Greg Mortenson – You are still my hero

Greg Mortenson - a saint among usCBS may have taken a few potshots at you to improve their sagging TV ratings. Jon Krakauer: might have gotten his 15 minutes of fame that he has been so desparately seeking to improve his profile (and possibly make his next book a best seller). But in reality none of this changes the fact, that for the better part of last 20 years you have dedicated your life to building hundreds of schools in the most remote and forgotten parts of the war ravaged world.

It also does not change the fact, that your schools were the first education that anyone has received in in generations, especially the girls.

It also does not change the fact, that your books have inspired countless people, to think for others rather than themselves for the better good of humanity.

Your actions, have inspired a whole new generation of philanthropists and social entrepreneurs who are out there trying to play their part in making this world a better place.

While CBS’s tabloid journalism might try to derail your noble mission to educate the poor of the world, it does not change the fact that each day another child comes home better educated than his parents. Each day, a girl learns the meaning of life and her rights as a human being which sadly her mother missed out by being kept illiterate.

While the CBS investigative team (Andy Court, Kevin Livelli and Maria Usman) has never left the comfort of their homes to visit any war torn regions, nor have they gone and lived among the poorest of the poor. They certainly do not know the meaning of poverty, uneducation and powerless lives. They are probably just seeking cheap publicity to further their journalistic careers. Today, they take a pot shot at you, tomorrow, they might go after Nelson Mandela.

Dr Greg, you are our hero and you will remain one no matter what. What you have done for the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan is unique and angelic. May God give you reward in this life and hereafter for your good deeds.

A Must Watch TED Video on Reading the Quran

Sometimes you come across little gems that you never thought possible. Sometimes, you hear the right thing but from a very unexpected source. At times, you want to believe in myths and half truths, but then the real deal kicks in and you hear what is the absolute truth.

I was blown away by the following TED Video by Ms. Lesley Hazleton on Reading the Quran.

TED Video

Click to see the video

It is always best to learn from the source, in this case Quran, about Islam. The Fox news version or Al Jazeera version just does not cut it.

The First Information Society

Islamic CivilizationLooking back a thousand years, to a time when glorious civilizations in the Mesopotamia and Southern Spain spread their knowledge and scientific discoveries around the world. These powerful and well advanced societies were not only exporting culture, science and literature to the world but were one of the most scientifically advanced and civilized nations in the world. And with it they had also given the world a glimpse of the future. The future of Information Society, an age that has just reached us in 21st century.

At the turn of the first millennium, while the European societies feuded among themselves over petty matters and their cities were still nothing more than ghettos, the Islamic cities like Baghdad, and Damascus in Middle East and Cordoba, and Grenada in Southern Spain boasted a million in habitants who had access to clean water, integrated sewerage system, public baths paved roads and lighted streets at night. They were also amassing a huge wealth of knowledge. Their historians and scientists were translating and preserving scrolls, tablets and ancient languages into the lingua franca of the time, Arabic. These were not only studied but debated at their huge universities by thousands of students enrolled in them. There were no floggings or imprisonments if your scientific discoveries shook the norms of the society. Nor were you put to death for presenting a radical new idea. Instead, the knowledge was free to share with anyone who wanted it regardless of their religion, caste, creed or racial background. A copy of the amassed knowledge was also preserved in large public libraries which were accessible to everyone. It was even complied into an easy to read and carry form. A novel concept of that time called, the “Book”. Yes, it were these societies that gave us the current form of the book, where scrolls and mud tablets were replaced by neatly packed books as know them today. The streets of Cordoba and Baghdad were lined with 100 of book sellers that would be selling thousands of books from all corners of the world. This was a time, when Britain, is said to have no more than a dozen books locked up in a monastery and only accessible to the chosen few.

Had it not been for the Arabic Scholars and historians, today the world would remember little of Homer, Aristotle and other great ancient writers. The Muslims, when they conquered any society, made it a point to preserve their local culture, document their sciences and knowledge and share it with the rest of the world. With this knowledge sharing we see Arabic Numerals (the current number system) to be adopted by the world, the birth of new mathematics including Algebra, and sciences like Chemistry and health sciences including the concept of hospitals.

Sadly, today, not much survives of those libraries and book stores and that vast knowledge of information that they amassed is all gone. The Mongol invasion of Baghdad in thirteenth century not only destroyed every sign of civilization but burned every book that they could find along with the inhabitants of the city. While the conquest of Isabella and Ferdinand of Muslim Spain brought an abrupt end to free thinking, learning and knowledge sharing which sadly was replaced by crippling culture of Spanish Inquisition and supreme power of the Church over all mattes including science.

The Muslims who fled Spain made their way to Africa. And when they left many chose to take with them their precious libraries. Recent search of ancient books have been found in the Sahara desert where they have remained buried for centuries. Some people had brought with them as many as 700 books to Africa from their personal collections.

Arabian Nights (from where we get the tales of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba) , Hatim Tai, Umro Ayyar, Amir Hamza and many other original fiction from the Middle Eastern survives to this day and translated into many languages including Urdu. These enduring tales that go on forever are compiled into multiple volumes is just the tip of the ice berg of knowledge that was being created a thousand years ago. It was an age which gave birth to the first mass fiction novels. Sadly, not much survives today. And what we have is not yet translated into multiple languages.

It would be wonderful if somehow we can start a search for the ancient books (the first of its kind in the world) and scan them digitally to be shared with the modern societies. Only then will we appreciate the true power of the ancients who were extremely advanced and civil of their time. True they did not have computers, but they were discovering and inventing the mathematics which we use today to make our computers and machines churn our wonderful 21st century technology. We owe it to them to where we are today.

So lets discover the past and search out that knowledge and share it with the world. You never know what we may find. And that is the beauty of discovery.

Remember Flood Victims During Eid ul Fitr

Waiting for aid to reach them

As we all know 21million people in Pakistan are directly affected by the floods in Pakistan. Its a staggering statistic making it one of the biggest natural disasters in recent memory.

As Eid approaches later this week, Islam’s largest celebration, we must remember the stricken. While we buy new clothes for ourselves, let’s also buy one for them. While we share sweets and dinner with friends, we should also remember to give them food. While we sleep well in our beds, we must try to donate bedsheets, tents and utensils to them so that they may have a cover over their head.

So this Eid ul Fitr, while we celebrate and pray to Allah, we must also pray for their health and well being. Let’s hope their hardship comes to end soon.

We are working closely with UM Healthcare who have been in the field since the day floods hit Northern Pakistan. They have treated over 6500 patients in the month of August 2010 and 3,000 families received food rations through them. Do help organizations like UM Healthcare out there so that help could be sent to the needy.

Buner & Swat Refugees Need Our Help

Buner Refguee Relief Camp

Buner Refguee Relief Camp

In 2005 at Stanford University, we started a Tele-health initiative for rural Pakistan. Today, By the Grace of God, we are successfully running our services on a regular basis in rural Mardan District of Pakistan (in the village of Zahidabad, NWFP 200KM North of Islamabad) at our medical facility. We have now treated close to 15,000 patients since September 2008 off which 50% are female patients.

You can see some media/videos of our efforts at : http://www.umtrust.org/media

Apparently, our hospital in Zahidabad is located at the border of Buner District and therefore, we have seen a huge influx of refugees in our area these past few weeks. In fact, we have estimated close to 100,000 refugees in a 10KM radius of our facility. The conflict has caused over 1.5 million refugees in the province of NWFP (North West Frontier Province) of Pakistan.

As a response to this crisis, UM Healthcare Trust, our non-profit, in collaboration with its stakeholders (NUST, APPNA among others) has launched a massive healthcare relief effort for the refugees streaming in from the Buner & Swat district.

A photo stream of our efforts can be seen here at

http://picasaweb.google.com/mumtaz.atif/BunerRefugees

The project is a joint collaboration between

is partially supported by grants from

In this hour of the need for refugees we need your support as we are running short on medical supplies. No international non-profit is operating in our area and thus our limited resources are under a lot of stress.

Please contribute generously at http://www.umtrust.org/donate

How would you like to spend your Eid-ul-Adha

First read this blog

http://blogs.tele-healthcare.org/2008/09/plight-of-refugees-in-northern-pakistan.html

There are thousands of displaced individuals in Pakistan. Be it in Baluchistan, the victims of the recent earthquake, or Bajaur/Swat refugees who were forced out of their homes by incessant bombings by US drones and Pakistan military. This Eid please remember the people who are suffering across the country.

Eid-ul-Adha

Eid-ul-Adha

This Eid share your qurbanis and good moments with these poor suffering souls. These people need your attention and care. The winters are fast approaching and they still do not have warm clothings. The shelters are flimsy tents which cannot keep them warm in winters. There is no kitchen to feed them on a regular basis.

So think hard and see what you can do to bring a smile on their faces.