Faisal Saeed Al Mutar

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Faisal Saeed Al Mutar
فيصل سعيد المطر
Faisal Saeed Al Mutar in 2014
Born1991 (age 32–33)[1]
Babylon, Iraq
NationalityIraqi, American
Occupation(s)Executive Director and public speaker
Years active2005–present
Known forHuman rights activism
Notable workIdeas Beyond Borders

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar (Arabic: فيصل سعيد المطر; born 1991) is an Iraqi-American human-rights activist and social entrepreneur 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 became an American citizen in June 2019.


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]

In April 2021, Faisal launched a campaign to bring back books to the destroyed library of Mosul by donating 2,500 books from a list provided by the university, prioritizing works required by different departments. The project also supplied 20 computers and 20 printers to "allow the library to access electronic books and journals from around the world and reconnect the university to the global community.[17]

In August 2021, following the Withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan he a launched a program to hire more than 70 Afghan translators who used to formally work with the US Army and international development agencies to the House of Wisdom 2.0 Project to translate books and articles into Dari and Pashtu.

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."[18] and "We are sharing fresh ideas with millions… I believe these ideas, this knowledge, will defeat ignorance and extremism more effectively than tanks and guns ever could".[19]

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."[20]

Al Mutar said in a 2023 interview that "Iraq is better off" without Saddam Hussein and that "Iraqis today are more free."[21]

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.[22] 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.[23]

On ISIS. Al Mutar mentioned "ISIS' 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 across the Middle East."[17]

Al Mutar has received criticism from the left and the right for his views.[24]

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 criticized President Donald Trump's executive order suspending admission of immigrants for putting refugees "in harm's way."[25]

Al Mutar was a columnist for Free Inquiry and currently writes for Substack.[26] Al Mutar maintains relationships with people associated as "intellectual dark web" having been an engaged guest of Dave Rubin and has been with him on a panel.[27] He is also associated with Peter Boghossian.[28]


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.[29].

In 2021, he received a fellowship award from the Elevate Prize Foundation by Joseph Deitch.[19]

in 2023, his organization Ideas Beyond Borders won Atlas Network’s 2023 Middle East & North Africa Liberty Award and the 2024 Smart Bets Award.[1]

In 2024, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar won the Beacon Award by the Ellis Island Honors Society that recognizes and celebrates the next generation of professionals, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, artists, and visionary leaders [2].

In 2024, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar was awarded an honorary doctorate from Whittier College. This honor is reserved for individuals who have demonstrated exceptional moral fiber, and outstanding convictions, ambitions, values, and accomplishments.[30]


  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). Archived from the original on 10 September 2017. 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, The Christian Science Monitor
  17. ^ a b "Bringing Books Back to Mosul University Library". Al-Fanar Media. 2021-04-30. Retrieved 2021-05-17.
  18. ^ "Why translation matters for the Arab world | Khadija Hamouchi". AW. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  19. ^ a b "Fellows". Elevate. Retrieved 2021-02-12.
  20. ^ "A biological war? Garlic as a cure? How a non-profit is confronting Arabic coronavirus conspiracies". NBC News. Retrieved 2020-09-20.
  21. ^ Celeste Headlee (2 May 2023). "The Iraq War Was a Necessary Evil". Slate (Podcast). Retrieved 20 July 2023.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Rozsa, Mattthew (July 24, 2017). "Watch: Free speech advocate Faisal Al Mutar faces criticsm [sic] from right and left". Salon.com. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  25. ^ Shoichet, Catherine E. "For these people, Trump's plans are personal". CNN. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  26. ^ Scott, Amanda (16 July 2015). "Report from the 2015 Secular Student Alliance Conference". Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  27. ^ "WATCH: Free speech advocate Faisal al Mutar faces criticism from right and left". 24 July 2017.
  28. ^ "Faisal Saeed al Mutar at Portland State University, "Are Western Values Worth Defending?"". 8 November 2017.
  29. ^ 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).
  30. ^ "Whittier College Welcomes Entrepreneur Jasmine Star '02 As Commencement Speaker | Whittier College". www.whittier.edu. Retrieved 2024-04-09.

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