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Jul 26, 2010
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Director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Ismail Serageldin: Egypt Should Strive to Equal the Scientific Achievements of Iran and Turkey, But Israel Is Far More Advanced

#2576 | 04:40
Source: Channel 1 (Egypt)

Following are excerpts from an interview with Ismail Serageldin, director of Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt, which aired on Egypt TV on July 26, 2010:

Ismail Serageldin: In contrast to what people think, if we consider the experience of the 20th century throughout the world, we see that the regimes that ultimately prevailed were the democratic regimes. At certain periods, it seemed that dictatorships – whether from the far right, such as the Fascists, the Nazis, and so on, or the far left, such as the Communist regimes – are the ones able to implement decision quickly.

Indeed, nobody can deny that Hitler accomplished things in Germany, and that Stalin did so in Russia, but the price was very steep. It has been proven that societies in which there is [public] participation, which make decision slowly, and with a delay, are ultimately societies that survive, display forbearance, and have managed to develop in the long run.

The well-known French author Victor Hugo said something nice: "No army can defeat an idea whose time has come." An idea may seem at one point totally utopian, but after some time you see that it has spread everywhere.

When the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn up in 1948, it seemed entirely utopian. In 1948, all the problems of the second half of the 20th century were still ahead. Today, however, there isn’t a single spot on the face of the earth where people do not talk about human rights, and demand human rights. The idea of human rights has spread and permeated human consciousness.

Thus, ideas play a major role. In my opinion, this should be important in Egypt's path to the future. Egyptian thinking, Egyptian culture, and the continuity of Egypt's great historical and cultural heritage are what should lead Egypt toward the challenges of the future.


Objectively speaking, Israel is far more advanced scientifically than us. It has outstanding educational instaurations. But the models to which Egypt should look in our region are two nearby countries with an Islamic majority, which went in two completely different directions.

Interviewer: Are you referring to Malaysia?

Ismail Serageldin: No, to Iran and Turkey. These two countries went in two different directions, but both have achieved great scientific progress. After the first Iran-Iraq war of 1981, Iran felt that its regime was completely isolated, and that nobody could help it, achieve scientific progress, so it invested greatly in tremendous scientific research. As a result, the growth in the fields of physics and nuclear physics... In recent years, the number of studies by Iranian scientists in these fields rose by 700%. This did not come about in a vacuum. There is a policy supporting this.

Likewise, Turkey had a policy supporting scientific and technological development, and incorporating technology in society in many industries. As you know, Turkey has a secular regime while Iran has a religious regime, but in both cases, there has been a huge leap in the past 20 years... Indeed, Egypt is making progress, and I can show you statistics to this effect. But if I walk along, while the person next to me is running, the distance between us increases.

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