4 Arabs, 3 Americans named King Faisal Prize winners

4 Arabs, 3 Americans named King Faisal Prize winners

King Faisal Prize winnersRIYADH: Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, director general of the King Faisal Foundation (KFF), announced on Monday night winners of the 2012 King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) at a high-profile event held in Riyadh.

A distinguished gathering, including princes, high-ranking Saudi officials, diplomats and other prominent personalities were present on the occasion.The award for Service to Islam was presented to leading Saudi philanthropist Sheikh Sulaiman Al-Rajhi in recognition of his outstanding achievements, including an endowment of more than half of his personal wealth for humanitarian purposes.The Prize for Islamic Studies was won by Saudi professor Adnaan Mohammed Al-Wazzan, a former president of Umm Al-Qura University, in recognition of his highly authoritative Arabic encyclopedia of human rights in Islam and its attributes in Saudi Arabia.

In the Arabic Language and Literature category (Computer Processing of the Arabic Language: Individual and Institutional Endeavors), the prize was shared jointly by professor Ali Hilmi Ahmed Mousa of Ain Shams University (Cairo) and Nabil Ali Mohamed, a corporate consultant at Advanced Arabic Systems, Cairo. Both were from Egypt.The Prize for Medicine (Minimal Invasive Fetal Management) was awarded jointly to US professors Richard L. Berkowitz and James Bruce Bussel, while in the Science category (Biology), the recipient was professor Alexander Varshavsky, also from the US.

Each of the five prizes consists of a certificate hand written in Diwani calligraphy summarizing the laureate’s work; a commemorative 24 carat 200-gram gold medal uniquely cast for each prize; and a cash endowment of SR750,000 ($200,000). Co-winners in any category share the monetary grant. The prizes will be awarded during a ceremony to be held in Riyadh under the patronage of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

According to KFIP Secretary-General Abdullah Al-Othaimeen, Al-Rajhi was chosen for the Service to Islam award in recognition of his outstanding work to serve Islam, including his role in establishing the world’s largest and most venerable Islamic banking institution operating in accordance with Shariah teachings and his regular contribution toward humanitarian efforts to fight poverty. He was also recognized for providing national and international humanitarian societies with material support and training.

His effort to encourage Qur’an memorization groups and providing them with financial support and prizes, in addition to printing hundreds of thousands of copies of the Holy Qur’an and distributing them free of charge worldwide, particularly in Africa, were among his other major contributions in the service of Islam.Al-Rajhi also established several non-profit colleges as a nucleus for a university soon to be announced. There are currently three health sciences colleges as well as other academic institutions for developing Arabic and Islamic studies curricula and also for teaching Arabic language to non-Arabs.

Building large mosques with separate halls for women worshippers and facilities for religious education, such as the Al-Rajhi Mosque in Riyadh and another in Hail, investing in major projects aimed at providing food security and serving the cause of industry, construction and other sectors were among his other major contributions to socio-economic development. He also promoted the development of Muslim communities through investment and strengthening of commercial relations with the Islamic world. Al-Rajhi encouraged Muslim youth through his talks and personal contacts to engage in private business.

Al-Wazzan won the prize for his book on human rights, a scholarly and thoroughly researched eight-volume work based on extensive resources from Islamic jurisprudence and contemporary human rights studies. It reflects the writer’s experience and depth of knowledge in the field of human rights and his ability to present his work in a comprehensive and well-documented manner.In the Arabic language category, Mousa was awarded the prize in recognition of his contributions to computer applications in Arabic language research, a field he has explored since the early stages of computerization and its applications in language studies. His pioneering work in this field since the 1970s has set an example for other researchers, Al-Othaimeen observed.

His co-winner, Ali Mohammed, was cited in recognition of his leadership in research and applications of computerized Arabic linguistic studies, coupled with his deep knowledge and remarkable ability to express and analyze his findings and present them as practical programs that benefit scholars of both linguistics and computing fields. His research on computer-based management of Arabic language provides an indispensable reference to many scholars and program designers.

For the Medicine prize, Al-Othaimeen said Berkowitz and Bussel of the Columbia Medical Center, New York, worked together for more than two decades to study the natural history, optimal diagnostic criteria and management of pregnant women having fetuses infected with Alloimmune thrombocytopenia. This disease causes intracranial hemorrhage either in-utero or during neonatal period, causing death or substantial disability in 10 percent of untreated cases.

Bussel has provided expertise in the diagnosis and medical management of these patients through safe administration of intravenous gamma-globulins, while Berkowitz has provided expertise in obstetrical management of these patients. Both professors developed the study protocols, analyzed the data, interpreted the results and wrote the reports for publication. In addition, they have served as consultants for clinicians from all over the world seeking guidance for the clinical management of these patients. The worldwide ongoing treatment for this disorder is largely based on their work.

The chairman told the audience that Varshavsky has made ground-breaking discoveries into how the living cell works. He elucidated how cell functions are regulated by protein degradation. Proteins are essential parts of organisms and participate in virtually every process within the cell. Cells continuously produce and destroy proteins to ensure optimal function.

Varshavsky’s work led to the unraveling of the cellular mechanisms that determine how cellular proteins are being selected for destruction. He also discovered how proteins are marked for rapid degradation. These advances have created a new realm of biology and have been essential for progress in research on human cancer, neurodegeneration, immune responses and other fundamental biological processes. This may lead to clinically useful therapies, he concluded.Addressing the ceremony, Prince Khaled said that in the presentation of KFIP awards merit and excellence alone are the criteria for selection. “This annual scientific, cultural and civilized gathering carries the name of that great man, the late King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz. He was followed by a reformist, developer and a man of initiatives within the Kingdom and abroad, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Naif at this momentous event. We are honored to host intellectual pioneers of culture and science from around the world.”

Prince Khaled added that he was privileged to welcome to this event scholars and scientists. “As you are aware, the KFIP is seeking to serve humanity wherever they may be in this world and this award is one of the pioneering efforts in recognizing knowledge and encouraging scholars,” the prince said.Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Mofid Deak, spokesman of the US Embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News that almost every year candidates from the United States are being selected as winners of this prestigious award.

“We are very pleased with the result tonight, like what we had seen before, three Americans again won this great prestigious prize in both medicine and science,” Deak said, adding that his country is thankful to Saudi Arabia and the King Faisal International Prize for recognizing America’s contribution for humanity, science and appreciating Americans who work hard every year in order to achieve the honor.He said this represents strong and durable relations between Saudi Arabia and the US in almost every field, such as science and medicine, underlining the strength of their relationship.

Abdurahman Al-Rajhi, a businessman and a member of the Al-Rajhi family, told Arab News Sheikh Sulaiman was known for his humanitarian services as well as business success. “He deserved the prize as he had served his people, his country and his family,” he said, adding that he has an outstanding track record here and in the Islamic world and has contributed substantially to Saudi economic growth through involvements in many business enterprises in the Kingdom. – Arabnews