Free Minds & Free Markets

Faisal Al Mutar Fights Radical Islam with Western Bestsellers

The head of Ideas Beyond Borders is translating books by Steven Pinker, Sam Harris, and others into Arabic and distributing them for free.

Imagine growing up in Baghdad and seeing your brother and cousin killed by Al Qaeda and other sectarian forces. Imagine getting death threats from groups such as the Madhi Army, a religious militia that once controlled large parts of the U.S.–occupied Iraq.

That's some of what 27-year-old Faisal Saeed Al Mutar faced during his childhood. Born into a family that prized analytical thinking and independent thought, he wrote critically of Islam and lived a secular lifestyle, making him a target for radical groups. Mutar fled to the U.S. five years ago.

Here he heads Ideas Beyond Borders, a nonprofit that promotes freedom of expression in authoritarian countries. I sat down with Mutar to talk about his life, his personal experience with radical Islam, and Ideas Beyond Borders' latest project: translating into Arabic the works of secular Enlightenment thinkers such as Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker and distributing them to readers in North Africa and the Middle East.

Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Mark McDaniel.

"Please Listen Carefully" by Jahzzar is licensed under a CC BY-SA License.

"Chantiers Navals 412" by LJ Kruzer is licensed under a CC BY-NC License.

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  • Microaggressor||

    Soon to be censored by Google for blatant Islamophobia.

  • Just Say'n||

    And then we'll get the inevitable "Actually, Faisal Al Mutar Is A Nazi Just Like Jordan Peterson or something"

  • ||

    If he doesn't talk about lobsters he'll be fine.

  • ThomasD||

    Well, they are haram...

  • Eddy||

    So you're saying give your lobsters a nice hot bath?

  • ThomasD||

    I certainly do

  • Rock Lobster||

    Damn those evil lobsters and their lobster privilege!

  • ||

    Oh boy, I hope he doesn't touch on open borders economic migration. That seems to be a trigger.

  • Eddy||

    I wonder what other translations are in the pipeline?

    A lot depends on who's willing to authorize free Arab translations of their work - but what about stuff in the public domain?

    I'd suggest the Federalist Papers (and anti-Federalist papers, why not), Mill's On Liberty, Suarez, some Bellarmine, and of course someone's bound to suggest Lysander Spooner (Al-Sandar Spoonir?).

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    Lyasandir Al-Spuniri

  • dchang0||

    Re: "A lot depends on who's willing to authorize free Arab translations of their work"

    I would think that anyone whose work is a good candidate for this project could never expect to be able to turn much of a profit by selling an official for-profit translation in Islamic countries. Their books would likely be banned, and because it would be via a for-profit enterprise, the theocratic authoritarian governments would be able to easily choke the publishing off (publishers and book printers have known addresses and bank accounts).

  • dchang0||

    In other words, these authors might as well donate their works because they couldn't expect to make money by selling them in these oppressive Islamic theocracies anyway.

  • Eddy||

    There also may be some pressure on these authors not to antagonize a bunch of easily-offended mullahs and officials by allowing the free circulation of their "blasphemous" works.

  • ThomasD||

    John Locke

    A Letter Concerning Toleration
    A Second Letter Concerning Toleration
    A Third Letter for Toleration
    Two Treatises of Government
    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
    Some Thoughts Concerning Education

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    Das Kapital
    Mein Kampf
    Capital in the 21st Century

    ...Oh, this is supposed to be a list of books on how you should do it? My mistake.

  • Rockabilly||


    A little heavy on the German. Why not lighten the list with some Romance Novels even male comrades will enjoy?

    Here is an approved list from HuffPost.

    The Real Men Who Read Romance Novels

  • OverWandersTelcon-tarian||

    Nonsense. You know the Germans always make good stuff.

  • Juice||

    He needs to fight that colony sprouting on his face.

  • Hank Phillips||

    See? A libertarian translator can make a difference.

  • Eyedunno||

    I love this guy; I've been following him on Facebook for years. He's pretty much the voice of reason between right-wing fearmongers like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, and naive left-wingers who think the actions of Islamist terrorists have nothing to do with "true" Islam.


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