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An International Debate at the United Nations - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I believe Egypt”s delegation to the United Nations will actively participate in upcoming talks to be held at its headquarters in New York City this September. The global body has invited several international organizations and member countries to take part in discussions on a very important subject, the right to use transplanted stem cells extracted from embryos that were created specifically for medical purposes. The UN has asked the Egyptian Forein Ministry”s opinion on the matter, which in turn, has raised the matter with the Al Azhar Center for Islamic Research. The centre has already allowed, by religious edict, the use of stem cells from cloned embryos for medicinal purposes, under certain conditions.

This is what I consider an enlightened modern Islamic stance, as opposed to other countries that reject stem cell research, such as the United States of America, where the President George W Bush has publicly rejected cloning because of ethical considerations.

Despite the many negative images surrounding Islam these days, it remains a pragmatic religion that permits a degree of flexibility in cases of emergency. If certain critical medical ailments can only be cure d using stem cells from cloned embryos, then the technique should be used. How can it be deemed unethical to clone tissues and organs if the result will alleviate human suffering? Of course, cloning is unethical if it is used in the manufacturing of beauty products and items of clothing.

Representatives from across the world will gather at the end of the year to vote on a decisive issue that will shape the future of mankind. In previous meetings, the world failed to agree on the best use of nuclear technology, launched space missions and allowed genetically modified food. Politicians, scientists, religious scholars and businessmen taking part in the upcoming discussions will surely have different point of views. Nonetheless, I believe that stem cell research will be permitted and go on to serve humanity”s eternal search for better health and, ultimately,

immorality.

Some Muslims have long harmed Islam because they have rigidly embraced the religion and overlooked some of its basic tenants that call for believers to cherish life and refrain from killing others, which are clearly illustrated in the sayings of the Prophet.

The position of Al Azhar on stem cell research and cloning reflects people”s needs and accompanies the changing times and circumstances. The future will tell us if cloning will be legalized or not. I think that, as long as the technology is available, it should be put to good use and help save lives. In the meantime, we all look forward to September.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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