The answer is education

Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

About 38,000 innocent persons, largely women and children, have been slaughtered by the ruthless Israeli forces in an unprecedented genocide the world has witnessed over the last six months.

The Islamic world has shown how helpless and impotent it has become, as it has paid only lip service to this issue. Only South Africa has had the guts to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.

Israel came into being because of the recommendations of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). Formed in May 1947, UNSCOP comprised representatives of eleven countries drawn from Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia. Sir Abdur Rahman was chosen for his reputation for impartiality and his status as a very eminent Muslim member of the predominantly Hindu Indian National Congress.

The distinguished judge from India played a critical role in these deliberations and his recommendation not to create a separate state of Israel but to create a confederation in which Muslims and Jews could live together with a certain level of independence was finally overruled but history has proved him right.

Sir Abdur Rahman had served as a judge in the Madras High Court and of the Lahore High Court and gained fame as a leading lawyer and judge of India. He had also served as the first Muslim vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi and University of Punjab and later became a judge of the first bench of the Federal Court of Pakistan. His international eminence and unique background positioned him to understand the complexities of the proposed solutions being discussed for the partition of Palestine He was apprehensive that the creation of Israel as a separate country would lead to perpetual wars and bloodshed as Israel may want to expand from its borders to accommodate more and more Jews from across the world.

UNSCOP met and deliberated over the creation of Israel in July 1947 at the YMCA building in Jerusalem. As public hearings commenced on June 17 with Jewish Agency representatives, Rahman’s questioning challenged the Zionist narrative, emphasizing the need to avoid exceptional treatment for Palestine. Despite criticism from the Zionist lobby, Rahman remained steadfast in his commitment to impartiality and his rejection of the proposed partition.

The official boycott of UNSCOP proceedings by the Arab Higher Committee (AHC) limited direct interactions with Palestinian Arabs. However, through unofficial channels, Rahman and other UNSCOP members met with individual Palestinians, including Christian Palestinian Yusuf Hanna al-‘Isa, former mayor Dr Yousef Haikal, and Sheikh Ragheb Abu Saud Dajani. These informal meetings provided valuable insights despite the AHC's formal rejection.

Rahman's commentary highlighted his persistent lack of faith in the mechanism of partition. In his letter to Nehru on August 20, 1947, Sir Abdur Rahman indicated his preference for a unitary Democratic Palestinian state with appropriate safeguards to protect the rights of Jews. Nehru too was supportive of a federation rather than a separate state of Israel. The UNSCOP Report was finalized on August 31 with the majority of eight members supporting the partition of Palestine while a minority of three members led by Sir Abdur Rahman opted for a federal state.

Sir Abdur Rahman attached a ‘Special Note’ in the report in which he explained why the partition would fail. History has proved him right. Israel has continued to expand its borders, establish illegal colonies on disputed territories, and defy the concept of two nations living side by side, claiming that the entire region had historically Jewish ownership and therefore belonged to Israel. While there were two sets of recommendations in the majority and minority reports, there were certain unanimous recommendations too.

The Special Note written by Sir Abdur Rahman now serves as a reminder of how foresighted he was, and it remains an enduring legacy in the tumultuous pages of the history of the region.

So where do we go now from here? The answer lies in the solidarity that the OIC can exhibit in this matter. A number of actions are needed. First, an OIC Peace Keeping Force must be formed on the UN pattern to enforce peace in situations such as Gaza. The OIC secretary-general should call the OIC member states to contribute a certain level of military manpower towards an OIC Peace Keeping Force with appropriate equipment to be able to effectively intervene and enforce peace if war breaks out in their region.

Second, the OIC should identify countries supporting Israel in the genocide and curtail economic relations with them till the situation normalizes. Third, the OIC countries should create new roadmaps for socio-economic development so that they can migrate from their present lowly agricultural economies to technology-driven knowledge economies where science, technology and innovation are the key driving forces for their respective development. Finally, we must ensure that Israel can peacefully coexist with the new Palestinian state without any external threats. Jews and Muslims have lived together as brothers and sisters since the advent of Islam, and they must continue to do so in the future.

The problems in the Islamic world run far deeper than what is evident from their impotence in situations such as Palestine and Kashmir. They have long abandoned the path of knowledge that once illuminated the world with the contributions of luminaries such as Ibne Sina (Avicenna), Al Biruni, Ibn al Haytham, Al Khwarizmi and many others.

While Oxford and Cambridge were built over 800 years ago, we have not a single university in the Islamic world that can be ranked among the top 100 of the world.

We need to invest massively in education, science and innovation so that we can transition to technology-driven knowledge economies. Otherwise, while our Muslim brothers and sisters are slaughtered in tens of thousands elsewhere we will just watch on in paralytic silence. The answer to our woes lies in achieving excellence in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and engineering sciences, not in superstition and dogma.

The writer is a former federal

minister, Unesco science laureate and founding chairperson of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). He can be reached at: