Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is the founder and CEO of Ideas Beyond Borders, a non-profit organization based in New York. We recently connected on Twitter and Faisal was telling me about a project to rebuild the library of the University of Mosul in Iraq that had been destroyed by the Islamic State or ISIS during the war in Iraq.
It’s been almost four years since ISIS was expelled from the city of Mosul, but life is still far from normal at the University of Mosul, where students pass bombed-out departments on the way to class that have yet to be replaced.
The central library—once among the largest in the Middle East with over a million books in English and Arabic—has become a symbol of the devastation suffered by the whole city, its charred columns and scorched shelves a stark reminder of the education blackout imposed under the occupation by ISIS.
I spoke to Faisal on July 15th and recorded our conversation. He described the project to bring back the books and computers that began in 2017. Book by book, the library is being rebuilt: by 2021, IBB has donated more than 4,000 books and 20 computers and printers to the University.
We also talked about the project to translate English-language Wikipedia articles into Arabic for the Arabic Wikipedia that we covered in FIR 188 in October 2019, a project at the heart of IBB’s work to address misinformation and “to make the inaccessible, accessible.”
And Faisal speaks of the mission of Ideas Beyond Borders, to champion a positive alternative to the extremism, authoritarianism, censorship, and violence that plagues the Middle East.
Watch the interview here or on the FIR YouTube channel, and you can read a full transcript below. Learn more at ideasbeyondborders.org (Arabic website: Bayt Al Hikma, or ‘House of Wisdom’).
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