Statement of HH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan in the Opening Session

by Sumaya bint El Hassan Published on: 15th July 2010

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[Proceedings of the conference 1001 Inventions: Muslim Heritage in Our World organised by FSTC, London, 25-26 May 2010]. In this excellent statement addressed by HH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, President of El Hassan Science City and President of the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan, in the opening sessions of the international conference "1001 Inventions: Discover Muslim Heritage in Our World", issues of the past glory of Muslim science are evoked in the perspective of innovative projects that are being developed in the present. HH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan alluded particularly to the current collaboration between The Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization and scientific institutions in Jordan to develop an iconic brand in the spirit of our ingenious forebears.

HH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan*

Note of the editor

Statement of HH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, President of El Hassan Science City and President of the Royal Scientific Society (Amman, Jordan) in the opening session of the conference, on 25 May 2010.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very grateful to the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization for inviting me to participate in this enlightening and challenging conference. By meeting in this forum, we not only celebrate the achievements of those scientists of past centuries who strove to broaden the horizons of knowledge for all mankind, we also challenge ourselves as descendents of these great men and woman, to honour their work by emulating their greatness.

Figure 1: HH Princess Sumaya HHbint El Hassan presenting her statement in the opening session of the conference. © FSTC 2010.

The transmission of knowledge is vital in balancing progress and counteracting fear in our world. 1001 Inventions shows us that knowledge of our past holds the key to unlocking our future potential. We must celebrate who we were and what we achieved, and we must be inspired by it. But transmission of knowledge is necessary in so many other ways. It must be done across continents and social classes, across generations and genders. In our Jordanian context, the transmission of knowledge is something that must be done to release our most precious resource – untapped human capital.

– I –

The debate around this exhibition has reminded us that scientific achievement is all-too often an inheritance that attracts several claimants. Knowledge has often been made a commodity to fill the cultural armoury rather than the free currency of a global academy, as it should be. Unfortunately, it remains true that many people in the less developed world feel threatened by perceptions of a lack of entitlement to the booty of man’s scientific achievements. They are, perhaps, forced to feel inadequate in a global knowledge economy. It is in all our interests that these perceptions are tackled and that very real institutions and mechanisms are established to allow local, knowledge-based economies to flourish in our region, as, indeed, they have before. 1001 Inventions has helped us to rediscover our role in past knowledge-creation. In Jordan, we are striving to create a new centre of research and discovery to help contribute to future human development. I am pleased to say that you at the Foundation will help us to develop an iconic brand in the spirit of our ingenious forebears.

Figure 2: HH Princess Sumaya HHbint El Hassan presenting her statement in the opening session of the conference. © FSTC 2010.

As for those who will continue to make cultural claims to knowledge, I would remind them that the story of human achievement over the centuries has shown itself to be full of creative parallelisms; events and periods of human enlightenment that find their counterpart in other cultures and at other times – For example, Europe’s 17th Century -the Age of Reason and of discovery – had its comparison in the Arab-Islamic world of the 10th Century. But to believe in one’s own self and to celebrate one’s own history and community should not imply a misunderstanding of, or disdain for, the other. 1001 Inventions reminds us that a shared human history and a synthesis of thought has proved vital to mankind’s progress. Knowledge and appreciation of our respective achievements must promote mutual respect and remind us that we have far more in common than we often realise.

Islam broke down borders during its Golden Age. The spread of Islam across the Middle East, North Africa, Persia and Spain set aside much more than simply political boundaries. The creation of this vast political and social space created an environment in which science and scholarship thrived. This empire of ideas drew in knowledge and discovery from beyond its borders. The convergence of learning and scientific enquiry from India, Ancient Greece, China, and from the Islamic World represented a true alliance of cultures and a flowering of civilized achievement. The Age of Enlightenment, which has benefited the entire family of cultures that comprise our great human civilization, drew upon the knowledge and achievements of earlier times and from contemporary innovations. Similarly, the true legacy of our Arab Islamic Golden Age is not one of power or prosperity or great edifices in the sand. With the benefit of hindsight we can see that these were transient riches. The true wealth was one of ideas and innovation and these have enriched all of our lives today.

My Father has previously put this concept in a very physical context when he suggested the idea of a Genetics of Knowledge. Just as our human genome teaches us so much about our past and offers limitless potential for a better future, so an appreciation of the evolution of man’s search for knowledge across centuries and civilisations can open a path to a universal consciousness that crosses cultures and beliefs. Celebrating our scientific heritage and rediscovering our ancestors’ magnificent role in man’s epic scientific journey is a first and vital step towards maximising our own creative potential.

And of course, the truth is, in order to deal with our present global challenges, we will need to draw on all of humanity’s ingenuity and inventiveness to give us the best future possible.

– II-

Our mission at El Hassan Science City is to create an institution that builds on our heritage of scientific achievement. That mission is, indeed, urgent. As I have said, only a respect for knowledge and a marked veneration for its creative role in society can help to stem the flow of intellect and scientific know-how from our part of the World. We must make it clear to our brightest and best that we respect knowledge and innovation. Our goal is to captivate talent and to nurture Jordanian entrepreneurship and skill. We cannot afford to lose our future and, therefore, we must offer our innovators nothing less than the complete nurturing environment that they deserve.

We are delighted and privileged that Mr. Ahmed Salem of 1001 Inventions will collaborate with EHSC in building an infrastructure for innovation. Mr. Salem will join us and the master-planning team led by Arup, to help formulate an iconic Arts and Culture Strategy for the EHSC campus. This aspect of our development will form a core part of our future evolution. Each of our programmes will be informed by an artistic and cultural appreciation of what is possible, while the very physical design of our campus will show our appreciation of the heritage of creativity that 1001 Inventions celebrates so vividly. Our full acknowledgement of an Arabic scientific heritage will inform our strategy and remind us constantly of the high standards of innovation and creativity that we must set for ourselves today.

Figure 3: HH Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan presenting her statement in the opening session of the conference. © FSTC 2010.

With the help of 1001 Inventions we will review and renew our Master plan. You have already given us so much to enrich the vital narrative of our campus. We look forward to working with you to develop a conceptual brief for EHSC that is informed by your inspirational exposition of our ancestors’ role in science and invention. You have helped us to appreciate their enormous contribution to today’s diverse and globalised world.

Now, I am delighted to say, you will greatly help us to compose a storyline and script for our role in bettering the world of tomorrow. We must give our young people an iconic beacon that draws energy from the past but focuses firmly on the future.

An important part of our mission at EHSC is to build our story into the structures and landscape of the campus, so that all those who work, study or visit there will draw inspiration from a physical representation of our heritage of discovery. Mr Salem, this will also be informed by your invaluable contributions to the architectural briefs for the structures that will house and nurture our modern-day innovators. I am delighted that the Foundation will also be involved in developing a museum brief for Jordan, through which we can celebrate the achievements of all those cultures and civilisations that have enriched our extraordinary history.

Finally, Mr Salem, we look forward to your advice on designing an educational programme that will help us to carry the message of EHSC beyond the campus walls.

This message is well known to you and has been carried around the world by your own magnificent exhibition. It tells of past achievements and reminds us that our potential for discovery has been proven in the past. We have no reason to lack confidence in repeating those triumphs. We will rise to the challenge and we must do so. Innovation, continuity and change – the three keywords that have driven EHSC since its launch in April 2007 – might almost have been taken from the Golden Age that we celebrate today. 1001 Inventions has shown us how right we were to base our campus on these three precepts and how right we are to push for nothing short of excellence in what we achieve.

– III –

At El Hassan Science City, we are embarking on an ambitious project for the development and expansion of our 100-acre campus.

In this regard, we have three primary objectives:

1) To provide state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, training and incubator buildings for our constituent organizations;

2) To create a public realm that fosters collaboration and interaction, and unites diverse Departments and buildings, and;

3) To express our mission of sustainability and scientific innovation through design, landscape the infrastructure.

We hope that our campus’s Innovation Avenue will recreate in microcosm the environment that enabled science and creativity to flourish in the Arab World for so many centuries. Research and training must lead to enterprise creation. In addition, we must focus on a commitment to implementation and investment so that great ideas can make a real difference in the marketplace. Your input will be invaluable to help ensure that our outputs are those timeless treasures that this conference celebrates – human inquiry and innovation.

There is much at stake. Our part of world has been poorly portrayed in the West for many decades. I hope our work here will help to rectify that. I also hope that our efforts will go a long way to improving how we see ourselves. Perhaps we can all learn to look at our position in the modern world through the lens of learned reflection. We can now say that we have regained our place in the history of scientific achievement. Now we are ready to earn our place in its future.

* President of El Hassan Science City President of the Royal Scientific Society (Amman, Jordan)

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