Interview About House of Wisdom 2.0

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Within Ideas beyond Borders, there is the initiative for translation on amass scale in the long term. What is the project? How are you executing it? Why is it important?

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar: The name of the project is the House of Wisdom or Bayt al-Hikma 2.0. I will start with the last question. It is something that needs to be highlighted. The Arabic language is one of the least languages translated to. There was a report from the UN in 2002.

He said that there are more books translated to Spanish in one year than into Arabic in 1,000 years. Maybe, the statistics have change. There have been recent statistics from the MIT language Lab. It is probably now 700 to 1 [Laughing].

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Mutar: Things are progressing. It represents a really big problem. There have been reports and this has been verified by numerous people. Books like Mein Kempf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are some of the bestsellers in the Arab world. That also bothers me.

I think that the dictators and Islamists and authoritarian regimes have been trying to shelter the Arab speaking world from being exposed to the ideas of human rights, women’s rights, of scientific development, because they do not want to be challenged.

Now, with the existence of the internet, there is a huge opportunity to spread these ideas into the Arab speaking world. I have done research on many of the social media pages that exist in the region speaking on science and human rights.

Combined, it is up to 40 million people. What that confirms is that there is a huge curiosity within many of the young population new ideas, I think many of these young people will be exposed to some of these ideas.

That itself can build some sort of view that the world is not black and white. That itself can build a counternarrative to extremism. Extremism flourishes on this idea that the world is black and white. There are good guys and bad guys.

People are being exposed to all of these uncertain types of ideas. Many of them are dangerous. We are trying to provide these good ideas a platform. It is necessary of multiple levels. From a purely educational level, it is important for students to be exposed to different ideas and make up their minds.

Also, it is important to provide a platform to give a different counternarrative to the extremists. Also, we are working for the legal rights of the authors. We are lucky there are authors like Steven Pinker, Maajid Nawaz, Sam Harris, and others, decided not to take any money for this, they really care about the cause.