Promoting Free Societies
From Ruin to Revolution
Towering above the mighty city of eighth-century Baghdad stood the Bayt al-Hikma, a revolutionary academic institution whose collection of books is said to have rivaled that of the modern British Library in London, or the Library of Alexandria. This hub of wisdom, innovation, and discovery drew thinkers from all corners of the Old World and became an essential source for translated works. Visitors who walked among the endless archives of knowledge became scholars, and many groundbreaking discoveries were made as pages were translated from one language to another.
After hundreds of years serving as a beacon of knowledge to all of civilized society, the Bayt al-Hikma was decimated by a Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century. Untold amounts of wisdom were lost, and the entirety of Bayt al-Hikma faded into the pages of history. However, in 2018, its mission and vision was reborn in the form of Bayt al-Hikma 2.0; a revolutionary project by Ideas Beyond Borders (IBB).
Using modern technology and a regional team of translators, Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 has opened the floodgates for global information to reach the Middle East like never before. They have led the entire region in the translation of literary works and have invented entirely new vocabulary to communicate pro-freedom principles where they were previously too foreign to be adequately described. Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 has allowed for the birth of a classical liberal movement across the Middle East, and their content has reached 250 million people and counting.
Faisal Al Mutar, founder of IBB and the Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 project, was raised in modern day Baghdad before he became a refugee and relocated to the United States. Having survived the Iraqi Civil War, the murder of his brother, and several kidnapping attempts, he has been keenly aware of the villainy of authoritarian regimes from a young age.
“I founded the organization Ideas Beyond Borders in 2017 to make knowledge that authoritarians in the Middle East don’t like—which is knowledge about freedom, human prosperity, and critical thinking—available in the languages spoken there,” said Faisal.
Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 provides translations of classical liberal ideas and pro-free market perspectives to millions of viewers for free, with the goal of breaking through regional censors and educating people on the benefits of a free society. The social media content, podcasts, books, articles, and Wikipedia entries produced by Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 have been well received, with their readership growing by 150 million people over the course of just one year. Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 initially only offered Arabic translations, but their success has allowed for the employment of in-house translators to offer versions in Farsi, Kurdish, and Pashto as well.
Due to their growth and impact in the field of freedom, IBB was recently awarded the 2023 Middle East & North Africa Liberty Award. IBB is also a 2023 Atlas Network Smart Bets Partner.
Activation across Nations
Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 has become a trusted source for social media content, podcasts, YouTube videos, books, articles, and Wikipedia entries across the Middle East. To date, Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 has provided 64 translated books and 33,000 articles to 22 countries without previous access, and its Wikipedia entries have been viewed over 117 million times. Their contribution of translated Wikipedia entries have been especially influential, due to the disproportionately low amount of information that is available on the database in Arabic.
The materials produced by IBB’s Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 project have been read over 328 million times, and their videos have been viewed over 250 million times. While this visibility has been powerful in the promotion of classical liberalism throughout the Middle East and North Africa, IBB’s ultimate goal is to activate its audience in support of freedom.
As part of Atlas Network’s Smart Bets grant program, an accelerator for organizations with ambitious plans, IBB is working to cut red tape and cultivate more entrepreneurs in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
“I want them to get this knowledge so that they can depend on themselves without depending on us. It really fits in with our strategic plan for us to empower all of our network on the ground, for them to lead the way in our destiny,” said Faisal.
IBB’s participation in the Smart Bets program, in addition to their recent distinction as Atlas Network’s 2023 Middle East & North Africa Liberty Award winner, has fanned the flames of their efforts to reach wider audiences and create bigger impact.
“It means a lot for us to be recognized by the leading classical liberal organizations of the world for our work in the Middle East and North Africa. The award really goes to the translators, editors, and producers who continue doing that work from within the region. It gives them a lot of confidence to see that their hard work is making a difference in the world,” said Faisal.
Bayt al-Hikma 2.0 is well equipped to support freedom’s champions in Iraq and the Middle East as they ignite learning through free thought and free enterprise, transcend language barriers, and reclaim the region’s legacy as a center of enlightenment and prosperity.