Friday, August 29, 2008

Mecca Mean Time: A New Way To Measure Our Planet?

Muslim scientists and clerics call for the adoption of Mecca Mean Time throughout the Islamic world during the April 21, 2008 conference in the Gulf State of Qatar gained widespread press coverage. How will the Western world react?

By: Vanessa Uy

As the world’s major news providers surprisingly (to me at least) bothered to cover the “Mecca, the Center of the Earth, Theory and Practice” conference in the Gulf State of Qatar back in April 21, 2008. The purpose of the conference is to spread the word throughout the Islamic World about Muslim scientists and clerics calling for the adoption of Mecca Mean Time to replace GMT – at least in the Islamic World. Arguing that the Saudi City of Mecca is the true center of the Earth. A prominent cleric and a leading voice of the conference in Qatar, Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawy, said that modern science had at last provided evidence that Mecca was the true center of the Earth. Proof, the cleric said, of the greatness of the Muslim “Qibla” – the Arabic word for the direction Muslims turn to when they pray.

The meeting in the Gulf State of Qatar is part of an increasingly popular trend in Muslim Societies increasingly being assimilated by the Western World’s modernistic materialism of seeking to find Koranic precedents for modern science. Not surprising for us in the know since it was Arabic scholars who studied in the learning centers of 12th Century Andalucia, Spain who had sown the tentative seeds of the Renaissance, especially in the planet Earth measuring science of geodesy. Even the 9th Century Arab mathematician named al-Khowarizmi briefly enjoyed fame outside of the stuffy old academic circle towards the end of April 2008.

Unfortunately, majority of the scientists in the libertine West – especially astronomers; make that American astronomers – became very weary. And they immediately voiced their weariness in the Blogosphere. Philip Plate’s Bad Astronomy website serves as a very excellent example. Despite of the somewhat emotionally heavy-handed reaction by most of us “defenders of rationality” here in the West, we have our reasons. Mostly it relates to the Inquisition and the burning alive of Giordano Bruno on the steak or the “reclusion perpetua” of Galileo by the “Princes of the Vatican. But it is rather more recent. And it happened in the school district of Dover, Pennsylvania back in 2004.

A re-labeled form of Creationism called Intelligent Design was almost re-introduced into the Dover, Pennsylvania school district by Nazi-inspired practitioners of an extremist form of Christianity. Fortunately, Judge John E. Jones was wise enough to decide that the false-yet-profitable doctrine of Intelligent Design doesn’t belong in US public schools. Many legal precedents in the US Supreme Court’s docket, like the Supreme Court ruling on Edwards v. Aguillard back in 1987 serves as a guiding light. After all, if they – the misguided right-wing Christian extremists - want to learn Creationism / Intelligent Design, they can always go to Richard Butler’s Aryan Nation headquarters in Hayden Lake, Idaho. Given that our embrace of an egalitarian and pluralistic society had made the Western World resilient enough to overcome the threat posed by Nazi-inspired forms of Christianity, why do a majority of Western scientists very much against the idea of a Mecca Mean Time? After all, it’s only for Muslims?

Maybe (90%sure) it’s because we Western Internet-savvy smart-asses with MENSA I.Q. ’s always view with equal tragedy the destruction of the giant Buddha statues in Bamian, Afghanistan by the Taliban. To that of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Towers by misguided extremists under the auspices of Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda. And the rift between Islam and the West only gets wider if we postpone an inter-cultural dialogue pertaining to the issue of Mecca Mean Time. Despite frequenting various Board of Muftis-approved Halal restaurants, I’ve yet to experience some Muslim intellectual talking to us X-Files / Dead Heads (Grateful Dead fans) / Trekkies / occasional Junoon fans about the “411” on Mecca Mean Time, Instead of just reading about it on the Internet. Most of all, my fellow Trekkies don’t have the levels of Islamophobia manifested by US President George W. Bush’s Neo-Conservatives.

But the Western world is not entirely of the hook. If we – the supposedly enlightened West – has allowed other existing cultures to develop into a space-faring society, it would not only be a boon to cultural anthropologists, but also to us “ amateur rocket scientists types” to know how they did it. Especially on which way their “steam gauges” turn – clockwise or counter-clockwise? Imagine this, what if the Zulu Tribe of South Africa is allowed to become a space-faring civilization. Since they are located way below the Earth’s equator, they would design their clocks to move “counter-clockwise” relative to ours since this is how their sundials – as observed by them through time – move. So does the “steam gauges” – i.e. instrumentation indicators on their spacecraft might move different from us who grew up above the Earth’s equator. We won’t have to go light-years into deep space to study cultural phenomena such as this.

Sadly, I’m not the emperor of the world. Mecca Mean Time will probably wind up into one of those good ideas that never got off the ground – both literally and figuratively. And this will surely reinforce many a Muslim scholar on how Western Civilization yet again is ungrateful for the wealth of knowledge provided by Arabic scholars who used to frequent the centers of learning in 12th Century Andalucia, Spain. For without this intellectual collaboration, the European Renaissance could not have happened. It looks like a Mecca Mean Time-based geodesy will never get under scrutiny - even an extensive peer review - by Western scientists.


Sherry Rashad said...

Many in the West had been very weary about the concept of Mecca Mean Time. If they want to peer review the concept, it is much easier now since PCs are so powerful they can simulate the Gemini Program of NASA. Just use Mecca Mean Time to set capsule de-orbit burn. If it lands in Osama Bin Laden's cave, good luck.

Germaine said...

Mecca Mean Time critic Peter Plate of Bad Astronomy should have asked Charlie Wilson for "materiel support" in order to punish those Taliban thugs who blew up the giant Buddha statues on Bamiyan Province, Afghanistan. Peter Plate should have clean his own proverbial "glass house" first by criticizing those advocating for Creationism / Intelligent Design in the US Public School system.