Abdus Salam

Abdus Salam.
Abdus Salam. Infidel!!

Abdus Salam was the only Pakistani to have won a Nobel Prize for his work in Physics. He worked with Steven Weinberg to create what is now called the Standard Model of particle physics and so he helped pave the way for the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson. He and Weinberg shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for their work.

Now, you would think that Abdus Salam would be a national hero in Pakistan. You might imagine that the country’s only Nobel Prize laureate would be honored all over the country, with statues put up in town squares, streets and even towns named after him, his grave a place of pilgrimage, and school children learning about his work. You would be wrong. You see, Abdus Salam was the wrong kind of Pakistani. He was a member of the Ahmadi sect, which more orthodox Muslims consider to be heretics. In Pakistan, they may not identify themselves as Muslims and so are no better than infidel dogs. Here are a few details from the Fox News article I read.

 The pioneering work of Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, helped lead to the apparent discovery of the subatomic “God particle” last week. But the late physicist is no hero at home, where his name has been stricken from school textbooks.

Praise within Pakistan for Salam, who also guided the early stages of the country’s nuclear program, faded decades ago as Muslim fundamentalists gained power. He belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which has been persecuted by the government and targeted by Taliban militants who view its members as heretics.

Their plight — along with that of Pakistan’s other religious minorities, such as Shiite Muslims, Christians and Hindus — has deepened in recent years as hardline interpretations of Islam have gained ground and militants have stepped up attacks against groups they oppose. Most Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims.


Salam’s life, along with the fate of the 3 million other Ahmadis in Pakistan, drastically changed in 1974 when parliament amended the constitution to declare that members of the sect were not considered Muslims under Pakistani law.

Ahmadis believe their spiritual leader, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908, was a prophet of God — a position rejected by the government in response to a mass movement led by Pakistan’s major Islamic parties. Islam considers Muhammad the last prophet and those who subsequently declared themselves prophets as heretics.

All Pakistani passport applicants must sign a section saying the Ahmadi faith’s founder was an “impostor” and his followers are “non-Muslims.” Ahmadis are prevented by law in Pakistan from “posing as Muslims,” declaring their faith publicly, calling their places of worship mosques or performing the Muslim call to prayer. They can be punished with prison and even death.


Despite his achievements, Salam’s name appears in few textbooks and is rarely mentioned by Pakistani leaders or the media. By contrast, fellow Pakistani physicist A.Q. Khan, who played a key role in developing the country’s nuclear bomb and later confessed to spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, is considered a national hero. Khan is a Muslim.

Maybe Salam should have converted and written papers on how to harness the powers of genies. I don’t think Pakistan is likely to produce any more Nobel Prize winning physicists and this story may provide a clue why there has been so little scientific progress in the Muslim world in the last thousand years.


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