Egyptian leader’s gaffes called out
Mursi has a lot of explaining to do; facts are indeed sacred. And even a president’s word can’t be taken for...
Pakistani academics were probably not paying close attention when Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi delivered his gaffe-riddled speech at the National University of Science and Technology’s convocation earlier this week.
Had they been listening, they might have caught on to a series of grave factual errors made in the speech, which were pointed out a day later by an Egyptian expert on Arab heritage and medical history, Youssef Zeidan.
Fortunately, a majority of readers in Pakistan remained unaware of the errors, because members of the local press corps were too focused on the bilateral relations between Egypt and Pakistan.
Mursi, it turns out, knows precious little about the scientific achievements of Muslim innovators during the Islamic Caliphate. On Monday, March 18, 2013, he told the NUST convocation that it was Abu Rayhan al Biruni (973–1048) who discovered pulmonary circulation. That feat was achieved by none other than Arab physician Ibn al Nafis, who lived in the 13th century.
The Egyptian leader made another false claim about al Biruni, saying he contributed to the field of philosophy. Instead, Biruni’s areas of expertise were physics, mathematics, geography, astronomy and history. He is also counted among the world’s first anthropologists.
Mursi’s other allusions to Muslim thinkers and innovators were also widely inaccurate.
Iraqi-born polymath Gabber Ibn al Haytham was credited by him for pioneering the study of modern anatomy. This 8th century scholar, according to Zeidan, did not practise the science of medicine or anatomy. And most importantly, al Haytham was not the founder of chemistry, a subject that was known centuries before him by the Greeks, Alexandrians and Muslim Arabs.
The Egyptian president told his largely Pakistani audience that it was early Muslim historiographer Ibn Khaldun who defined sociology. Zeidan corrected him by saying that Ibn Khaldun only provided an early introduction to the field of sociology.
Now that his gaffes have been called out, Mursi has a lot of explaining to do. He could feign innocence and blame it all on his speechwriter or he could swallow his pride and admit he was wrong.
For the NUST faculty, graduates and students, there is a lesson to be learnt. Facts are indeed sacred. And even a president’s word can’t be taken for granted.
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