Science Under the Veil Publication date : May 7, 2013
Faouzia Farida Charfi, a highly respected figure in scientific and intellectual circles, is a physicist teaching at the University of Tunis. A long-time activist, first under Habib Bourguiba and later under Ben Ali, she was named Secretary of State for Higher Education in the provisional government that came out of the Jasmine Revolution. She resigned in March 2011.
In the 1970s, Faouzia Farida Charfi challenged the Islamists at the University of Tunis, where she had witnessed their attacks against science and particularly against physics. Her interest in the behaviour of the Islamists toward science, and her need to understand it, dates from this period.
By investigating historical as well as recent events in Tunisia, Charfi reveals the underpinnings of the Islamists’ behaviour. She demonstrates how science can be gagged, curiosity stifled, criticism and creativity quashed, reflection nipped in the bud and scientific experimentation impoverished, in order to facilitate indoctrination. She shows how the relation between the Islamists and science is stamped with the seal of ambiguity, oscillating between total rejection and attempts to co-opt it, which ultimately empty science of all meaning and instrumentalise it.
The example of creationism enables the author to denounce the objective alliance between fundamentalisms — whether Anglo-American or Muslim — and the condition of women, particularly within academia. In addition, she points out that creationism is an aberration from the Islamic viewpoint.
Besides revealing these mechanisms, Charfi argues that they can be overcome and she shows how.
• A thorough, explicit reflection on science in Islamic nations.
• The Tunisian crisis remains a central, topical issue.