Welcome to Ideas Beyond Borders

Author: Alisar Al Obaid

When I started working with Bayt Al Hikma 2.0 “the House of Wisdom” in 2019, I thought it was just another translation job. After the past seventeen months, I realize that we are doing something much more impactful than just translation. This project is a step in the path of real change. The slogan “We're making the inaccessible accessible” is not just another saying, but rather it is the goal to build an educated and informed generation.


Personally, I love to learn new things and Bayt Al Hikma 2.0 encouraged me to do this. I read and translated many articles about the politics, economics, and histories of different countries. I learned about civilizations that I previously only knew their names, and discovered some information I never thought existed.

Female Translators at IBB

What struck me the most compelling are the articles about the women who have advocated within their communities for equality and women's rights. The history for some dates back four hundred years, like Judith Sargent Murray, who worked hard in the late eighteenth century for the equality of the sexes—that women, like men, had the capability to reach intellectual accomplishments and should be given the resources to achieve economic independence. There was also Anna Kingsford, who was one of the first English women to obtain a degree in medicine and paved the way for many others. There were also many other women like these two that are not commonly known to the public.


While their pursuit to empower women and obtain freedom was full of obstacles, they were persistent. These influential women were not a passing event, but rather like the waves, they shaped the shores of the community and paved the way for all future women.


The situation of our women in the Arab world today is heart-wrenching. Sometimes it seems like medieval rituals are practiced on them. Many people stand against empowering women. They fail to revolt against outdated customs, traditions, and ignorance, which perpetuate them in one way or another.


Last month, Nawal El Saadawi passed away. She was one of the most influential feminists in the Arab world by fighting against female genital mutilation and opening new doors for all women. As exemplary characters, we need many more “Nawals” to break free from the bars we are locked behind.




I would love to see women educated rather than marginalized, and I want them to be a part of the revolution of knowledge.


The empowerment of women is not limited to their financial independence, intellectual independence, or freedom from guardianship. We can empower women through education and through influential people, who strive to change their reality and the reality of the community around them.


The Syrian poet, Adonis, said in his 2013 speech to the Syrian International Conference in Geneva: “Dictatorship is not just a political structure, it is mainly a cultural and social structure, and in the head, before it is in the chair, and the revolution - if it is real - must be associated with the project of changing power or the political system organically linked to another project, which is changing society politically, administratively, culturally and socially”.


If we look at the West, we see that it has reached the cumulative result of knowledge and science that began with a movement to translate the knowledge of the civilizations that were superior at the time.


Civilization is cumulative, and change is gradual. We need many years to witness a different scene in our Arab countries.





I am optimistic that we are moving steadily in the right direction. Thanks to the Internet and non-ideological platforms that carry the torch of knowledge, such as the House of Wisdom 2 and Ideas Beyond Borders, I see hope on the horizon.




This article was edited by Skyeler Antonino



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Updated: 7 days ago

Author: Hala Gamal


“No sooner did people step into the light than they were advised that darkness wasn’t so bad after all, that they should stop daring to understand so much, that dogmas and formulas deserved another chance.” This is how Steven Pinker described the Counter-Enlightenment movement in his book Enlightenment Now. Unfortunately, we still see this theme repeated to this day across the Middle East.


Arabic Version of Enlightenment Now


For this to change, the works of great modern thinkers and scientists, such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Annaka Harris, and Steven Pinker, need to be translated into different languages to reach as many people as possible. For this reason, I was extremely excited when Ideas Beyond Borders told me that they wanted to translate Enlightenment Now into Arabic. As an Arab, I know how desperately the Arab world needs this type of content and how important it is to have a daring and wise translation movement change the status quo in the region. This is what Ideas Beyond Borders has been trying to do since day one.


Even with my excitement, I was somewhat scared. I live in Egypt, where people are still persecuted for blasphemy. I knew that parts of the book would push some buttons, especially since many people have prejudiced against scientists like Dr. Pinker. From my personal experience in translating controversial content, I knew I would get backlash. But I realized that this fear is precisely why we should continue translating the works of brilliant scientists and thinkers. We need to work toward spreading the knowledge and ideas crucial for change in the region.





Working on such an important project was not easy. This book is a journey inside a great mind, walking us through a series of ideas, philosophies, scientific and medical discoveries that dramatically changed our lives. Additionally, it reveals statistics that prove the world has developed substantially due to the application of the Enlightenment ideals. It was also a roller coaster ride, taking me into the fields of history, science, medicine, politics, terrorism, and economics. This did not make my job any easier. A massive challenge for me was translating this comprehensive project with a wide range of topics and specialized terms while still maintaining the same tone and style it possesses.


Translation requires a deep understanding of the text at hand and the ability to completely absorbing it. As a reader and a translator of Enlightenment Now, my views of the world have changed significantly. It has made me realize that we are not as ‘doomed’ as we all thought we once were. It also helped me understand how continuous progress enhanced and is still enhancing our lives, as opposed to the prevalent negative anti-progress world views and the skeptical trend of science. It allowed me to view humanity differently and boosted my optimism for our future. Moreover, it gave me hope for the progress that could be achieved in the Arab region and a positive outlook on our present times.



I hope many people have the opportunity to read this brilliant book, and I hope translating it into Arabic helps change more minds about our world, as it has changed mine. I also hope that translating this book and other similar books will be a stone thrown into the still waters of the Arab world. This article was edited by Skyeler Antonino


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In 2015, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called the destruction of libraries and books in Mosul “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.”


Earlier that year, ISIS burned Mosul University’s central library. The library was also air-struck by the US-led coalition forces in March 2016. In the Anbar province, ISIS embarked on a book-burning campaign, destroying more than 100,000 titles, according to local officials. The library at the University of Mosul, once among the finest in the Middle East, had a million books. About 600,000 were about in English and the rest were in Arabic and other languages, now mostly burned.




"ISIS's main goal is to destroy knowledge and culture, while IBB’s main goal is to create a knowledge movement in Iraq and make information accessible in the Middle East. They can not be more at odds.


Extremists and authoritarians stand for destruction and IBB stands for construction." IBB's Founder Faisal Saeed Al Mutar




IBB was connected with the director of the library (Sayf Al-Ashqar) through our coordinator at the University of Mosul, Ameen Al Jaleeli, who led our translation program there. They, together with the library's Planning Unit director (Dr. Ghada Abdulkareem), have provided us with a list of books that they need for their various colleges, such as the college of medicine (where my dad studied), the college of engineering, and the college of fine arts, from Oxford dictionaries to introduction to anatomy.


IBB will start buying relevant and needed books and computers in the first week of April for the library. Luckily, many of the books on the list can be purchased in Baghdad and neighboring countries. The computers will allow the library to access electronic books and journals from around the world and reconnect the university to the global community.




IBB acquired all the licenses to complete this operation and is planning a ceremony both virtually and physically if COVID restrictions are lifted in Mosul in early May or June.

This program will be led by Ahmed Al Rayes from Ideas Beyond Borders and Dr. Khalid Al Joubori.

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