In any other country, we'd wager that the late Dr. Abdus Salam would be a national hero: he's a Nobel laureate in physics and laid the groundwork for the biggest physics discovery in the past 30 years--the Higgs boson. That isn't the case in Pakistan, where he's been wiped from textbooks and history for not being fundamentalist enough. "He belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which has been persecuted by the government and targeted by Taliban militants who view its members as heretics," explains the Associated Press' Sebastian Abbot.
No doubt last week's Higgs breakthrough is shining new light on Salam's case and one more chapter in his illustrious biography. "His grand unification theory of strong, weak and electromagnetic fields opened the gateway for the discovery of bosons and laid down the basis for this quantum electrodynamics project," writes Anam Khalid Alvi for Pakistan's Express Tribune. While Khurshid Hasanain, chairman of the physics department at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad told the AP, "This would be a great vindication of Salam's work and the Standard Model as a whole."
But Pakistan can't celebrate his achievements, since Ahmadis like Salam are/were prevented from "posing as Muslims," and can be punished with prison and even death, details the AP, adding:
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.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.