Najam Speaks at Royal Society on Science in Muslim Societies

On March 7, 2023, Adil Najam, Dean Emeritus and Professor of International Relations and Earth and Environment at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, was invited to speak at a panel discussion on “Science and Technology in Muslim Societies” held at The Royal Society in London.

The panel was convened as part of the launch of the Program on Science and Technology in Muslim Societies by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, where Najam is currently the Mahatir Mohamad Visiting Fellow while on sabbatical from BU Pardee School. Preceding the panel, the new program was launched by the U.K. Minister for International Development Andrew Michell. Chief Science Advisor to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) Dr. Charlotte Watts delivered a keynote address.

In his comments to the panel, moderated by Dr. Ehsan Masood, Editorials Editor of the scientific journal Nature, Najam argued that the key requirement was to create a culture that encourages and rewards scientific inquiry in developing countries, including Muslim societies rather than thinking about specific technologies that may be of interest to them. This, he suggested, would be most likely to happen if the focus is on those challenges of science and technologies that are directly confronted by these societies but for which solutions are unlikely to come from elsewhere. One such area, he posited, is climate adaptation science for the “Age of Adaptation,” which focuses directly and principally on the felt needs and challenges being faced by these societies and “which tend to be very specific to each locale and therefore imported solutions from London or Boston are unlikely to work.”

By looking at the global spear of around 2 billion Muslims and superimposing on that the geographies that are likely to be most vulnerable to climate impacts in the immediate term, Najam calculated that around 1 billion Muslims around the world are today at imminent risk of facing climate disasters and that itself should be the reason to focus our attention for indigenous adaptation science to be encouraged in these regions. Building on an earlier lecture on Climate and Islam he had delivered at Oxford University, Najam challenged environmentalists to engage with religion and faith because these will invariably be the front line of people’s coping strategies when they are confronted with ever-more-frequent climate calamities.

The Royal Society is the independent scientific academy of the United Kingdom, dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all humanity. The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies is an institution for the advanced study of Islam and of Muslim Societies. Learn more on the Royal Society’s website.

Adil Najam is a global public policy expert who served as the Inaugural Dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and was the former Vice-Chancellor of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). His research focuses on issues of global public policy, especially those related to global climate change, South Asia, Muslim countries, environment and development, and human development. Read more about Professor Najam on his Pardee School faculty profile.