Faisal Saeed Al Mutar

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Faisal Saeed Al Mutar
فيصل سعيد المطر
Faisal Saeed al Mutar SASHAcon 2014.jpg
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar in 2014
Born1991[1]
Hillah, Iraq
NationalityIraqi, American
OccupationExecutive Director and public speaker
Years active2005–present
Known forHuman rights activism
Notable work
Ideas Beyond Borders

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar (Arabic: فيصل سعيد المطر‎; born 1991) is an Iraqi-born American human-rights activist, writer, and satirist who was admitted to the United States as a refugee in 2013. He is founder of Global Conversations and Ideas Beyond Borders and formerly worked for Movements.org to assist dissidents in closed societies worldwide.[2] He formally became an American citizen in June 2019.

Biography[edit]

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar was born in Hillah, Iraq, in 1991.[3] He later moved to Baghdad. Al Mutar grew up in a religiously moderate Muslim family in Iraq, though he remained nonreligious throughout his upbringing.[4] He described growing up under Saddam as being exposed to the "motherlode of misinformation".[5]

Al Mutar's writings and secular lifestyle made him a target for threats and attacks by al-Qaeda. He survived three attempted kidnappings.[6] His brother and cousin were also killed by al-Qaeda in sectarian violence there.[7] Al Mutar visited Lebanon and then Malaysia where he founded the Global Secular Humanist Movement in September 2010 "with the mission of addressing the absence of recognition and legal protections for secular humanists." As a result of his activism, Al Mutar received death threats from religious militias such as the Mahdi Army and elements tied to al-Qaeda.[7][8][9][10][11]

Due to his conflicts with Islamists over his secular identity and the deaths of his brother and cousin in sectarian violence, Al Mutar fled Iraq and received refugee status in the U.S. in 2013. After first living for a number of months in Houston, Al Mutar moved to New York City., where he lives and continues to operate Ideas Beyond Borders with the broader aim of making Wikipedia pages, academic articles and seminal works covering science, literature and philosophy available to Arabic speakers in attempt to confront lies with logic and pit critical thinking against propaganda and fake news.[11] He also served as a community manager for Movements.org,[12] a platform which "allows activists from closed societies to connect directly with people around the world with skills to help them."[13]

In 2017 Al Mutar and Singaporean journalist Melissa Chen[14] founded Ideas Beyond Borders, a nonprofit that works to: "promote the free exchange of ideas and to defend human rights ... to counter extremist narratives and authoritarian institutions."[15]

"Less than 1% of internet content is available in Arabic, rendering much of Wikipedia’s trove unusable. In 2017 Mr. Mutar, then a refugee living in New York, wanted to change that. He founded the nonprofit Ideas Beyond Borders (IBB) and has since hired 120 young people across the Middle East to translate Wikipedia pages into Arabic, starting with subjects they thought were most needed: female scientists, human rights, logical reasoning, and philosophy."[16] The effort is referred to as House of Wisdom 2.0 and is organized by the I Believe in Science group: "I Believe in Science has more than 300 volunteers and has translated over 10,000 articles. Its founder, Ahmed al-Rayyis, now organizes the translation team for IBB, and many of those volunteers have since been hired as Bayt al-Hikma translators."[16]

Personal views[edit]

On Ideas Beyond Borders, Al Mutar mentioned “We are not a political organisation but we embrace some of the controversial books and content because we believe Arab youth should be allowed to make up their own minds about how they want to live their lives."[17]

Regarding misinformation, Al Mutar mentioned "On an average day, for an average young person looking at their cellphone right now, much of the information they see is really nonfactual. My goal and my inspiration is for there to be actual sources of information and make that information accessible to those who need it."[18]

Al Mutar attributes the rise of al-Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban to Islamism which he says will make terrorism difficult to eradicate by U.S. military force alone. He cites the easy availability of funding as a compounding factor. Al Mutar believes that the Middle East is responsible for enforcing peace in their region.[19] He says the West's inflated sense of moral responsibility, which he calls “the racism of lower expectation,” erodes the Middle East's imperative to address its own issues, such as the Syrian refugee crisis.[20]

Al Mutar sees the translation project as a long-term investment in the region. “My goal is to prevent refugee crises from happening in the first place, rather than dealing with refugees,” he says. “I strongly believe that education and really changing the ecosystem of information is the way to go."[16]

Al Mutar is a critic of the term "Islamophobia." He says use of the term has been broadened by some on the left to include legitimate criticism of Islam. He differentiates between criticizing ideas and criticizing people.[21]

Al Mutar criticized President Donald Trump's executive order suspending admission of immigrants for putting refugees "in harm's way."[22]

Al Mutar was a columnist for Free Inquiry.[23]

Awards[edit]

In 2016 Al Mutar received the gold President's Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama for his volunteer service in the United States and around the world.[24][third-party source needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar". Retrieved 11 May 2016. Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar is an Iraqi writer, born in 1991.
  2. ^ Borenstein, David (October 2, 2015). "Crowdsourcing for Human Rights". The New York Times.
  3. ^ al Mutar, Faisal Saeed (2012). "Faisal Saeed al Mutar - Big Think". Big Think. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  4. ^ Naja Dandanell; Louise Grønkjær (3 August 2017). "Hvis vi ikke ændrer uddannelsessystemet, får vi en generation af ekstremister". Skoleliv (in Danish). Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  5. ^ Cuthbert, Olivia (2019-10-08). "Spread the word: the Iraqis translating the internet into Arabic". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-10-14.
  6. ^ Stockman, JD (25 December 2013). "Faisal Al Mutar: The Rationalist from an Irrational World Pt. 1". Eggvan. Archived from the original on 14 January 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2016. FAM: Well … (takes in a deep breath) … I think probably because they had mistaken him for me, because I am the one that actually gets the death threats.
  7. ^ a b Chitwood, Ken (3 December 2015). "Iraqi refugee works to make life safer for secular humanists". Religion News Service. The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 January 2016. Reared in a moderate Muslim family that encouraged him to think for himself and make up his own mind, Al-Mutar said he became an atheist at an early age.
  8. ^ "Coming Out Conversations – EP. 8". Secular Safe House. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2016. He became an activist at the age of 15 when he began organizing the Iraqi Humanist Youth completely unbeknownst to his family at the time. After the tragic murder of his brother, cousin and best friend by Al-Qaeda, he escaped Iraq, first to Lebanon and then Malaysia.
  9. ^ McAfee, David G. (13 May 2013). "From Iraq To Texas: A Humanist Activist Comes To America". Retrieved 11 January 2016. Faisal founded the Global Secular Humanist Movement in September 2010. GSHM, which encourages humanist values, critical thinking and scientific inquiry over faith, mysticism and dogma, has more than 185,000 “likes” on Facebook.
  10. ^ Rizvi, Ali A. (24 January 2015). "A Conversation Between Two Atheists From Muslim Backgrounds (Part 1)". Huffington Post. Retrieved 11 January 2016. I used to email Hitchens about how the Iraqi and Arab media covers the war and about Iraqi people's general opinions about the war and post-Saddam Iraq, etc. Hitchens had strong relations with the Kurds, and the Kurdish prime minister was one of his best friends, as well as Ahmad Chalabi, so I was simply a fan who thought that he was the writer who most closely understood the situation in Iraq and had a solution for it.
  11. ^ a b "Spread the word: the Iraqis translating the internet into Arabic". The Washington Post. Religion News Service. December 3, 2013.
  12. ^ "Faisal Al Mutar". The Huffington Post.
  13. ^ Al Mutar, Faisal (September 11, 2014). "Crowdsourcing Human Rights". The Huffington Post.
  14. ^ "Bringing 'weapons of mass instruction' to the Arab world". www.spiked-online.com. Retrieved 2020-04-18.
  15. ^ Al Mutar, Faisal Saeed. "Faisal Saeed Al Mutar on Facebook". Facebook. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  16. ^ a b c Riley Robinson (February 5, 2020) This man brings hope to Arab youth one Wikipedia page at a time, Christian Science Monitor
  17. ^ "Why translation matters for the Arab world | Khadija Hamouchi". AW. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  18. ^ "A biological war? Garlic as a cure? How a non-profit is confronting Arabic coronavirus conspiracies". NBC News. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  19. ^ Breznick, Casey (18 November 2015). "Faisal al Mutar Lectures on the Future of Iraq and ISIS". The Cornell Review. Retrieved 11 January 2016. When he turned towards ways to defeat ISIS, al Mutar said most commentators and political analysts do not fully understand the relationship between terrorist groups and their ideology, which in this case of ISIS and other groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban is Islamism, the political expression of Islam.
  20. ^ Nguyen-Phuong, Mai (11 September 2015). "Refugee crisis tests Islam's fundamental tenet of Ummah". The Islamic Monthly. Retrieved 13 January 2016. The media and public are focusing on Europe in calling on it to open its doors to refugees and European leaders are tackling the question, but no such calls are being made of the Gulf’s responsibility, something activist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar calls “the racism of lower expectation.” Ignoring the responsibility of the Gulf means that we expect Europeans to be naturally kinder and more humane than people from the Gulf.
  21. ^ Zepps, Josh (17 December 2015). "Criticizing Islamism Without Offending Muslims". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 13 January 2016. I think that we have been sold this theme of Islamaphobia that been pretty much been trying to silence genuine criticism of the faith.
  22. ^ Shoichet, Catherine E. "For these people, Trump's plans are personal". CNN. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  23. ^ Scott, Amanda (16 July 2015). "Report from the 2015 Secular Student Alliance Conference". Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  24. ^ al Mutar, Faisal Saeed (16 August 2016). "Faisal's verfied bio on center for inquiry". Twitter. Retrieved 18 August 2016. Thank you America and thank you @WhiteHouse for giving me President's Volunteer Service Award (Gold Medal).

External links[edit]