A Pakistani Nuclear Physicist: “Deep Down, Muslims Feel That They Have Failed”

In the following interview from Der Spiegel, a Pakistani nuclear physicist gives a lucid account of the state of Islam in the 21st century. Notice that the interviewer is actually more Islam-friendly than his Muslim interlocutor.

Many thanks to Hermes for the translation:

Pakistani nuclear physicist: “Islamic Societies Have Collectively Failed”

There is a growing unrest in Islamic lands, and religious forces are gaining ground after the Arab revolution. The Pakistani nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy sees a “collective failure” of Muslim societies. He clarified his thesis during an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Students frolic around Pervez Hoodbhoy. They wear tunics and doctoral caps. The young women have simply put the caps on their headscarves. They have just learned that they have passed the examinations. Now they want to take a group photo of themselves with Hoodbhoy, their famous teacher.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, 62, is a nuclear physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. He has been teaching here since the ‘70s. He has studied and taught at renowned universities in USA and Europe. He has received awards for his scientific activities, and he has engaged in political issues through physics.

For example, he criticized the nuclear upgrading of Pakistan, which is a nuclear power, and the advance of religion in scientific, cultural and political sectors. With this attitude he has earned himself enemies in Pakistan, a country which is very proud of having an atomic bomb. A private university in Lahore has already fired him, and he has been waiting for months to collect his salary for his work in Islamabad.

Despite this, he says he has never thought of leaving Pakistan. Hoodbhoy was born Muslim, in an Ishmaelite family. He is hated by many, but secretly admired by others, and he does not want to be silenced. “I say what I think. And I provide a solid basis for it,” he says in his office, which he still has in the university where he has yet to receive his salary. Pictures of Japan in the aftermath of the dropping of the atomic bomb hang on the walls, and books on physics and politics are piled upon his desk.

Read in the interview why Pervez Hoodbhoy takes such a critical stance towards religion, and what he sees for the future of Islamic societies.

Spiegel: Mr. Hoodbhoy, you regularly warn about the radicalization of Muslims. How exactly do you come to this position?

Hoodbhoy: When I started teaching here at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad in the early ‘70s, there was only a single student in the entire campus wearing a burka. Today around 70 per cent of the women here are fully covered. Only 30 per cent go around normally.

Spiegel: Do your students justify it? Or is that not an issue?

Hoodbhoy: I ask them occasionally, and many of them say Islam requires it of them. Others say they wear a burka or hijab because most women here do. Others say they feel safer like that, because when they’re standing at the bus stop no one bothers them.


Categories: Asia, Pakistan, Pakistan Inter-Faith

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