Updating Magic Universe
Abdus Salam – a devout Ahmadi
It’s a tragedy of religion, politics and war. Friday’s Taliban attacks on two Ahmadi mosques near Lahore in Pakistan left more than 90 Friday worshippers, policemen and suicide bombers dead, in Model Town and Garhi Shahu. My sympathies go to the Ahmadis I know, who belong to the relatively young and controversial Ahmadiyya Muslim sect. I’ve heard today that relatives of Ahmadis in my own town in Sussex are among the casualties.
My thoughts also turn to Abdus Salam, the Nobel prizewinner from Pakistan who died in 1996. He was one of my most valued mentors during my career as a science reporter – about tackling Third World poverty, about science and religion, and about fundamental physics. But he happened also to be an Ahmadi.
I’ve written the shooting script for a 90-minute documentary film about Abdus Salam for Kailoola Productions, New York. It covers all those concerns of his that I’ve mentioned, and more. It awaits funding. But when it gets going — as I’m sure it will, because it is a necessary film for all sorts of scientific, educational and ethnic reasons — I may have to fret about the safety of the film crew and the Pakistani scientists and scholars who will contribute to it.
Salam himself took part in a TV production that I scripted — “The Key to the Universe”, 1977, produced and directed by Alec Nisbett – and he was earlier a key contributor to the series in New Scientist on “The World in 1984” that I edited in 1964. Here I want simply to recall how Salam’s joy in his physics contrasted with his grief about his treatment in the country of his birth.