Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector-General, yesterday patronized on behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, the 19th annual ceremony awarding the King Faisal International Prize in a number of categories. On the occasion, Prince Sultan remarked that the King Faisal Foundation is an institution of welfare, love, science and knowledge, and each year has bestowed awards on distinguished personalities in fields that include Islam, science, medicine and humanitarian issues.
In his welcoming address, Chairman of the King Faisal International Prize Committee Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, offered warm greetings to Prince Sultan, saying: "Thank-you for sharing with us a memorable evening in which we celebrate the riches of knowledge and the accomplishments of the human mind".
The 1997 prize for service to Islam was awarded to Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammad for his distinguished services to Muslims all over the world as well as in his own country. The other prizes were for Islamic Studies, to Professor Abdulkareem Zaidan Baheej Alani, an Iraqi national; for Medicine (shared), to Professor Colin Louis Masters of Melbourne University, Australia, to Professor Konrad Traugott Beyreuther, a German national, and to Professor James Francis Gusella of Harvard University, a Canadian; and for Science (shared), to Professor Carl E. Wieman, and to Dr. Eric A. Cornell, both of Colorado University, and both American citizens. (The prize for Arabic literature was not awarded this year.)
Each prize consists of a certificate containing an abstract of the winning work, a commemorative gold medallion, and a cash award of SR 750,000 (U.S. $ 200,000), with joint winners sharing the latter equally.
In his citation, secretary-general of the Prize Committee Dr. Abdullah Al-Othaimin paid rich tributes to all the winners. In reference to Dr. Mahathir bin Mohammad he said he had "successfully led his country and pursued a wise policy, reflecting the magnanimity and forbearance of Islam and fostering rapport and cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia, and had established important cultural and economic institutions such as the International Islamic University, the Islamic Center, the Islamic Bank, and the Islamic Economic Development Foundation." He went on to praise Dr. Mahathir’s efforts towards achieving reconciliation between Muslims, and in support of the causes of Muslim minorities especially in South East Asia, defending their rights to equality and a better standard of living.
In his reply, Dr. Mahathir stated: "I am honored and overwhelmed by this recognition … This prize is also a great honor to Malaysia and its people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, without whose tolerance, sensitivity, and respect for each other, Malaysia would not be what it is today, a multi-racial, multi-religious, yet politically stable and economically prosperous country." The bases for these achievements, he said, were laid nearly nine hundred years ago, when Islam came to Malaysia, adding: "To us, political stability, good government, knowledge of all the sciences and technology, material wealth and modern sophistication, are all a part of the process of strengthening the Muslim ummah."
The prize for Islamic studies concerning the status of women in Islam was awarded to Dr. Baheej for his 11-volume work entitled 'A Detailed Study of Women and Family in Islamic Law'. In accepting his award, Dr. Baheej, who is currently at the College of Arts in Sanaa University in Yemen, praised the standards of the King Faisal International Prize, and said that women's rights and duties have become major issues in modern society, with each country dealing with them from a different perspective based on its own standards and beliefs.
The winning work on medicine was on 'Degenerative Diseases of the Nervous System', and speaking on the occasion, Professor Masters, head of the department of pathology at Melbourne University in Australia, said that the prize acknowledges the importance of neuro-degenerative disease conditions which affect virtually all human beings in varying degrees. All three recipients of the prize paid tribute to the King Faisal Foundation for drawing international attention to their research, as did the two Americans who shared the prize for Science in the category of Physics.
In a statement on Friday, Prince Khalid A-Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz referred to the constant support of the Saudi leadership to all Arab and Islamic peoples, and highlighted the international reputation the King Faisal Prize has achieved since its inauguration in 1977, as a prize characterized by neutrality and good organization, with nominations for the candidates coming through scientific commissions worldwide. To date, 111 scholars from 31 countries have been winners, in the five fields of Service to Islam, Islamic Studies, Arabic Literature, Science, and Medicine.
Announcing the specific categories for the 1998 prize, Prince Khalid declared them to be: for Islamic Studies, research on libraries or on the Islamic book industry; for Arabic Literature, autobiography by a contemporary Arab writer; for Science, advances in mathematics; and for Medicine, control of infectious diseases. These are in addition to the prize for Service to Islam.