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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Faisal Awards presented

Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News
RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah presented awards to this year’s winners of the prestigious King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) at a glittering ceremony here last night. The awards were presented in all five categories to recipients from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the United States, Morocco and Russia.

In the service to Islam category, Egypt’s Principal Shari’ah Society for Qur’an and Sunnah Scholars was honored, while two scholars from the UK and Russia shared and received the prize in the science category.

The presentation ceremony at the Prince Sultan Hall in the Al-Faisaliah complex in Riyadh was attended by a number of princes, Cabinet members, diplomats and senior government officials. Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who is also the director-general of the King Faisal Foundation (KFF) and chair of the KFIP board, welcomed the king and guests.

Abdullah Al-Othaimeen, KFIP secretary-general, read out individual citations for winners, who then received their prizes from King Abdullah.

King Abdullah first presented the Prize for Arabic Language and Literature to Abd Al-Aziz N. Al-Manie of Saudi Arabia, who is professor emeritus of Arabic literature at Riyadh’s King Saud University. In his acceptance speech, Al-Manie thanked the king for the award and said he has been “working, verifying and elucidating several Arabic literary works of the third and seventh century Hijrah through the years.”

Each winner of the award received SR750,000 ($200,000) in cash, a certificate outlining the laureate’s work and a commemorative 22-carat gold medallion. Speaking on the occasion, Al-Othaimeen cited Egypt’s Principal Shari’ah Society for Qur’an and Sunnah Scholars as the winner of the 2009 KFIP for service to Islam.

The prize was given in recognition of the society’s outstanding services to Islam and Muslims, which includes nearly 100 years of dawa work. The society’s services in Egypt include holding religious classes, extending true Islamic teachings and thought through its website, establishing more than 50 institutes for training Muslim preachers, and sponsoring orphans and students at Al-Azhar University.

The organization has also been rigorously contesting anti-Islamic propaganda, carries out a range of social services and has built more than 5,000 mosques across the world.

In the Islamic studies category, Abdessalam M. Cheddadi, a professor at the University Research Institute of Mohammad V University in Rabat, was cited for his pioneering works on Ibn Khaldoun. After receiving the prize from King Abdullah, Cheddadi said that he had been “working in this field for the last 30 years.” Cheddadi has elucidated the basis, concepts, terminology and types of Ibn Khaldoun’s famous theory of “Imran”, comparing them to modern social theories.

In the category of medicine, the prize was presented to Ronald Levy, head of the oncology division at Stanford University Medical School’s Department of Medicine. Levy thanked the king and KFF and said he had been recognized for his pioneering studies in cancer immunotherapy. “Our studies, our efforts and our treatment are for all humanity irrespective of color and religion,” he said.

Almost 30 years ago, he developed antibodies that could distinguish between malignant and benign tumor cells.

Levy, in his works, showed in 1980 that monoclonal antibodies against a tumor-associated antigen could be employed to treat patients with B cell lymphoma. Many of these patients responded well to the treatment. In the last 11 years, the drug he discovered has been used to treat a large number of lymphoma patients with remarkable remission and survival results. In his more recent work, Levy has used patients’ immune system to mount immune responses against their cancer cells.

In the science category, Sir Richard Henry Friend, chairman of the British Council of the School of Physical Sciences and Cavendish professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, and Rashid Alievich Sunyaev, chief scientist at the Space Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Science and director of the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany, shared the prize for their distinguished contributions. Friend, in his speech, thanked KFF and said that he had a pleasant surprise on hearing news of his nomination for the prize.

“Friend has pioneered the physics and engineering of semi-conductor devices made of plastic materials,” said Al-Othaimeen in the citation. On the other hand, Sunyaev has made pioneering and fundamental contributions to astrophysics and cosmology, he added.

Sunyaev’s theoretical works on cosmic background radiation laid the foundation for observational exploration of the structure of the universe. His work on black holes and binary stars has been critical in advancing the field of X-ray astronomy.

In his acceptance speech, Sunyaev appreciated the role of the Kingdom under the leadership of King Abdullah in promoting research, knowledge and scholarly works. Recalling the contributions of Arab scientists and scholars especially in the fields of astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology, he said that the UN has declared 2009 as the year of astronomy. “This is indeed a rare field that needs to be explored more and recognized,” said the space scientist, while referring to Arab contributions in this field.

The King Faisal Awards were established in 1979. The prize is considered the Arab Nobel Prize. Several winners of the King Faisal prize have also won the Nobel Prize.

Topics for the 2010 King Faisal International Prize were also announced. Mathematics will be the subject for the KFIP in the science category, while non-arthroplasty management of degenerative disease will be the topic in the medicine category. Studies dealing with Arabic grammatical thought will be the topic in the Arabic language category, while studies dealing with religious endowments in Islam will be the subject of the prize in the Islamic studies category.

The deadline for nomination for 2010’s KFIP is May 1, 2009.

The King Faisal Foundation was established in 1976 by the eight sons of the late King Faisal. Of the many philanthropic activities of the KFF, the King Faisal International Prize is the most widely known. By drawing attention to important issues and rewarding gifted scientists, the prize’s direct and indirect effects are far reaching. Nominations for the prizes are accepted from international institutions and organizations only, and not from individuals or political parties. Learn more Faysal: Saudi Arabia's King for All Seasons

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