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How the Muslim world is being left behind
On Jan. 7, Islamist gunmen ran through the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdoscreaming “The Prophet is avenged!” By coincidence, at the very moment they were killing the journalists, the International Space Station passed silently over Paris.
Consider that for a moment.
As terrorists committed a primitive act of tribal savagery in the name of a prophet who lived 1,400 years ago, right above them, orbiting through space, was the most sophisticated expression of mankind’s ability to transcend ignorance and fear with hope and reason.
Twenty-five nations from around the world have come together to build the space station. They include old enemies who fought each other for centuries over God and gold, Cold War rivals, small countries and large. But none are Islamic nations.
It has become a cliché to point out that science and reason once flourished in the Islamic world. Nonetheless, it is true. While Europe stumbled through the Dark Ages, Islamic scholars made dramatic advances in every field of science including mathematics, optics and experimental physics. Our modern world was built on the scientific breakthroughs of Islam. From the eighth century, mathematicians such as Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, who helped develop algebra, there is a direct line of progress that ends with the space station itself. But we no longer associate Islam with progress. In fact, a Muslim astronaut would surprise us as much as a non-Muslim terrorist (although there are many examples of each).