “We also face an uphill challenge in terms adopting science-based development policies to raise the socio-economic level of our countries. At the same time, our S&T community is not making waves in the global knowledge pool notwithstanding Turkey. More importantly perhaps, we are not using science to combat our immediate health, water and energy problems. Clearly, the failure of science-based development has aggravated societal tensions, in the region,” he concluded. A message from Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was read out by Mhammed Ali Mehaiser at the session. “Some People wrongly perceive Islam as an adversary of the West and have been predicting a clash of civilizations. This grave misperception needs to be corrected. Scientific cooperation can be an excellent way to engage in a meaningful dialogue with West as it opens up opportunities to deepen international partnerships and establish mutually beneficial environments,” said the President in the message.

The Peninsula