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IoT Middle East 2020 to address business aspects of digital transformation

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 22 February 2020 | Posted in , , , , ,


Event to highlight how collaboration is the new competition with eco-systems replacing traditional industry boundaries

IMO News Service

Dubai, UAE: An impressive line-up of partners and speakers will be addressing how to manoeuvre the IoT landscape for higher profits at the 5th Internet of Things 2020, held at Armani Hotel Dubai on the 24th of February, 2020.

According to Johan Ehrstrom, CEO of 5th IoT Middle East 2020, “The conference will focus on how to generate business out of IoT as AI, ML, 5G and Intelligent Automation will fuel IoT adoption and grow exponentially over the coming years. Attendees will have the opportunity to gain the latest knowledge on how to create new revenue streams, market segments, reduce costs and get accuracy into their strategic direction."
Speakers on board include Jihad Tayara, CEO at Evoteq, Dr. Sven Korner, NLP/AI/Deep Learning Researcher from Germany, Anni Iso-Mustajarvi, Head of Business Development at Finlands biggest hospital group Mehilainen, Jassem Nasser, Chief Strategy Officer, Thuraya, Marwan Bindalmook SVP Smart City Operations at du, Christophe Vloebergh Implementation Director at DAIMLER,

New tech like AI and ML needs the data of IoT to deliver accurate analyses and output. IoT adoption is hence expected to grow by two-digit numbers and reach $18 billion in MEA related IoT investments by 2023, as both governmental and private sector companies ramp up their digital transformation capabilities.

The 5th Internet of Things 2020 is a game-changing platform, attracting a full house yearly, addressing the business relevance of technology across multiple verticals. IoT Middle East 2020 is for all who are less interested in the tech-aspects, but eager to future proof strategies, grow the bottom-line impacts and set the direction for the new decade.

Participants can register on www.iot-dxb.com. Registration is still open for USD 745 for conference passes, including materials, case examples, food & beverage and valet, ask for group and management team tickets discounts.

Where Are the Muslim Scientists?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 November 2013 | Posted in , ,

By Muhammad Jameel Yushau

Last week at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London, the first time such Forum took place outside the Muslim World, showcases how Islamic financing is growing around the world. According to the British Prime Minister David Cameron, Islamic finance is growing fifty percent faster than conventional financing. Of course more needs to be done to strengthening what is gradually appearing to be an alternative to the conventional model.

But my take while listening to the speeches of different world leaders was a statement from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Nawaz Sheriff. Mr Sheriff briefly lamented on the state of the Muslim world, and how far the Muslim world is left behind, and what needs to be done to revive its hitherto compelling spirit, which greatly contributed in scientific and technological advancement of the world. According to the speech by Mr Sheriff, in the Middle Ages Muslim scientists produced ninety percent of the literature the world over, yet at the moment, Muslim scientists produced just one percent.

The message of Mr Sheriff was clear, for the Muslim world to regain its position globally; it has to revert to what made it ahead of its contemporaries in the past. Just have a quick look at the list of Muslim scientists and their inventions as listed by the website www.famousscientists.org , you are talking about the likes of Abu Nasr Al-Farabi, known as Alpharabius, Albattani known as Albatenius, a famous mathematician and astronomer, Ibn Sina or Avesina famous for his contribution to medicine and philiosphy, Ibn Battuta, Ibn Rushd also called Averroes, Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khawarazimi, famous for the invention of Arabic numerals and Algebra, Omar Alkhayyam, Abubakar Alrazi "considered one of the greatest physicians in history" according to the famous scientists website; Jabir ibn Alhayyan "the father of Arab chemistry known for his highly influential works on alchemy and metallurgy", Ibn Ishaq Alkindi, also called Alkindus "who is known as the first of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers.", Ibn Alhaytham (Alhazen), "Arab astronomer and mathematician known for his important contributions to the principles of optics and the use of scientific experiments."

The remaining scientists include Ibn Zhur (Avezoar) "Arab physician and surgeon, known for his influential book Al-Taisir Fil-Mudawat Wal-Tadbeer (Book of Simplification Concerning Therapeutics and Diet)", Ibn Khaldun, a historian, sociologist and economist and the author of Muqaddima, an important work thought to have influenced the work of later Western philosophers like Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber and Herbert Spencer, and Ibn Albaitar "botanist and physician who systematically recorded the discoveries made by Islamic physicians in the Middle Ages".

These are just a selection of the famous Muslim scientists who contributed to the development of science and technology that is sometimes ignored or even assumed such contribution never existed. It does not even included such giants like Iman Attabari, who is both a scholar of Tafseer (Quranic exegesis) and a medical doctor, or the likes of Imam Al-Ghazali whose contribution would make you hide your face in shame when you see what some of our universities are producing as professors.

But this is the past; we have to think about the present. The Muslim world does not lack the people who will conduct research and regain the glory of the civilization that was once the leading light of the world. What the Muslim world lacks are the institutions that support the development of these scientists to produce the knowledge that our world will continue to desire. The Muslim scientists of the past were successful because of the support they receive from the State and through philanthropists who understand that for a civilization to stand on its feet, it has to be mounted on the pedestal of knowledge.

Research has shown that the Muslim world led the way in the past, because of how endowment funds (Awqaaf) and other philanthropic activities support people to study and produce the best literature without worrying about the hassles of life, which may take away their attention. In fact other civilizations learned about the institution of Waqf from the Muslim world, a point that was made clearly by Tim Wallace-Murphy in his book "What Islam Did for Us: Understanding Islam's Contribution to Western Civilization". Wallace-Murphy explained how the West learned from the Muslim world how to establish these endowment funds, a factor that critically contributed in the development of institutions like Oxford and Cambridge. Unfortunately, the institution of Waqf has been neglected or at best left to the background in the Muslim world, and reviving it, and making to function in line with current challenges will contribute greatly in producing the Muslim scientists that can bring back the lost glory of the Muslim world.

(Courtesy: allAfrica.com)

Greek engineer designs special SIM card for Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 25 October 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

A Greek engineer has invented a unique telephone SIM card designed especially to meet the needs of Muslim consumers.

Yannis Hatzopulos, an engineer from Greece, has designed a unique telephone SIM card for Muslims.

The SIM card includes applications such as a compass used to point to the direction of Mecca, a list of prayer times, a call to prayer and an Islamic calendar to name a few. The SIM card can be used on both smart phones and normal mobile devices.

The features included in the SIM applications toolkit can be activated and deactivated on demand.

Despite similar SIM cards being invented before, the fact that this one can work on normal phones as well as smart phones is set to make it a big competitor in the African and Asian markets.

Hatzopulos’ SIM card will be exhibited in the AfricaCOM fair in Cape Town, South Africa, on 12-14 November 2013.

Bluefish technologies will be promoting the SIM card in the Asian markets.

(Courtesy: World Bulletin)

Interview with Syed A. Asim, COO, Dion Global Solutions: Muslims have the history of being more into business but very few could scale up their business

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 September 2013 | Posted in , , , , ,

Syed A. Asim has over 16 years of experience in selling software products in Indian financial industry. In his previous roles, prior to Dion, he has also worked across Middle East and was instrumental in growing the business tremendously.

Asim is Chief Operating Officer at Dion Global Solutions. He is widely known across the industry and has a great reputation across capital market in India. His passion for the industry is what led him to bring new revolutionary concepts in technology and client servicing, winning him several prestigious awards in return. He is veteran in creating awareness and taking the concept of CTCL trading to the masses across India & Middle East.

He is B. Tech. in Mechanical and MBA. His vast experience in sales has enabled him to conduct multiple trainings in sales, soft skills, corporate etiquettes, negotiations, etc. for various organizations and institutes. He also published many white papers on Trading Technology Solutions.

Previously, Asim has worked as Head of Sales for Direct FN Ltd. (Mubasher), Dubai, National Sales Head at Financial Technologies (India) Ltd. and Regional Head (North) for MCX.At Dion, Asim is based in NCR (India) and heads business development activities and operations across South Asia, Middle East & Africa. He reports to global CEO & Managing Director, Ralph J Horne based at London, UK.

Mr. Asim also holds forthright views about Muslims and their entrepreneurship skills. He says, "Muslims have the history of being more into business but very few could scale up their business to the level of a company or beyond. Some of the reasons are that they do not adopt best management practices, latest technological tools and do not know good consultants who can help them in getting sync with modern ways of doing business."

Here are excerpts of interview conducted by Shahabuddin Yaqub, Managing Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com for the benefit of readers.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: You have associated with global brand, does it give you comfort or make you loaded with lots of responsibilities?

Syed Asim: Association with global brand changes your thought process by making you think multi dimensional and with respect to different frame of reference. One needs to keep in mind various practices, cultures, time zones, climates, etc. while interacting or even addressing on mails with people of different counties.

Feeling of comfort or load of responsibility depends on whether you enjoy your work or just carrying out as a task. I have always enjoyed my work that keeps me energetic even at the end of the day.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: You have been champion of sales. It is said that you can sell anything to anyone. How did you get this mastery, as it does not happen to be so easy?

Syed Asim: I believe sales is an art of first believing very strongly into your own product/service, then understanding the need of the customer very clearly and finally proposing something that can benefit him. I always sold trust; product/services got sold on its own. To become better sales person, one should have thorough knowledge of the product/service and how it can benefit the customer. The key is innovation and out of box thinking. To quote an example, once I was traveling in an inter-state transport bus on a hot summer afternoon. The bus stopped in between for the meal and it was terribly hot. A small boy came selling newspaper and asked me if I want to buy it. In the state I was, I could never imagine reading newspaper so I said, no. He took out a newspaper and said it will help you in waiving air. I immediately bought it. He actually figured out my need and suggested a different application of the same product.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Today very few people have this rare combination of experience in Information Technology, Capital Markets and Sales. Could you tell us how did you achieve this rare combination of expertise especially when you come from Mechanical Engineering background?

Syed Asim: I always had passion for capital markets and started doing small investments (that I used to earn from tuitions) into stocks since school period. Joined stock broking after Engineering. IT was growing rapidly in India and I realized that technology would become key differentiator for any business in future. Apart from my responsibilities, I started spending time with our IT vendors till late evening or on weekends implementing newer technologies, understanding IT networks, and testing different softwares, which gave me good knowledge of the field. My interest gave me a new opportunity and a software company approached me for helping them in developing their new derivatives trading platform. Later I got an offer to join their sales team. Initially I took it as a challenge but very soon I realized that having practical knowledge of both the domains (IT and Capital Markets) gave me an edge of suggesting various solutions to my prospective customers.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: If anyone wants to achieve a good growth for his company, what steps would you suggest him?

Syed Asim: I would like to share two of my principles for achieving good growth in the company:

1. Work in such a way that COMPANY SHOULD NEED YOU MUCH MORE THAN YOU NEED THE COMPANY.

2. Leave such legacy that YOU SHOULD BE REPLACED BY MULTIPLE PEOPLE, NOT ONE, in case you part from the company.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Today youth seems to be more inclined towards job rather than business whereas many of them can turn to be a successful entrepreneur. How do you read this trend?

Syed Asim: Maybe because more workers are required than owners (joking). If you ask majority of the people at any stage, whether at the time of joining any course or even taking up any profession, they do not have clear goals. They would have taken call based on someone’s experience or suggestion. Goal setting exercise involves many steps, which starts from self-realization session. Once you are fully aware about your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, it becomes much easier to decide the direction and goal.


It is different that for any successful business one should know ground realities and practical scenarios, which comes from working as an employee. Many factors are essential for starting own business like startup capital, required skill, infrastructure and more over risk taking ability, while in job you can learn at someone’s cost and take experience to become more useful. But one of the key reasons for the trend is lack of awareness and guidance for starting their own business.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Many people start their business and put lots of money in it nevertheless they receive failure at the end. Where do they make mistakes?

Syed Asim: Though there are numbers of reasons, but some very common mistakes that leads to failures are:

1. Insufficient Market Research: Choice of business, market size, target segment, positioning of product, timing, competition, etc. are important factors that need to be thoroughly studied before start of business. In absence of these it is based on certain assumptions, which may fail.

2. Early Give-up: Every business has gestation period in which it requires special attention before it can turnaround into a profitable venture. Most of the time it is seen that people either exhaust their money and energy or lose hope and quit when they may be very close to achieving success.

3. Lack of Sound Distribution Model: I very frequently come across many people who have a very good product but they are not able to sell it well. Sales and Marketing is a very essential part of a successful business. On the contrary there are some people who do not have any product but have very strong distribution setup so they make money by trading (selling others product at profit margin).

Shahabuddin Yaqub: There are many people who are having good business ideas and marketing skill but they need money to start, where they can get finance from and how?

Syed Asim: Every society have two sets of people, one who have money and looking for options to invest, other who have ideas and skills to do good business. The challenge is to connect both into a successful partnership model.

There is need of some experiences people to validate the ideas and business projects of the budding entrepreneurs and connect them to the financiers who are interested in investing into their projects on ownership sharing basis.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Majority of Muslims do not understand business. Is it because they are not in sync with modern world or some other reasons do you see?

Syed Asim: I would say that Muslims have the history of being more into business but very few could scale up their business to the level of a company or beyond. Some of the reasons are that they do not adopt best management practices, latest technological tools and do not know good consultants who can help them in getting sync with modern ways of doing business.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Muslim businessmen generally do not prefer to get finance if it is based on interest what are the other ways they can try for?

Syed Asim: Solution to the problem is Islamic Banking. Many organizations claimed interest free business model and then broke the trust of the people. Now its difficult for people to trust anybody unless there is provision in the banking laws for Islamic Banking and either existing banks start separate Islamic Banking window or new banks come up.

In absence of Islamic banking system Muslims willing to get interest free finance will have to find financers who can lend them money against equity in their company or profit / loss sharing agreement by appointing a reliable auditor.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Some Muslim businessmen are concerned as they have good products but their sale is not increasing despite making every effort. Where do they need to focus?

Syed Asim: They need to focus on the following:

1. Market feedback – get feedback and analyze with unprejudiced mind

2. Sales strategy – ways of attracting target customers

3. Right Positioning – deciding your competitor & customer segment

4. Correct Pricing – pricing according to your positioning

Shahabuddin Yaqub: For any product and company, branding, advertising and marketing how does it help to improve sale? Do small products also need good promotion or they are treated differently?

Syed Asim: For any product or company, branding, advertising and marketing plays very critical role as it forms the image or perception. Need of promotion, more depends on existing demand than the size of the product.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Non-banking system without depending upon interest can work and survive? What is your opinion about it?

Syed Asim: Banking and non – banking interest free systems have huge potential. In fact it is the need of Muslim populated countries. But in order to build trust on the new system a strong regulatory system is essential.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: There are many businessmen who have inherited business either from their father or family and they are not well equipped with modern business modules. Do you want to help them if they show their interest?

Syed Asim: Yes, I feel pleasure to contribute to all such friends who are blessed with the businesses and looking for the guidance.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: There are ample opportunities and multiple choices available in India but Muslims are still impoverished. They are somewhat far behind to capitalize on these opportunities. How they can be empowered in such a way that they could become able to get benefit out of it?

Syed Asim: First step towards taking benefit from ample opportunities available in the country and outside is to open up for accepting the changes, which is a major change in itself. It is advisable to go through some training programs, which can help in changing the mindset and opening up for new ideas.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Many personality development workshops are conducted by companies for their employees. Does it help to any extent?

Syed Asim: Yes, it helps a lot but its most effective if it starts from the top most level. Top-bottom approach helps in changing the culture of the organization. Training needs may be assessed and planned accordingly.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: How compulsory it is for professionals to get them equipped with new skills and technology in their respective as well as new field in order to grow faster?

Syed Asim: Quality of people plays the most important role in the success and growth of any organization. Quality has two components: Attitude and Skill (technical & non technical). As we invest on updating and upgrading tools and equipments (infrastructure) of the organization, it is equally important to invest in upgrading attitude and skills of the professionals.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Do you agree with me that Muslim Community as a whole has a problem as far as attitude is concerned? Some workshops should be conducted for them so as to improve their attitude towards community and towards themselves.

Syed Asim: I wouldn’t say that Muslim Community as a whole has attitude problem as there are always different types of people in every community but I would agree that attitude plays major role in the growth and development of any individual or community. Conducting workshops to improve attitude will help in changing the outlook. Quran gives us a clear principle: ‘Allah does not change the condition of the people (community) until they (first) change that which is in their hearts’ [Ar-Ra’d, 13-11]

Shahabuddin Yaqub: When you think about present Muslim leadership what kind of thoughts come to your mind?

Syed Asim: ‘Whom should I follow?’ is a big question, for which every Muslim is trying to find an answer.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Without leadership community gets astray and we have been witness to this bitter reality. Now the big challenge in front of community is to develop able leaders who can lead the community as well as nation. Where do you see hope?

Syed Asim: I agree that it’s a big challenge for the whole community but we will not be able to realize and recognize these leaders till we completely change our way of thinking (our thought process) and connect ourselves with the Book of Guidance, The Holy Quran, a common link between every Muslim.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Do you have any message for youths?

Syed Asim: Youth should keep in mind that it’sresponsibility of every Muslims to excel in education, jobs and businesses without compromising their ethics and Islamic values so as to project a right image of the community both in India and internationally.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: Where do you see yourself in coming ten years?

Syed Asim: In coming ten years I would share my knowledge and expertise with those who require guidanceand further make efforts to create my identity on national and international level.

Shahabuddin Yaqub: As a chief operating officer what are challenges you have ahead?

Syed Asim: As COO I have a challenge of growing my organization, in spite of a prolong economic slow down. I am quite confident that my dynamic and dedicated team of professionals will take any challenge head-on that will come in our way to achieve success.

[Shahabuddin Yaqub is Managing Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be contacted at skyaqub@indianmuslimosberver.com]

PEOPLE: Syed Ghani Khan -- A Curator of Paddy Seeds

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 September 2013 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Some 35 kilometers from the city of palaces, Mysore, sits an orchard, hidden with shrubs, trees and sugarcane, called Bada Bagh. It was once famed for its flavored mangoes, but now has become popular for being a museum of traditional rice seeds.

Bada Bagh is actually located in Kirugavulu village at Malavalli taluk in Mandya district of Karnataka. With paddy panicles of different colors, size and shapes, each lined up next to each other, the view of the lush paddy fields is amazing. It’s a real visual treat for urban dwellers grown up in the concrete jungles.

Bada Bagh is managed by an organic farmer Syed Ghani Khan who has collected over 600 varieties of paddy seeds and is spearheading the message of ‘Save our Rice Campaign’.

It is very difficult to catch this young and energetic farmer, as he is always surrounded by farmers, who come to him to get the new variety of seed that he has archived, but as the adage goes; when there is a will there is a way.

Talking to Ghani Khan at length helps to construct the picture of a farmer who is trying to revive the lost legacy of traditional paddy plants through organic method of farming. He is planting paddy seeds and retrieves them and archives them in his museum for posterity. He is also distributing them to farmers for promoting the cause of ‘Save our Rice Campaign’.

Like most converted organic farmers, Ghani tells his story in a humble way. "I was studying archaeology and wanted to become a curator of a museum, when fate struck and my father passed away. As the eldest son of an Indian family, I was called to take his place and take care of the family and manage the family farm. I was 22 then, my four brothers were all in their teens," he said.

Describing about the Bada Bagh, Ghani says, this place was bequeathed to his family by the great king Tippu Sultan and till recently was known for its tasteful variety of mangoes.

“We were dry land farmers. Then the Krishnaraja Sagar dam was built and we all had the Cauvery water. Most of the farmers chopped down the mango trees and planted rice in large scale. With this started wide spread hybrid cultivation and the region lost almost all the traditional rice variety that then existed.”

"Initially I too started with hybrid farming but one day I fainted while spraying chemicals on the crop. That made me thinks about alternative method of farming. I wondered if it was possible to do farming without chemicals. This event actually started my journey towards organic farming.”

Ghani Khan who is now an organic farmer for a little over 10 years says while hybrids have outstanding qualities, the ability to reproduce themselves is clearly not one of them. In his effort to shrug off modern hybrid rice seeds and return to more nutritious and health traditional rice seed, he narrates his experience candidly.

"Once my uncle brought a variety of paddy seed that I didn't recognize, I planted it and kept asking him and others about it but none knew anything about it. Then one day an agricultural scientist visited our farm and he was able to identify it. He told that it was a drought resistant variety of paddy that was traditionally grown in Mysore - Mandya region but has been lost in our collective memory.”

This prompted a spark in Ghani khan’s funnel and he embarked upon the idea to go after tracing all the paddy seeds that were getting lost. His curiosity developed into the eagerness to collect all such rice variety and save them for posterity.

He started collecting what was locally available first. He then moved to the adjoining states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra.

In a span of 8 years, Ghani Khan collected over 600 varieties of rice seeds. Each variety has distinct flavors, and come in many different and unique colors, sizes, and shapes.

Ghani Khan started archiving them by giving new found number to each of such variety. As he didn't know the name of the seed, he developed his distinct style of labeling; Ghani Khan New Found Number- GKNF 786 / 2013. He has a wide diversity of wetland, dry-land, medicinal, aromatic, irrigated variety of rice seeds.

Ghani is maintaining different paddy strains to keep alive the evolutionary processes. He has developed skills in the art of seed production and has the ability to select the best seeds.

"I conserve them in the field each year, I plant, multiply and save all the seeds, also give them to farmers who assure will be saving them and returning me twice the amount.”

“As a matter of principles I don't give the seeds to the companies developing rice seeds...I know farmers are more genuine... even though it means a loss each year, but I am not doing it for sales, it’s my hobby my passion. I always wanted to be museum curator, and, now, I am a curator of a living museum", his face chuckles with a bloated smile.

Ghani Khan, lives in a large joint family, one brother has moved for livelihood to Bangalore and one more is a qualified technician, one helps him in the field. He manages his family farm of 15 acres with the support of other family members. He is not sure when the division of the land will happen in his family what will be left for him in future. He hopes his children will take interest and involve themselves in the farming. He is not confident that they will ever do that.

Beyond all those regular challenges of farming, Ghani Khan holds the rare distinction of having a 'living museum" of which he is the proud curator. A museum where every variety of paddy seeds conserved narrates a story of its own; history, location, lineage, features, benefits etc.

Ghani’s concern for conservation of biodiversity has in fact got many farmers interested in traditional varieties. His farm in the outskirts of his village has grown into one of the largest experimental restoration plots, drawing visitors from villages far and near.

More than 2000 farmers have taken seeds from him and he is on the verge of setting up a trust and getting things a bit more organized. His experiment has enthralled scientists and officials, who have applauded his venture.

India being a diversity country has a plethora of traditional paddy varieties which are nutritious and developed over centuries. The traditional strains are more resistant to drought and could be an answer to the climate change. So saving them is a great act of service to the nation.

Ghani’s story is a tale of a farmer who with a bit of imagination and hard work has made his name encrypted in the record books. With over 600 paddy variety and with a mission of creating more, Ghani khan has became an institution in himself. It would be joke to call him just an ordinary paddy farmer.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Why Muslims don’t win Nobel Prizes

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 August 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

While the West invested in innovation, Muslims did not

By Fakir S. Ayazuddin

“All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though”.

When I read this headline from an article by Richard Dawkins, I realised that he was at his Islam bashing best. I was at first offended, thinking that perhaps this was yet another attempt at denigrating Islam. However when considered that it is a fact that cannot be denied, then perhaps one should look deeper into the cause of such a lapse in the educational achievements between the Islamic culture versus the West.

The last bit was rather patronising, but unfortunately factual.

Over the last millennia the Muslims were way ahead of the west in their culture, and education. And stayed ahead till the renaissance, when art and science took root, in Europe. Till that time the West were hunter gatherers too busy in just surviving. After the Renaissance, the Europeans picked up the pace, and their interest and investment in education grew.

Then the invention of the steam engine by James Watt and then Stephenson in 1830 was used by the coal industry, and by steamers. This source of power was used in industry, textiles was the first to go from spinning wool by hand to spinning machines, designed and operated by engineers in the midlands. There was a close link between the inventors and the engineers —- education. The quantum leap was after steam power was applied to Industry, and—as they say, the rest is history. The discovery of oil, made the engine mobile, and the automobile was on its way. Aeroplanes were not far behind, in fact aircraft and automobiles were invented at the same time. After the induction of oil as the supply of power, and the mobility of oil as a power source.

In these years the west kept increasing their investment in education, adding to their inventions. Indeed Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and went on to make his fortune, and then created his Nobel Prize to benefit inventors, and thinkers. This is an example of the benefits of money being passed on to deserving recipients. There is no comparable example in the Muslim world.

In the same period, the Ottoman Empire built many beautiful mosques, but no schools of higher learning. The Muslims were kept at their primitive level of education, and even the great libraries of Baghdad were routinely destroyed. The value of education that the Holy Prophet had prescribed was ignored and wantonly destroyed. The west continued on its march of progress while the Muslims carried on in their pursuit of pleasure, spending their amassed wealth in frivolous and wanton excesses.

In the 19th century, with the advent of the automobile and aeroplanes, the pace of growth was exponential, with Nobel prizes a yearly addition acknowledging invention and innovation.

The two World Wars changed the players, catapulting the Americans and Russians to the front with the Cold War fuelling a cutthroat competition. While the huge amounts of oil money that came the Arab way was mostly frittered away into the pursuit of physical comforts and carnal pleasures, not much was put into education. In fact a lot of money was invested in the colleges of the US like Harvard and MIT which have huge endowments from the Arab oil wealth.

Now, of course just the invention and spread of the internet has created probably the biggest leap in man’s knowledge – more than all the years preceding it. It is education alone that can expand the human horizon, into the huge unknown, creating knowledge for the coming generations. The internet has also freed mankind from all religious constraints.

(Courtesy: Pakistan Today)

Religions asking if test-tube burgers allow them to keep the faith

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 17 August 2013 | Posted in , ,

When the world's first test-tube beef burger was cooked and eaten this week, food critics all asked about its taste. For many Jews, Muslims and Hindus, the first question was whether their faith allowed them to try it. Religious websites were abuzz with questions and opinions this week after biologist Mark Post of Maastricht University presented his innovation to the media in London on Monday.

"Is the lab-created burger kosher?" the Hasidic Jewish movement Chabad Lubavitch asked on its website. Dietary laws exist in many religions, but came about so long ago that not even their prophets could have imagined a ready-to-fry beef patty grown in-vitro from the stem cells of a cow. If religious authorities interpret their ancient texts in a way that allows them to give this new food their blessing, now-banned kosher cheeseburgers and Hindu hamburgers, as well as an undisputed method of producing halal meat, could be possible.

Chabad's Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin wrote the Talmud tells of "miraculous meat" that fell from heaven or was conjured up by rabbis studying a mystic text. Since it was automatically kosher because it wasn't from a real animal, this could be a model for test-tube meat. But he said if the stem cells are real meat, they have to come from a cow slaughtered according to kosher law, which says the animal's throat must be slit while it is still conscious.


Expert rabbis need to study this more carefully "when the issue becomes more practical and petri-dish burgers become and affordable option," Shurpin concluded. The kosher ban on mixing meat and dairy products presents another hurdle for observant Jews considering a cheeseburger. Rabbi Menachem Genack of the Orthodox Union in New York told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that test-tube beef could be considered "parve" (neither meat nor dairy) under certain conditions and so kosher cheeseburgers could be allowed.

Islam's halal laws require ritual slaughter similar to kosher butchering, but with fewer restrictions. "There does not appear to be any objection to eating this type of cultured meat," the Islamic Institute of Orange County in California responded to a questioner on its website. Animal rights activists see the Muslim and Jewish slaughter methods as unnecessary cruelty and calls to ban this kind of butchering have grown in Europe in recent years as halal meat has become increasingly available in shops and restaurants.

Gulf News in Dubai quoted Abdul Qahir Qamar of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, as saying in-vitro meat "will not be considered meat from live animals, but will be cultured meat." As long as the cells used are not from pigs, dogs or other animals banned under the halal laws, he said, the meat would be vegetative and "similar to yogurt and fermented pickles." Several Muslim websites left fresh questions about this new meat unanswered, probably because Muslims were more concerned this week with celebrating the end of the fasting month Ramadan.

The prospect of meatless beef has also prompted debate in India, where the Hindu majority shuns steaks and burgers because it considers the cow sacred. "We will not accept it being traded in a marketplace in any form or being used for a commercial purpose," Chandra Kaushik, president of the Hindu nationalist group Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, told the India Real Time blog. Religious websites have been debating the test-tube meat issue for some time now, especially since news about biologist Post's project began circulating about four years ago.

Many Hindus and Sikhs are vegetarians, so several of them posted comments saying they probably wouldn't like the taste of artificial meat even if it was declared permissable. "Who wants to eat a carcass anyways, lab grown or not?" one reader asked on the Hindu Dharma Forums website.

(Courtesy: DNA)

Remembering Prof. Obaid Siddiqi (1932-2013): A personal tribute from a Student

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 August 2013 | Posted in , , ,

Prof. Obaid Siddiqi was a Renaissance man and father of modern Indian biology.

By Sukant Khurana

It is very rare that individuals are institutions in themselves. Such individuals are genuine visionaries who start a wave, who create a school of thought and like a banyan tree keep extending inspiring branches through offshoots much beyond when they are gone. The late Obaid Siddiqi, who many rightly consider the father of modern Indian biology and the last of the giants of the South Asian science scene, was one such rare individual. While risking the shallow deification of the late protagonist of this article, I write this piece, hoping that a few people would understand that it is not the person but the vision that this is a personal tribute to and they would strive to pick up the torch where the last generation left it.

Obaid Siddiqi, who strove to transform the life sciences in South Asia recently died of a freak road accident. True to his dream of a peaceful, considerate, educated and scientific society, his family decided to not press charges on the young careless driver that hit him, as it would ruin his career and education.

My article is far from a perfect tribute to my first scientific mentor as it deals solely with my personal interactions with him in order to bring forth his ideas that continue to inspire me, instead of details of his tremendously long list of achievements or his interactions with hundreds of other very well accomplished students that continue to contribute to science and society world over. The greatest biologist that South Asian soil has sprung so far, Obaid Siddiqi, despised personal publicity and his motto was simply to just do your job quietly without worrying about the results. There again I am deviating from what Obaid would have liked. I hope to ruffle some feathers of a subcontinent that is indifferent to the true heroes of madre vatan but worships cinema stars, religious demagogues, politicians and sport icons. By madre vatan, instead of simply India, I speak in the same sense as Obaid did about the land, culture and people of the whole of Indian Subcontinent and not religiously and ethnically divided feudal leftover remnants. He was not nostalgic about some group in antiquity dominating the whole land but had a vision of the future - of people united by common cultural threads, yet celebrating their diversity, irrespective of past petty differences. Over one lunch, he quoted poet Kaifi Azmi (I am paraphrasing because of an imperfect recollection of a 12 year old conversation) that even though he was born in a slave British India and had to live through a divided subcontinent, he would love to die in a united, truly secular and a socialist one.

Obaid Siddiqi (January 7th, 1932-July 26th, 2013) was my first scientific mentor, who worked solely for the love of science, for whom lab was a temple, a prayer, a lifetime of commitment and not a business or a mere profession. His scientific career spanned from a study that led to the first ever fine mapping of a gene that eventually contributed to Guido Pontecorvo’s Nobel winning work, to an important finding on the nature of codons that eventually increased our understanding of protein synthesis, insights into bacterial gene exchange, to synaptic vesicle recycling mutant that now enables several neuroscientists a spatiotemporal control over neuronal activity, to the first exploration of the genetic basis of taste and smell. He founded the first biology unit at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Center for Biological Sciences, was the president of Indian academy of Sciences for several years, played an important role in various national and international institutions, including the international effort of The Third World Academy of Sciences to get the developing world on a global scientific map. The list is long so I will only talk of my personal interaction that started in the July of 2000 and continued till few days before his tragic death.

He belonged to a rare and now globally endangered breed of true passionate gentleman scientists. His contributions are many, but his most personally dear achievements are two: preparing successive generations of scientists from South Asia and in his personal capacity humbly fighting for progressive and enlightened values. He had a clear vision of an ideal scientist when I met him. Looking at his career it is clear that that the vision had evolved and had undergone several iterations as he had evaluated science and its role in the society, putting his and others’ conduct under the microscope. While the vision had evolved over time, the vigorous flame to transform the subcontinent remained ever constant. When Obaid could have the choice of setting up a lab in United States, at the height of his career in 1962 he decided to pack up and take the perilous journey of establishing molecular biology in India. His perspective on the role of scientist in Indian society evolved out of a lifetime of constant struggle involving both extrospection and introspection. His vision of a scientist was a creative and objective person who apart from his individual scientific success had a contract with the society from which he emanated. A scientist did not exist in contrast to or as a parasite on the society by merely practicing science for self-promotion. This wise perspective of his was by no means meant as any criticism of basic or applied science in simple black and white terms, but a very healthy questioning of what is sustainable, reverberating the immediate and future needs of the developing world. He asked how could rigorous science be used as a tool for social change.

One such way for him was to train the next generation of scientists, educating them in scientific method through real scientific experience. His idea was that even if most such trainees do not do science for living later on, they can take back this training to their everyday lives and thus act as catalyst for rational thought in society. He individually trained several short-term visitors of any age group, from teenagers to grey haired college readers. This was not a task handed down to graduate students. Only a handful of such trainees panned out, when one thinks in terms of the cost benefit analysis of the productivity of his lab. I once persisted in arguing with him over several days on this topic of loss of lab productivity due to inundation of short-term visitors. My point was that when the visitors learn to do experiments well enough they were ready to leave and Obaid was not getting anything out of them. He said it was neither about cost benefit analysis as other labs do nor about what he got out of it. He believed that if he could get a small number to become future scientists or even spread scientific thinking, that will be his small contribution to the society. I understood the message of training people selflessly but it took me several years to fully embrace it, when with the help of friends, breaking outside the university programs, I initiated something of the sort in Austin, Texas towards the end of my doctoral studies. Obaid did not hide his feelings when he found out that his lesson had rubbed on to one of his students.

In his last two decades of his life, his obsessions were two fundamental issues of behavioral neuroscience that have been completely sidetracked by the majority in the mad march for quick publications. He wondered what an appropriate measure of a behavioral response is, if one singular measure should be used at all. He understood that almost all neuroscience labs are throwing away most of the information by taking one single measure of a response at a fixed time. He also asked if one could really break out of strictly associative way of thinking about higher learning. He called sensory pre-exposure as Thorpean conditioning to respect few pioneering but rather inconclusive experiments done by William H. Thorpe of Cambridge in middle of the last century. From what Obaid contributed to it, it should truly be called Obaidian. He was just too humble to acknowledge his intellectual contributions and hence he deferred the contribution to others, although his ideas were significantly different, not just in details but in the overall concept. His perspective on familiarity without association with any explicit reward or punishment is a novel way of understanding many aspects of complex learning. I will write extensively (and I hope others to do the same) about those ideas later as they reflect a new way of thinking about learning and memory but I hope that in near future, I can find time to write about at least the essence of that unfinished big question and our common interest in South Asian transformation. I have been thinking something on the lines of “Metamorphosis of life and cultural psyche”, incorporating not only his vision but of few others along with mine on two seemingly superficially unrelated topics. Metamorphosis alludes to love of Hegel’s philosophy and the concept of transformation and also to the drastic change in life forms, especially invertebrates from the larval to the adult stage. I preferred metamorphosis to his truly South Asian analogy, where he used to say that fruit fly is like a “Brahmin”, having two lives and it remembers lessons from the first stage in the second stage too. The broader philosophical idea beyond neuroscience is to explore complete transformation without losing the lessons of the past in both individual and societal context, quite the opposite of destroying everything to build something new. This complete transformation was what Obaid was master of, taking what existed, howsoever crumbling and picking the best out of that to create something new and vibrant.

Unlike every other student in his lab, who worked either on the behavior and molecular biology of olfaction or what he had humbly called as Thorpean conditioning, when I stubbornly persisted, he let me explore associative conditioning. Decision to let me pursue that, I can only speculate would have been painful, as I understood the philosophical underpinnings of his thought but sought to do exactly the opposite. It takes a truly educated man in the Aristotelian sense to nurture two contradictory currents under the same roof and he did with strongest possible support. Over several years of interaction we were realizing that the two points of view might likely converge and are really not opposite ends of the spectrum. I speculate that there are likely going to be interesting differences at the cellular levels but there are going to be more similarities than differences at the neural network level. It is sad that Obaid will not be with us at the finish line of that idea but if it were not for him, we would not have even started exploring these questions, I surely would not have. I would be studying extremophile microorganisms.

He loved discussing science to the point that few hours before I was leaving his lab on my last day in Bangalore, the discussion was on experiments to address concerns about the possibility of elements of associativity in Thorpean conditioning. I reminded him that I was leaving, thinking that he had forgotten the date. He knew the date and time very well but said that experiments did not end with his lab and he was not concerned about the specifics of where I were to address these questions. He said wherever I go I must carry on with the science. He said “It is the question that counts”. It was always the questions, not the rat race of publications, grants, awards and prestige that mattered for Obaid. His message of “carry on” with the mission remains etched in my memory.

Despite his ideological differences with successive Indian governments where he stood for far more progressive egalitarian ideals than the regimes, very similar to his long-time friend and collaborator Seymour Benzer, his stature in the scientific world as unquestionably India’s most prominent biologist gave him the ear of the power-elites in Delhi. They could neither swallow him nor spit him out, so to speak. Finding few exceptional people who could sympathize with his mission of science, he created enough legroom to bring about change. Unlike everyone else in his position, who exploited such opportunities to create their own fiefdoms, Obaid tirelessly worked to build responsible democratically accountable structures of science and technology. His stature made him change the Indian science by setting new waves in motion although failing to completely overhaul it, given that for every honest man in India there are ten thousand opportunists and for every true scientist there are scores of bureaucrats. Understanding the need of a person with vision, Obaid used to frequently complain about Homi Bhabha’s untimely death. As Bhabha had both the intellectual authority and the ear of Nehru, according to Obaid, after Bhabha’s death the task was left midway, with no one there to pick the torch. In a very different style, without any fanfare at all and without such proximity to power as Bhabha, Obaid did carry forward the task in very significant way, something he never took the credit for.

When the moment called he did more than simply training students or setting science policy for the better of the society. He gave lectures in late 90s and early 2000 against how religious forces had brought in astronomy into official course work. Over last two years’ interactions he was concerned about how many central Universities had gone down the drain due to political interventions. He also complained about ills of research institutions suddenly expanding without retaining standards of quality. His social contract did not end just at higher scientific education alone either. Right from writing educational books for underprivileged mid-school kids in Hindi for free, to fighting several plagues of Indian bureaucracy, alongside running the most prestigious lab in South Asia, he somehow managed to retain the curiosity of a ten year old and humility of a graduate student just approaching his graduation exam. Being ever so judicious in his own spending, he bestowed many of his personal resources for the right causes, giving away books to students when he knew they were not going to be returned. I vividly remember his evening talk in a small Bangalore college at a horribly lit and annoyingly buggy room on the topic of human evolution. His eyes lit up when he was inspiring students to pursue science after undergraduate studies. This happened just a few days after a well-publicized talk attended by the who’s who of the Indian science at IISc. While both talks were par excellence, his enthusiasm was clearly many times more for the one in the small dingy room of that rather unknown college. Not just enthusiasm, we in the lab knew he had labored several times more for the undergraduate audience, toiling for months in advance to read up the current status of the field. How could he ever miss the opportunity of finding new recruits for science and for the transformation of South Asia?

Sukant Khurana
His interests ranged from classical music, history, visual arts, to several sports. Apart from hundreds of email exchanges over years on our common interest on olfaction and learning, my conversations with him on excavations of megalithic pottery in South India, population genetics of migration from South to South East Asia, people-to-people contact amongst citizens of different countries of South Asia, remain some of my cherished intellectual interactions. I have not met another renaissance man of his equal despite having worked amongst several big names of the science and art world. He was truly the last of the league of Meghnad Saha, Homi Bhabha, CV Raman from India, with none comparable in sight in the near future. What we are left with are now career politicians heading different institutions, universities, and science and biotechnology departments. He will be missed a lot. Although he is not with us anymore to provide new directions in science, fight for right policies and protest when needed but his vision and scientific inspirations live on through several students. In the end all I can say is through hundreds of young scientists you have trained and thousands you have inspired, dear OS, your scientific dreams and vision of a modern South Asia would “carry on”.

[Sukant Khurana, Ph.D., is a New York based neuroscientist and artist, currently working at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He had the privilege to work on olfaction, learning and memory under the guidance of Prof. Obaid Siddiqi from 2000 to 2003. His works can be seen at www.brainnart.com. Follow him on twitter @brainnart. He can be contacted at sukantkhurana@gmail.com]

PEOPLE: Obaid Siddiqi, a bio-scientist par excellence

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 27 July 2013 | Posted in , , ,

Bangalore: Obaid Siddiqi, who passed away here late Friday (July 26, 2013) was a leading research scientist and founding director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) here.

"Siddiqi was one of India's finest biologists whose contribution to the growth of molecular biology was profound. Demonstrating that scientific research was creative, he pioneered behaviourial genetics by conducting research on the genetics of olfactory sensation in drosophila (fruit fly)," NCBS director Satyaji Mayor said here Saturday.

Born in 1932 in Uttar Pradesh, the young Siddiqi graduated from Aligarh Muslim University, and did his doctorate (PhD) on microbial genetics from University of Glasgow in Britain.

"Siddiqi was instrumental in setting up the NCBS here over two decades ago (1992) to explore new frontiers in biological research and motivate a generation of fellow bio-scientists to excel in the fascinating field," Mayor recalled.

Siddiqi, 80, leaves behind wife Asiya, two sons Imran and Kalim and two daughters Yumna and Diba.

Armed with a Ph.D, Siddiqi sailed to the US to do post-doctoral research at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which led to the discovery of stop codons in the genetic code and mechanism of chain termination during protein synthesis.

"Siddiqi was among a daring few who defined a new intellectual quest and whose leadership created a culture of research. His foresight, determination and courage have transformed research in molecular biology in the country," said Biotechnology department secretary and former NCBS director K.Vijay Raghavan.

At the invitation of India's famous nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha in 1962, Siddiqi had set up the molecular biology unit at the TIFR in Mumbai (then Bombay), where foundation for modern biology research in the country was laid.

Siddiqi's pioneering work at the unit in the 1980s on the genetic basis of taste and smell of fruit fly paved way for the understanding of how senses detect taste and smell and encode in the brain.

Working with Seymour Benzer at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) in the US in the early seventies (1970s), he discovered a set of temperature sensitive paralytic mutants that exhibited defects in the electrical activity of nerves and muscles.

"The discovery led to an understanding of the mechanistic basis of neuronal function and heralded the dawn of the field of Behavioral Genetics," Mayor pointed out.

The Indian government honoured Siddiqi with several awards and medals, including the prestigious Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan, Bhatnagar Prize, Aryabhatta Medal by INSA (Indian National Science Academy) and BC Roy award for biomedical research.

During his six-decade long illustrious academic career, Siddiqi's contributions were widely recognised national and internationally.

He was also an elected member of the Royal Society, London (FRS), the US National Academy of Sciences, the World Academy of Sciences, Trieste, the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, National Academy of Sciences (India), Allahabad, and Maharashtra Academy of Sciences.

As a distinguished scholar, Siddiqi was a visiting professor at Yale University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and twice at Caltech and a life member of Clare Hall at Cambridge in Britain.

Aligarh Muslim University, Banaras Hindu University, Jamia Hamdard, Kalyani University, IIT Bombay, Jamia Millia Islamia and Central University of Hyderabad conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (D.Sc).

Siddiqi's last rites were performed here Saturday in the presence of hundreds of his colleagues, students, family members and friends.

(Courtesy: IANS, July 27, 2013)

Islam On Demand launches Kickstarter Project to build Android App

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 July 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

App to provide access to a huge catalog of enriching lectures about Islam.

IMO News Service

Islam On Demand, producer of original high-quality video content since 1995, successfully launched its long-anticipated iPhone app on July 9, 2013. The app provides instant access to a unique catalog of inspiring lectures by Hamza Yusuf, Suhaib Webb, Jamal Badawi, Jeffrey Lang and countless others. Now the video production company aspires to build the same mobile app for Android devices. To do this, they recently launched a Kickstarter.com project in an effort to raise the necessary funds to build it. Kickstarter is a way to fund creative projects through what is known as "crowd-source funding" in which a group of people contribute money to help a project meet its financial goals. Supporters can contribute a single dollar or thousands of dollars in exchange for rewards and the satisfaction of helping a project come to life. To view Islam On Demand's Android app project go to: http://www.islamondemand.com/kickstarter

Current data shows that the Android operating system is the top smartphone platform, controlling 52% of the market versus Apple's 38%. This fact combined with customer inquiries about an Android version of the app has compelled Islam On Demand to launch the Kickstarter project, which ends on August 16th at 11:10am. A spokesperson for Islam On Demand comments, "Developing the iPhone app was a tremendous honor and we're very pleased with the results. We're hopeful that our supporters will get behind the Kickstarter project so that our funding goal can be met and we can begin developing our educational app for the Android platform." But if 100% of the funds are not raised by the project's funding end date, development of the app would be suspended indefinitely. "If the project failed to raise the funds it would be a shame" the spokesperson said, "especially considering the wonderful feedback we've received from users of the iPhone app".

Reviews for the Islam On Demand iPhone app have been very positive thusfar: "I absolutely love this app. It has a variety of lectures and it's great if you're trying to get knowledge on Islam and everything pertaining to it. It's great for non-Muslims who might have unanswered questions as well." Another reviewer comments, "Highly recommend this app to get high quality videos and high quality information." And finally, "Rarely do you find such a vast aggregate of Islamic information and this one does it with an intuitive and well crafted user interface." For more details about the iPhone app go to http://www.islamondemand.com/app and anyone interested in getting the app for Android should go to http://www.islamondemand.com/kickstarter

Islam On Demand is a professional video production company that focuses on original, high-quality lectures about Islam and Muslims. Since 1995 Islam On Demand has been a service to anyone interested in learning the true teachings about Islam. Lectures recorded are geared towards a Western, English-speaking audience. Many of the speakers are Western-born and/or Western-raised, and many are converts to Islam.

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