UK foundation to distribute textbook that lauds Muslim world's scientific and cultural heritage
'1001 Inventions' published to counter freely distributed Dawkins DVD.
By JONNY PAUL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON
An educational foundation in the UK has announced plans to distribute to high schools a free book that highlights the scientific and cultural legacies of Muslim civilization.
1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World is the creation of the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization (FSTC), a Manchester-based organization set up to raise awareness of the contributions of the Muslim world to modern civilization.
FSTC said the contribution that Muslim and other civilizations have made to the modern world has been widely overlooked and that its team of academics has focused on debunking the myth of the so-called "Dark Ages of Civilization."
"The period between the 7th and 17th centuries - which has been erroneously labeled 'the Dark Ages' - was in fact a time of exceptional scientific and cultural advancement in China, India and the Arab world," Prof. Salim Al-Hassani, chief editor of the book, said.
"This is the period in history that gave us the first manned flight, huge advances in engineering, the development of robotics and the foundations of modern mathematics, chemistry and physics."
The foundation said it hoped to distribute 3,000 copies of the book to UK schools by October and is seeking public support for the campaign through a sponsorship scheme.
Last month, British evolutionary biologist, popular science author and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins announced plans to distribute free DVDs to high schools across the UK.
"While the Dawkins campaign, supported by the British Humanist Association, positions science and religion as opposing forces, the 1001 Inventions project reminds us that for 1,000 years the religious and the scientific were comfortable bedfellows and led to unprecedented openness to new ideas and social change," the FSTC said.
The foundation said it was not challenging Dawkins with the free book but only wanted to "encourage debate about the relationship between science, faith and culture."
It said FSTC has campaigned for school curriculums to acknowledge the scientific achievements of Muslim civilization for more than a decade.
"Whilst the Dawkins DVD teaches young people about the experimental scientific method, it fails to point out that it was pioneered by a religious physicist called Ibn-Al Haytham, who saw no conflict in being both a Muslim and a scientist," Prof. Al-Hassani said.
The book comes with a DVD, a poster set for classrooms, a free Teachers Pack and lesson plans.
Responding to the initiative Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the representative organization of Anglo-Jewry, said: "Foundations can distribute materials to schools, but that does not mean that schools will or should use them. We would expect the DCSF [Department for Children, Schools and Families] to monitor carefully what is made available to children for appropriateness and balance."
The project has been accused of being Islamic propaganda by a London-based think tank.
"This organization calling itself the FSTC is not an educational project. It is a dawah project. That is, it is Islamic propaganda," said Douglas Murray, director of the Center for Social Cohesion, a non-partisan organization that focuses on issues related to community cohesion in the UK.
"There is significant ignorance these days, in the Britain, and the West in general, about our own scientific and cultural heritage. Organizations like the FSTC aim to step into the gap created by that ignorance and claim that the roots of our culture do not lie in our Greek and Judeao-Christian heritage, but in Islamic history."
Murray accused the FSTC of mixing propaganda with scientific history.
"There are those who would claim that no good whatsoever has come from the Islamic world, such claims are demonstrably ignorant. But it is also ignorant and indeed ridiculous to mix propaganda with scientific history as the people behind this project seem to be doing."
A spokesperson from the Department for Children, Schools and Families said schools could use the material at their discretion.
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