Has there been a Greater Act of Plagiarism this Century؟ by Bedreddin Ahmed

Has there been a Greater Act of Plagiarism this Century؟ by Bedreddin Ahmed

11-29-2022, 08:10 PM

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Title: Has there been a Greater Act of Plagiarism this Century؟ by Bedreddin Ahmed
Author: بدر موسى
Date: 11-29-2022, 08:10 PM

07:10 PM November, 29 2022

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بدر موسى-الخرطوم-السودان
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A glimpse into Dr. Abdalla Elfakki Elashir’s book: Post Economic Development Themes: Development as Freedom, Mahmoud Mohamed Taha and Amartya Kumar Sen, (A Comparative Approach)

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Bedreddin Ahmed
MA Candidate, Teaching and Learning, University of Iowa, US
MA 3rd World Development Support Program, UI
[email protected]

This article was originally written in Arabic and translated into English. The book's Arabic version is now available on Amazon (Kindle eBooks), and as stated in the following author's introduction, the English version of the book was also recently released.

The author of this book wrote in his introduction that this comparison is: (… between the Sudanese humanist thinker Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, the Propounder of The New Understanding of Islam, who was sentenced to death and executed in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum on January 18, 1985, and the Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Kumar Sen. Sen, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, currently at Harvard University, United States.The approach revolved around the vision of each of them for development. Sen's vision came in his book: Development As Freedom, 1999, and its Arabic version was published under the title: Development As Freedom: Free Institutions and a Person free from Ignorance, Disease and Poverty, (2004)…).
By sheer divine grace, I had the opportunity to read this wondrous book a few times, each of which increased my astonishment, confusion, and appreciation for the scientific accuracy and objectivity, which we have become accustomed to, in all of Dr. Elbashir’s books. In this particular book the writer has presented a high ceiling of elucidation and dialogue regarding the ideas of Alustaz Taha, to which I am yet to see a comparable match. He has presented a planetary approach, in the true sense of the meanings of these words, which in my opinion, is the highest realm of dialogue that befits the ideology of Alustaz Mahmoud Mohamed Taha. In so doing, the author has liberated the dialogue and raised the intellectual bar to a ceiling that exceeds that low level of discussion imposed by those who like to name and describe themselves as the clergy, Muslim scholars, or the leaders of the Salafists, as well as those who merely spread their traditionalist and therefore backward thoughts.These so- called scholars have managed to establish a deterrent which curtails dialogue, holds back the much needed and vital progress of progressive thinking, and stifles free thought. This intellectual barrier has been erected at the most crucial time and place, when the necessity of the inevitable (intellectual revolution) is evidently the most needed. These opinions and insights are but a few that have been generated in reflection upon this wondrous book, before beginning a discussion of its contents. The vital topics which this book has addressed and dealt with, as well as the writer’s attempts to provide an objective empirical treatment of these current ideas regarding development, is an approach worthy of celebration by scholars, researchers, and readers in general.

What about the question of plagiarism؟!

Elbashir was extremely pious and careful, to never accuse Sen of plagiarizing Taha’s ideas, but rather only focused his work on highlighting the similarities, compatibilities, and intersections between the two. However, he provides dozens of examples of phrases and ideas, with similar content and meanings, regarding some of the most important topics dealt with in Sen’s famous book: Development as Freedom, and compared them to what was previously articulated and written down by Taha, over half a century before they were “produced” by Sen. The author has described this resemblance as examples of the meetings of great minds, as he put it, as the famous English proverb has informed, Great minds think alike.
A closer look discovers that Elashir’s approach has revealed that Sen’s new concept of Development as Freedom is not different from what Taha articulated and decimated from the 1950s, through the 1970s, in a number of his books, public lectures, and speeches. The free person, according to Taha, as pointed out by Elbashir, ought to be the goal and purpose of development. Whereas Taha’s expansive vision sees that every discussion of economic, political, and social development which is not focused on human freedom, is a doomed attempt that is bound to end in defeat, humiliation and failure, before its inception. Elbashir added that Taha asserted that freedom must be a contingent for the success of any successful development endeavor, and that the purpose of development is the renaissance of society and the liberation of man from fear, poverty, ignorance and disease. Liberation or freedom, for him, is the purpose of human life. These meanings and ideas, as well as many others, appear in Sen’s book and represent the basic foundation of his conception of development. In its approach, Elbahir’s book presents many examples of similarities, concordances and intersections between Taha and Sen, as will be detailed later in my article.

This book raises the serious and lumming question within this reader’s mind, which has haunted me since my first reading:
Has Sen plagiarized Taha’s views؟ Moreover, the book confronts the whole world with a question that is very important, as it rings a bell to declare with the loudest voice that Sen’s proposals are nearly identical to Taha's, who preceded him by nearly half a century. What do development scholars think about this؟! What is the opinion of Muslim scholars in particular؟ What is the opinion of the Sudanese scholars among them, and the Sudanese people؟ And, what is the opinion of those devoted to the humanistic ideology of this original Sudenase thinker؟ As a reader of and a devotee intimately familiar with Taha’s ideas, I have no choice but to say, without the slightest hesitation, that this is the biggest and most serious plagiarism of ideas I’ve encountered in human history! However, in this article about Elbahir’s fair-minded and objective book, I will try to present some of the accusatory evidence which is contained in this book, and I’ll leave the final judgment to its readers, who I’m sure are quite capable of reaching their own conclusions.
Elbashir’s comparison shows clearly that Sen’s ideas are only marginally different from those proposed by Taha in many of his books and lectures. Sen stated that: “Freedom is central to the process of development.” However, Taha has preceded Sen in saying that the goal and purpose of any development is the free human being. Taha stated that: “in order to ensure the success of development... it is necessary to have freedom.” He stressed the necessity to put the individual and his freedom at the forefront, otherwise economic development will be doomed, defeated, and certain to suffer failure, as people are the true wealth that deserves attention. He believes that the purpose of development is the advancement of society and the liberation of human beings from fear, poverty, ignorance and illness. Freedom for him is the safeguard of human life. There is a similarity to the point of uniformity between Sen’s concept of development, which he describes as “Development as Freedom: Institutions that Assure Freedom for Individuals Free from Ignorance, Illness, and Poverty”, and the basic foundation of Taha’s concept of development, where he says: “The individual has a right over his government to free him from fear, poverty, ignorance, and illness.” Sen also argues that: “Individual freedom is quintessentially a social product,” which is exactly what Taha meant, when he said, “Society is an instrument for individual freedom.” Sen also says: “Responsibility requires freedom,” and Taha has said: “Freedom is responsibility”. In that, one becomes free when he learns to exercise his freedom responsibly.

The extraordinary similarity is also evident in their vision of education and its role in increasing productivity and advancing capability. Taha defined education as “the acquisition of capability by a living being”. This extraordinary similarity is again reflected in both of them expressing the urgent issue of today’s man, where Sen said that “freedom is critically important right now”; a statement not much different from Taha’s saying: “Freedom is the issue of today’s human.”
Examples like these almost identical statements which are detailed in Elbahir’s book are too many to elaborate in this article, but below I will mention just a few more and will gladly provide the complete list that I have compiled upon request.
In Chapter III
“Responsibility requires freedom.”
Sen, 1999
“Freedom is responsibility.”
Taha, 1967
“Freedom is central to the process of development.”
Sen, 1999
“To ensure the success of development… there must be freedom.” Taha, 1974
“Individual freedom is quintessentially a social product.”. Sen, 1999
“Society is a means of access to individual freedom.” Taha, 1974
“Society is the human being’s prime means to access a life of freedom.”
Taha, 1974
“Individuals created and organized the community as a vehicle for each individual to achieve a distinctive individuality.”
Taha, 1974

“… freedom is not only the basis of the evaluation of success and failure, but it is also a principal determinant of individual initiative and social effectiveness.”
Sen, 1999
“Freedom is a right which corresponds to a duty, namely, discretion in the exercise of freedom. Freedom is absolute; it does not become limited except when the free person is unable to properly discharge his or her duty.”
Taha, 1966
“Development as Freedom: Institutions that Assure Freedom for Individuals Free from Ignorance, Illness, and Poverty.” Sen, 1999
“The individual has a right over the government to be liberated from fear, poverty, ignorance, and illness.”
Taha, 1951
Chapter IV:
“Indeed, the absence of democracy is in itself an inequality- in this case of political rights and powers.”.
Sen, 1999
“The fundamental equality of all people is an important aspect of democracy.”
Taha, 1968
“Political equality is known today as democracy or sharing in political decisions which affect daily life.”
Taha, 1967
“Democracy is equal opportunity, in that all citizens are offered such an opportunity”.
Taha, 1969

“The achievements of democracy depend not only on the rules and procedures that are adopted and safeguarded, but also on the way the opportunities are used by the citizens.”
Sen, 1999
“Democratic methods and procedures are not an end in themselves, but rather means to an end that lies behind them. The object of democracy is not simply to establish legislative, executive, and judicial organs, since all these are but means to realize human dignity.”
Taha, 1967
“However, while we must acknowledge the importance of democratic institutions, they cannot be viewed as mechanical devices for development. Their use is conditioned by our values and priorities, and by the use we make of the available opportunities of articulation and participation.”
Sen, 1999
“Democracy is not merely a way of government; it is also a way of life. The individual human being is the end, and everything else is a means to that end. The respect and high regard which people have for the democratic approach to government are due to the fact that it is the best approach to achieving the dignity of the individual.”
Taha, 1967
“The political challenge for people around the world today is not just to replace authoritarian regimes by democratic ones. Beyond this, it is to make democracy work for ordinary people.”
Sen, 1999
“Democracy has manifested certain principles and a distinctive approach to life—recognizing human dignity, and attempting to manage human affairs in accordance with justice, truth, and popular acceptance.”
Taha, 1967

Chapter V:
“... freedom is critically important right now...”
Sen, 1999
“Freedom is the issue of today’s humanity.”
Taha, 1952
“Freedom is what humanity demands and needs today.” Taha, 1952
“There was still a fundamental deprivation in the fact of slavery itself (no matter what incomes or utilities it might or might not have generated). The loss of freedom in the absence of employment choice and in the tyrannical form of work can itself be a major deprivation.” Sen, 1999

“...various forms of labor bondage can be found in many countries in Asia and Africa.”
Sen, 1999
“Slavery is still, in some sense, haunting human society to this day. It mutates surreptitiously and never ends. Thankfully, the machine replaced the slave at work so that production would be abundant, and people would be assured of their food.”
Taha, 1971
Chapter VI:
“… the result of a woman’s participation is not merely to generate income for a woman, but also to provide the social benefits that come from women’s enhanced status and independence.”
Sen, 1999
“A woman will not gain true recognition unless she is economically independent.”
Taha, 1972

Chapter VII:
“… lessons can be learned from what went wrong, in order to do things better next time.”
Sen, 1999
“The dignity of human beings is derived from the fact that they are the most capable of all living beings in learning and developing—they learn from their mistakes and that is the best way to learn.”
Taha, 1967
Chapter VIII:
“I can appreciate the force of the claim that people themselves must have responsibility for the development and change of the world in which they live.”
Sen, 1999
“Caring for our planet is a common responsibility, whereby everyone has a duty to serve people well.”.
Taha, 1972
“Had it not been for people’s cooperation and support, and without the care of the powerful ones for the affairs of the powerless among them, the lives of human beings would not have advanced on this planet.”
Taha, 1958
Some might ask: did Sen have access to Taha’s writings؟
Professor Abdullahi An-Na’im’s translated Taha’s main book into English, called The Second Message of Islam, which was published in 1987 by Syracuse University Press. Elbashir said in his book that copies of the unpublished and translated manuscripts of three of Taha’s books, namely, A Treatise on Prayer; The Path of Muhammad; and The Cultural Revolution were hand delivered by the Republican Brother Mohamed Sadiq Jaafar to the British Library and five universities, namely:
Durham; Newcastle; Edinburgh; Glasgow; and Lancaster, in 1986. Along with these manuscripts, Jaafar also handed over to these institutions an English translation of Taha’s book: Reform and Development of the Islamic Personal Law: Shari’a, (1971), which was done by the Norwegian researcher Einar Berg and published in 1985. Is it possible that Sen had access to these translations before writing his book, considering the fact that he was teaching at Oxford University at the time؟ To me, from what I know of his academic history, it is not only possible, but most probable. Are the extraordinary similarities between their statements too frequent to be coincidental؟ I hope readers will read Elbashir’s book and reach their own conclusions.

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