I had an occasion to witness a book launch, The Historical Golden Age and contemporary crisis in the Muslim World by Physicist Parvez Hood Bhoy, him being guest and Anchor and Analyst, Syed Muzammil Shah as moderator at Alhamra’s Think Fest. Pervez Hood Bhoy sparked off with reminiscing scientific laureates from Islamic world, such as Ibn-e-rushd, Al Farabi and Ibn-e-seena etc that is to say that Muslims were once the epicenter of scientific feats which is no more a case. In fact Islam is now considered hostile to science and rational thinking especially in Pakistan whose basis could be traced according to Parvez Hood Bhoy in Allama Iqbal’s poetry where he deviated from philosophy as a matter of interest.
All the more so, he particularly quoted Allama Iqbal’s line illustrating his contempt over philosophy that reads, Ibne Seena and Al Farabi doesn’t know that truth comes from the faith and not rationality. Meanwhile both were Muslims as well being a rationalist on the other hand. So, it’s been dichotomous, figuring out the probability of Islam’s relevance with science as in pre modern times, along with Farabi and Ibn-e-seena, Imam Ghazali also ran a school of thought that negated physical law of cause and effect and rather relied on believing, it’s the will of Allah not the physical laws changing the course of life that is to say that if you feel hungry it’s not because your stomach is empty or you haven’t eaten anything but Allah wants you to feel starved, even if you have savored, you would feel hungry if Allah wants you to feel hungry as according to Ghazali world doesn’t run on set principles of cause and effect.
He went on to refer Mutazalla school of thought that existed at the same point of time as of Ghazali who vouched for rational thinking and held that Allah based this world on set principles and he’s not willing to alter it by any mean which he added is a common belief among Christians today. Later on he propounded that Mutazalla school collapsed due to political conflicts which shouldn’t have happened for the sake of productive thinking. While in question answer session, inquisitive questions were hurled by the spirited audience. Parvez Hood Bhoy disgruntled for comparing Dr Abdulsalam with Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. He opined that both are different and it’s unfair to draw analogy between both.
Most enticing question was asked by a girl that premised on unadaptable nature of Muslims for new technologies and then embracing it outright like printing press was undermined by Ottoman Empire. But subsequently Turkey had to incorporate printing press. On the similar lines, in Pakistan, religious syndicates stipulated ban on loud speakers but then themselves had them hung in mosques. Also tv sets were broken in Pakistan by religious wings then they made peace with it by having opened their own tv stations. Thus, it’s been conventional among Muslims to first negate and then accept the technology which once is abhorred for different religious and cultural reasons. Parvez, also replied that Muslims are not adaptable in terms of new technology only if they are left alone in the dust by rest of the world or are pressurized to do so.
As Syed Muzammil Shah was also spearheading the program, he was asked out of the blue a question regarding issues confronted by left wing in Pakistan and curb to it. Muzammil said that it’s not left vs right in Pakistan, it’s left vs State. Had it been left vs right then things would have been easier for left but that’s not the case because religious wing is backed by the state and until unless state doesn’t withdraw it’s support for right wing, things will be going south ever for an enhanced exposure of liberal viewpoint. Parvez Hood Bhoy on question about Pakistani education system said that Pakistani school syllabus is a waste and it better gets drowned in river. Discussing single national curriculum he broached that it could be kept intact for madrassa students but should be kept away from school kids.
While commenting on a question regarding feudal elite controlling Pakistani economy, he said that Indian government purported reforms since the onset of it’s independence and in a matter of time those were precisely adapted and now we can see the difference between Indian and Pakistani Punjab. Indian Punjab is developed a great deal than Pakistani Punjab and yet progressing faster in terms of new agrarian technologies extrapolating production and efficiency. But on contrary Pakistani feudal system is not concerned for the common good. Though some off topic questions were being asked but these all depicted the degree of awareness that Pakistani folks especially youth is having. Parvez Hood Bhoy concluded saying that today’s Pakistan is way different than the era he was born into. He said that Pakistan in his time was far better and welcoming than today’s and let’s hope for getting Pakistan back into those times.
We humans usually await good times in future but just like modern right wings like Modi and Trump supporters around world, Pakistani left wing now also cling their hopes on past and want to get back into golden era of Past, though it’s less older than those of right wing’s model eras.