Over one million people have recently visited the 1001 Inventions exhibition – a new global educational initiative that aims at creating awareness of scientific and cultural achievements from the ‘Golden Age’ of Muslim civilization and to show how those contributions helped build the foundations of the modern world.
According to the exhibition’s official website, the purpose of the 1001 Inventions initiative is to engage with the public through diverse educational media in order to highlight the shared cultural and technological inheritance of humanity.
Originally funded by the British government and launched in the United Kingdom in 2006, 1001 Inventions was created by the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC). The academics behind the 1001 Inventions initiative include an international network of historians, scientists, engineers and social scientists from the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
After blockbuster runs in London and Istanbul, 1001 Inventions will make its United States premiere at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in December.
“Science is a universal language that has a unique power to pull people together. This exhibition reveals fascinating bits of history and a shared scientific inheritance,” said Dr. Margaret Honey, President and CEO of NYSCI. “1001 Inventions is about scholarship, inspiration and discovery among men and women from many cultures, making NYSCI an ideal venue for the U.S. debut—a hands-on science and technology center in the most diverse city in the country.”
Professor Salim Al-Hassani, Chairman of 1001 Inventions, said, “The New York Hall of Science is the first U.S. venue to host this global exhibition. We’re privileged to be working with such an accomplished and respected educational institution. The 1001 Inventions exhibition has had phenomenal success in London and Istanbul, with audiences of more than 400,000 people visiting the exhibition in each city. We look forward with great anticipation to the U.S. segment of our global tour.”
“No one, adolescent or adult, who has been educated about the scientific history of the Muslim world would be an easy target for the brainwashing of the doom mongers. I hope that the Jameel Foundation takes the “1001 Inventions” exhibition across the world, even to Kabul, where children and adults could learn about Islam away from the indoctrination of the ignorant,” Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a non-resident fellow at the Dubai School of Government, wrote in his article, “1001 Inventions”: How Islamic Scientific History Can Combat Today’s Extremists.
“Originally, it was aimed at the Western public,” said Salim Al-Hassani, organizer of the Britain-based exhibition and a professor of mechanical engineering at Manchester University. “But we found that when people from the Muslim world, when they see it, they get fired up, especially the young people who are in search of identity.”
“There is a perception that Islam was always backward and made no contribution to the world of science,” said visitor Sule Seda Tezer, who was especially pleased to note the high profile of women in the displays. “The West has a phobia about Islam. I think there is an effort to break the phobia and build better ties between the East and West.”
Muslim civilization stretched from southern Spain to, as far as China. From the 7th century, scholars of many faiths built on the ancient knowledge of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, making breakthroughs that paved the way for the Renaissance. Unfortunately, as Associated Press pointed out, for generations the Arabic heritage has been known to many in the West only as “One Thousand and One Nights.” It helped shape Western notions about Muslim culture. The collection of tales described an exotic world of harems and flying carpets, Sinbad and monsters, Aladdin and the jinn, Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. But the Arabic heritage has many different sides, not only the literary one.
The exhibition is taking place at a very important moment. The clash of ideaologies in civilizations has become more popular recently. Nowadays it is very important to emphasize the shared cultural inheritance of humanity to promote peace, tolerance and understanding.