News / Science & Technology

Egyptian Activist Celebrates Islamic Science and Modern Technology

Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim
Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim

Multimedia

Mike O'Sullivan

An exhibit on scientific breakthroughs in the Muslim world has opened in Los Angeles, and a leading Egyptian activist stopped by for a preview. Called 1001 Inventions, the exhibition chronicles the Golden Age of science in the Islamic world from the 7th through the 17th centuries.

Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, who used Internet social networking sites to help spark a revolution, says technology has an important role in his part of the world today.

The Western system of numbers was spread by way of Muslim mathematicians, one of many contributions of the medieval Islamic world, a civilization that stretched from Spain to China.  

Egyptian high-tech executive Wael Ghonim, currently on leave from Google, stopped by the California Science Center for a look.

He was in the United States to accept the Profile in Courage Award, given by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.  He accepted the award, at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, on behalf of the Egyptian people.   

Ghonim helped launch the revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak after 18 days of protests early this year.

“Social media and Internet, technology in general, was very instrumental in sparking the revolution in Egypt, and that just shows that you can actually use technology for the good to do things that theoretically seemed in the past impossible," he said.

Ghonim says new technology was well adapted to Egypt, where person-to-person interactions are important.  He says exchanges on sites like Facebook became a political tool for young Egyptians.

“They used that as a way to express their opinions, as a way to collaborate and organize themselves - just say no to injustice, torture, and corruption," he said.

The science center exhibit, shown earlier in London, Istanbul and New York, explains scientific advances in the Muslim world in such fields as medicine, where doctors were using modern-looking surgical instruments 1,000 years ago. Visitors learn about inventors like Abbas Ibn Firnas, who created a glider in the 9th century.

Educator Maurice Coles develops school curricula on this period, which he calls the first global age.

“You've got people of every faith, of every background, of almost every culture and color working to a shared end.  And so when you look around the exhibition, you'll see Christians, you'll see, obviously, Muslims. There are Hindus, there's a group called Sabeans that no longer exist, and they coexisted wonderfully well for a long period of time," he said.

Costumed re-enactors bring these innovators to life and explain their inventions. Interactive displays show advances in fields like art and architecture.  

This flowering of ideas came at a backward time in Europe, says the science center’s Diane Perlov.

“It really was a flourishing of the arts and sciences at a time in the Middle Ages when Europe was in [what] most consider the Dark Ages," she said.

In the recent Tahrir Square protests, Egyptians embraced Internet social sites and mobile phones with digital cameras.

"In a highly connected world, where technology is bridging all the gaps, we need to understand that we are all the same and we have a lot in common, more than we have in differences. And that it's about time that we realize that. Everyone has a role to play in this world to get everyone closer to each other," Ghonim said.

And even if it does not usher in a new Golden Age, he says it will help the world get better.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs