Lack of Space Technology Is Not the Muslim World’s Problem

The Obama administration decided to dispatch Charles Bolden, head of NASA, to do “public diplomacy” on Al Jazeera, where he said that President Obama wanted him to “find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.” He then announced that our deficit-ridden U.S. government will begin a new fund “to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries.”

The 57 OIC countries include some of the wealthiest in the world, yet many are human-rights offenders. Handing them our technology and funds could end up strengthening theocrats and monarchs, further preventing real reform.

Consider the words of Dr. Ahmed Zewail, this administration’s first science envoy to the Middle East and appointee to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. After Obama’s Cairo speech last June, Zewail wrote a very revealing op-ed in the Boston Globe, in which he professed that the way for Obama to stimulate an “Islamic Renaissance” would be to provide “investment in education” with a “new emphasis on science and technology.” This ignores the fact that many militant Islamist leaders, from bin Laden to Zawahiri to most of the heads of the Muslim Brotherhood, are very scientifically educated. In fact, the Brotherhood (Ikhwan) is sometimes pejoratively referred to as the “Brotherhood of Engineers.”

Zewail goes on to write: “Most Westerners today are unaware of the extent to which Nasser’s regime promoted education as the vital engine of progress.” How insulting: Gamal Abdel Nasser’s legendary fascism, pan-Arabism, and socialism have become “engines of progress.” Nasser infected the Middle East with a deeply corrupt ideology, yet Obama’s science envoy is apologizing for the Egyptian despot.

The challenge is not science and technology. Real Muslim reform will only come from modernization of thought in the political sciences, liberal arts, free markets, theology, and philosophy. Theocratic Islamist movements are the primary obstacles to Muslim enlightenment – not the absence of space technology.

M. Zuhdi Jasser, MD, is the founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona.

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