Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi - a social worker and poet - winner of the King Faisal International Prize

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former prime minister of Malaysia, has been declared the winner of the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for Service to Islam for 2011. A panel of judges chaired by Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, picked Badawi — a social worker and poet — as winner of the prestigious prize.

The KFIP winners were announced at a crowded news conference addressed jointly by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also the director of the King Faisal Foundation, and Abdullah Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the prize.

In the Islamic studies category, Khalil Ibrahim Inalcik of Turkey and Muhammad Adnan Bakhit Al-Sheyyab of Jordan, were declared co-winners. James A. Thomson of the United States and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan were named co-winners in the medicine category.

In the science category, George Whitesides and Richard Zare, both from the United States, shared the prize.

"The prize in the category of Arabic language and literature was withheld this year due to insufficient merit of the nominated works," said Prince Khaled. “We hope that Saudi Arabia will continue to make big contributions, realizing the hopes and aspirations of its great leader, the late King Faisal who was an ardent advocate of education, science and humanity," he said.

According to the citation, Badawi was selected for the prize in recognition of his outstanding services to Islam and Muslims, both within Malaysia and abroad. His accomplishments include strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation through his active leadership of South Asian countries and for holding the World Islamic Conference in 2003 and 2008. He also played a "major role in reinforcing Malaysian economic development and encouraging Islamic studies.”

The former premier, the citation said, has supported Islamic legal administration and strengthened endowment and Haj institutions in Malaysia. Badawi was also the force behind establishing the International Institute for Higher Islamic Studies, a nonpolitical institution dedicated to widening and disseminating Islamic thought.

The prize for medicine was shared by Thomson, a professor at the American University of Wisconsin, and Yamanaka, a professor at Japan's Kyoto University, for their outstanding works on stem cell therapy. Thomson is responsible for a groundbreaking discovery that "induced pluripotent stem cells could be generated from human somatic cells." This has revitalized interest in stem cell biology with many laboratories re-investigating the possible use of the cells in the modeling and treatment of human diseases.

Yamanaka achieved a breakthrough in 2006 when he was able to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from mouse adult fibroblasts. He succeeded in reprogramming human adult skin cells into iPS cells.

Prince Faisal also announced that the topic for the 2012 King Faisal Prize for Medicine will be "minimal invasive fetal management" for which the deadline to submit nominations is May 1.

In the Islamic studies category, the prize was shared by Inalcik of the Ankara-based Bilkent University and Al-Sheyyab of Jordanian University, Amman. The topic was socioeconomic aspects of the Islamic world from the 16th to 19th centuries. Inalcik has been awarded for his seminal book entitled "An Economic and Social History of the Ottoman Empire: 1300-1600," which represents a new approach in studying the Ottoman Empire.

According to the citation, Al-Sheyyab has been given the KFIP for Islamic studies for his three-volume book entitled “Studies on the history of Bilad ash-Sham” (Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon), which deals with profoundly important aspects of the economic and social history of those countries.

Prince Khalid announced the topic for 2012 KFIP for Islamic studies, which will be human rights in Islam.

In the science category, Whitesides of Harward University was named as co-winner for his outstanding contribution in the field of chemistry. The citation said that "Whitesides has revolutionized the field of self-assembly using molecular scale synthesis to control the macroscopic properties of surfaces." He has also been recognized for developing connections between nanoscience and biological systems, leading to new paradigms for drug design.

The co-winner in the science category, Zare, has been recognized for his fundamental contribution in the understanding of molecular dynamics and chemical reactions. He has developed the extremely sensitive technique of laser-induced fluorescence and pioneered its application in many fields ranging from analytical chemistry and molecular biology to astrophysics. The topic for next year's KFIP for science is "biology."

The topic for the 2012 KFIP in the category of Arabic language and literature will be "Computer processing of the Arabic language: Individual and institutional endeavors."

Each of the four prize categories given this year consists of a certificate summarizing the laureate’s work, a commemorative 24 carat gold medal and a cash endowment of SR750,000. Co-winners in any category share the monetary grant.

The King Faisal Foundation was established in 1976 by the eight sons of the late King Faisal, the Kingdom's third monarch. Of the many philanthropic activities of the foundation, the KFIP is the most widely known. A total of 209 scholars, leaders and scientists from 40 countries have been conferred the KFIP in different categories so far.

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