The Revolution Egypt Needstags: Egypt, Egyptian Revolution
Ahmed H. Zewail, a professor of chemistry and physics at the California Institute of Technology, was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1999.
Pasadena, California — When I was a boy in Desuq, Egypt, a city on the Rosetta branch of the Nile, about 50 miles east of Alexandria, my family lived steps away from the local landmark, a mosque named for a 13th-century Sufi sheik. Five times a day, we would hear the call to prayer. Our imam encouraged us to study, telling my friends and me, again and again, of the message revealed by the Prophet Muhammad: “iqra” — read! Education was in the fabric of our culture and religion.
I left Egypt in 1969 for graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. I have been on the faculty at Caltech for 37 years and carried dual citizenship for 31. But my commitment to the country of my birth never wavered. Political tumult — two uprisings, and the overthrow of two regimes, in the space of two years — has left Egypt in deep political uncertainty. But what’s been lost in the deadly machinations among both the secular liberals and political Islamists is what touched off the revolution: the aspirations of Egypt’s youth.
Like many Arab societies, Egypt is young. The activists who filled Tahrir Square in 2011 demanded liberty and social justice, valid ends in themselves, but their ultimate goal, I believe, was social and economic change — educational opportunities, leading to sound jobs and a decent life — necessary to flourish in the modern world. As the first Egyptian, and Arab, to be awarded a Nobel Prize in science, and a former special envoy sent by the Obama administration to promote science in the Middle East, this is my foremost concern....
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