The pen was not the only means of writing
Stabroek News
January 12, 2002

Dear Editor,

I refer to Mr Shahabudin McDoom's letter captioned "Muslim scholars helped spread secular knowledge" (7.l.2002). [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ]

He says that without the invention of the Pen, mankind would not have found it possible to develop the Arts and Sciences since the Pen was the instrument, which shared and stored knowledge.

Mr McDoom fails to realise that the Pen was not the only instrument of writing. The Egyptians often used hammer and chisel to cut out their hieroglyphs or brushes to paint them on. The Mesopotamian used the stylus to write and in the massive Chinese civilization, brushes not pens were the writing instruments. And in today's world, typewriters and computers are used to write and not the pen. Further, if pens were such an important invention, then ink was equally important for pens can't function without ink when writing on papyrus, parchment and paper. Mr McDoom's paean on the pen is therefore misplaced and overdone.

Mr McDoom mentions the great Muslim scholars of the Arab Middle Ages and speaks of their making ancient Greek learning available and also their own contributions to the then science. Since those days of 600 years ago, however, the Islamic world has seen nothing but decline, backwardness, poverty and violence. There have been little or no significant Muslim contributions to the Arts and Sciences for hundreds of years now. Islam therefore seems to offer little to modern man except a Mediaeval Arab past of 600 years ago!

Lastly Mr McDoom mentions the Christian Church's persecution of Galileo and other intellectuals for their writings and views. That was 500 years ago. And for hundreds of years now, the West and the Christian Churches have apologised for their deeds and now run countries with freedom of thought and information. Today, on the other hand, Islamic persecutions of intellectuals are commonplace. Witness Salman Rushdie, Shirin of Bangladesh and numerous Egyptian writers and writers all over the Islamic world. Maybe Muslims could learn from the Galileo experience and establish freedom of information as the West has done.

Yours faithfull

Rickford Giles