From mini-skirts to burqas: Iran, Turkey clad as scientific powers

By Soroor Ahmed,

Iran took the wind out of the sail of the so-called US-sponsored move to impose sanctions when on May 17 it brokered a historic deal with Turkey and Brazil, the two emerging powers in different parts of the world. Surprisingly, the deal was signed under the patronage of Russia and had the moral backing of another permanent member of the Security Council, China.

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As per the agreement Iran would be supplying low-enriched uranium to Turkey and Brazil in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor. The first batch is due to arrive in Turkey within a month.

The news of signing of the deal came only a few weeks after a study showed that Iran and Turkey have registered fastest growth in the field of science in the world in the recent years.

The scientific output has grown 11 times faster in Iran than the world average, faster than any other country. A survey of the number of scientific publications listed in the Web of Science database shows that the growth in the Middle East––mostly in Iran and Turkey––is nearly four times faster than the world average. Only in February last Iran had sent mouse, turtles and worms into the space.

It is not any Iranian or Turkish agency but Science-Metrix, a data analysis company in Montreal, which has published a detailed report on “geo-political shift in knowledge creation” since 1980. Eric Archambault, the author of the report and president of Science-Metrix is of the view that “Asia is catching up even more rapidly than previously thought, Europe is holding its position more than most would expect. And the Middle East is the region to watch.”

If that study is to be believed the scientific output of North America––the United States is the most important country in this continent––has grown considerably slower than the world as a whole in the last two decades. World scientific output grew steadily from 450,000 papers in 1980 to 1,500,000 in 2009. Asia as a whole surpassed North America last year.

But one just need not be carried away by such studies as may be the scientific growth of the United States has reached a saturating point where growth can not be as fast as that of the new emerging powers.

Still the development of Iran and Turkey need to be viewed in a different context too. They have acquired this distinction when they have elected Islamic governments in power and do not have the secular and western-minded tin-pot dictators thrust on the people.
One may tend to disagree with Iran and Turkey on a number of counts but one will have to accept that these two countries are emerging as a scientific power––may be a long way to go––when they do not have military rulers like Mustafa Kamal Pasha and Raza Shah.

The progress made by these two powers are being recognized by countries like Russia and China, albeit for their own diplomatic and military interest. The United States, Israel and West Europe want to use sanctions to push back their development.

The people of Iran have exploded the western myth woven since the Khomeini-led Islamic Revolution in 1979; that the country of Ayatollahs cannot make any progress.

Now the western scholars are floundering for words to explain as to how “the Iran of Mullahs” and burqa-clad women are on the threshold of the space and nuclear age and has not travelled back to the stone age as they predicted. This notwithstanding all sorts of sanctions in the past and US backed and Saddam Husain-led eight year old war thrust on it (1980-87).

The big question is why these two countries did not progress when the rulers––Mustafaa Kamal Pasha in Turkey and later Raza Shah in Iran––had been banning Fez caps and burqas and imposing and encouraging mini-skirts. Turkey under Pasha and successive secular and military governments till late in the 20th century remained “a sick nation of Europe”. Similarly, Iran till 1979, though an oil-rich country, had no international role to play––it was just a police outpost of the US.

Though the generals of Turkey and royal family of Iran were dubbed as the modernizer and western-minded these two countries stood nowhere in the international arena. Like the so-called Arab Sheikhs of today, who are borrowing money to build their modern-day Taj Mahals in the form of Burj Khalifa––all for the expat population––there were some good roads, buildings and night-clubs in the metros of the then Turkey and Iran. But they were inherently backward countries as are the present day Gulf Sheikhdoms.

So while the West is finding it excruciatingly difficult to take on Iran, it easily destroyed Saddam’s Iraq and hanged him without much murmur. Unlike the present rulers of Iran and Turkey, Saddam had no mandate to rule his country and did not enjoy any ideological support base. Therefore, he lost easily.

May be pre-mature to conclude yet one can dare to pre-judge that Islam has become a motivating factor for the revival of these two countries. The Muslim world, notwithstanding so much contradictions, remained global scientific power till they followed Islam––once again may not be in toto. More the grip on Islam weakened the more did the Muslim ummah became weak.

The social science revolution––in history, sociology, politics, culture, education etc––triggered by Islam paved the way for the scientific revolution later on. And when the former was abandoned Muslims were bound to be pushed back in the field of science too.

A community or nation needs some ideology as a motivating agent. Among the most backward nation of Europe till 1917, Russia emerged to become the Super Power of the world just because the Communist ideology––one may disagree with it––fired a zeal among a large section of the people of that country. And once the faith on that ideology got weakened so did the then Soviet Union which finally dismembered.

The West grew only after Renaissance and the advent of the ideology of liberal democracy and Japan got transformed after the Meiji Restoration of 1867.

Europe, it must be understood, did not progress when it was staunchly Christian. This despite the fact that it made huge sacrifices and all out efforts to defeat the rising Islamic power. Christianity’s approach then was anti-science. So they discarded religion to make progress in all walks of life. In the case of Islam it is just the opposite. Muslim society fell back when they abandoned Islam and not when they adopted it.

There is no dearth of people who are fired up by the scientific approach of Quran, which provokes the humanity and not just the Muslims to delve deep to study the nature’s marvel.

The need of the hour is to use science, knowledge and wisdom more for the betterment of humanity and not just what the West is doing now and many Muslims too have done in the past–to monopolize and enslave the world.

Photo: Peace Posters