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Islamic world - CGISS

Islamic world - CGISS

NATURE|Vol 444|2

NATURE|Vol 444|2 November 2006 ISLAM AND SCIENCE NEWS FEATURE PAKISTAN Tanks and technology Pakistan’s history of perpetual military coups is a disaster for democracy. But the men in tanks have been more generous than civilians when it comes to funding science and technology. Pakistan’s national biotechnology institute, for example, owes its existence to former President General Zia ul-Haq (military coup, 1977). In contrast, a decade of civilian rule after the general’s death saw research funding drop to critically low levels — former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto did not even appoint a science minister. Credit for current science and technology funding — the highest it has ever been — goes to President General Pervez Musharraf (military coup, 1999). Musharraf has handed the task of reorganizing research and higher education to Atta-ur-Rahman, a chemistry professor at the University of Karachi. Rahman’s many reforms include increasing the number of universities and sending more students 10 12 18 16 20 17 25 5 8 7 15 24 14 1 30 9 6 19 31 49 13 33 34 23 2 abroad to train. Schemes to attract foreign faculty members to work in Pakistan’s universities, and performance-related pay for the country’s own academics, have been more controversial. Critics of the reforms include Pervez Hoodbhoy, physics professor at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. He says that formerly cash-starved ministries lack the management capacity to spend their windfall wisely, and that the expanding university numbers have not been matched by a commitment to quality. Pakistani researchers, meanwhile, are unhappy that foreign faculty members get higher salaries for the same work. Rahman says he understands the criticisms. But he is a man in a hurry. General Zia’s life ended in a plane crash in 1988. There have already been two attempts on Musharraf’s life. Rahman knows the boom will end when the general leaves office. Ehsan Masood 41 3 32 29 26 27 39 45 37 28 11 22 48 38 40 35 36 42 44 43 46 51 47 55 SAUDI ARABIA Slow starter A year after the birth of independent Saudi Arabia in 1932, the kingdom’s rulers faced a problem with the public acceptance of technology. The dilemma was caused when US oil companies prospecting in the region requested permission to take aerial images of the desert. Newly crowned King Ibn Saud, founder of the present Saudi dynasty, had two concerns. First, that indigenous tribes might shoot at something they considered to be extraterrestrial. Second, if religious authorities believed that the onboard cameras could glimpse the face of God, it would invite divine wrath. This story, told in Oil, God, and Gold by Anthony Cave Brown, helps to explain why the world’s largest oil producer still remains one of the world’s lowest producers of scientific knowledge. It took 20 years for a ministry of 52 50 54 53 education to be created. The country’s science ministry did not emerge until 1977. Even today, Saudi Arabia spends just 0.25% of its gross domestic product on science and technology. Despite this, there are some bright spots. The number of specialist science and engineering colleges has doubled to 64 in the past decade, and the number of students enrolled in related degrees has also doubled to 76,000. Moreover, Saudi society has progressed considerably in its acceptance of new technology. According to Saleh Al Athel, president of the science ministry, genetic modification in agriculture is permitted within conventional biosafety limits. But pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is forbidden as it is seen as interfering with divine will. Ehsan Masood 4 21 POPULATION OF THE OIC COUNTRIES (total, thousands, in 2000)* Sub-Saharan Africa 1. Nigeria 113,862 2. Sudan 31,095 3. Uganda 23,300 4. Mozambique 18,292 5. Côte d’Ivoire 16,013 6. Cameroon 14,876 7. Burkina Faso 11,535 8. Mali 11,351 9 Niger 10,832 10. Senegal 9,421 11. Somalia 8,778 12. Guinea 8,154 13. Chad 7,885 14. Benin 6,272 15. Togo 4,527 16. Sierra Leone 4,405 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. Mauritania 2,665 Gambia 1,303 Gabon 1,230 Guinea-Bissau 1,199 Comoros 706 Middle East & North Africa 22. Iran 70,330 23. Egypt 67,884 24. Algeria 30,291 25. Morocco (including Western Sahara) 29,878 26. Iraq 22,946 27. Saudi Arabia 20,346 28. Yemen 18,349 29. Syria 16,189 30. Tunisia 9,459 31. Libya 5,290 32. Jordan 4,913 33. Lebanon 3,496 34. Occupied Palestinian Territory 3,191 35. United Arab Emirates 2,606 36. Oman 2,538 37. Kuwait 1,914 38. Bahrain 640 39. Djibouti 632 40. Qatar 565 Europe & Central Asia 41. Turkey 66,668 42. Uzbekistan 24,881 43. Afghanistan 21,765 44. Kazakhstan 16,172 45. Azerbaijan 8,041 46. Tajikistan 6,087 47. Kyrgyzstan 4,921 48. Turkmenistan 4,737 49. Albania 3,134 South & East Asia and Pacific 50. Indonesia 212,092 51. Pakistan 141,256 52. Bangladesh 137,439 53. Malaysia 22,218 54. Brunei Darussalam 328 55. Maldives 291 Latin America & Caribbean 56. Guyana 761 57. Suriname 417 SOURCE: SEDAC *Many countries outside the OIC have sizeable Muslim populations, notably India, which is home to 175 million Muslims. 21

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