Wednesday, October 07, 2009

KAUST and King Abdullah

The experiment of an intellectual island in Saudi Arabia has officially started. This island is called King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST). Already, a top Saudi cleric, Sheikh Saad al-Shithri, demanded that KAUST curriculum be vetted by a Sharia committee to prevent "alien ideologies", such as evolution. He also had serious problems with co-education. However, the king used a royal decree to remove this cleric from the council of religious scholars. It seems that King Abdullah is serious about protecting KAUST from religious meddling.

As expected, King Abdullah in his speech at the opening ceremony, stressed the importance of science and connected it to scientific contributions of Muslims in the medieval times. And here he is talking about science & religion compatibility - and goes a bit overboard with his comments (but its too be expected a bit):
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz said that throughout history, power has attached itself (after God) to science and the Muslim Ummah is well aware that it will not be powerful unless it depends (after God) upon science. The King also stressed that science and faith are only adversaries in sick minds, and God has graced us with our minds so that we can understand and recognize God’s laws of nature.
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King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz said, “The University that we are opening today is not starting from scratch [rather] it is the continuation of what distinguished our civilization in its age of prosperity.”

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques added, “Humanity has been the target of vicious attacks from extremists who fear dialogue, pursue destruction and speak the language of hatred. We cannot fight them unless we establish coexistence without conflict, with love instead of hatred, friendship instead of confrontation. Undoubtedly scientific centres that embrace all peoples are the first line of defence against extremists. And today this university will become a “house of wisdom”…and a beacon of tolerance. This is the third meaning of the university.”

Ok..so far so good. Its indeed a step in the right direction. But, instead of this island, I hope these things get extended to the rest of Saudi Arabia as well.

Read the full story here and here is the link to KAUST website.

Read earlier posts:
Co-ed University for Saudi Elites?

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