Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is an interesting person, and a friend and colleague. He founded Ideas Beyond Borders, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Its purpose is to empower and improve the initiatives in the Middle East devoted to dispelling various forms of misinformation in the region.
One of the major barriers for the Middle East and North Africa region has to do with language. There simply and purely is a gap in international literacy because much of the West is grounded in the English language and much of the Middle East and North Africa region is in Arabic. This can create a barrier for international entry for the minds of the non-bilingual or non-English speaking in the Middle East and North Africa. Other works of Ideas Beyond Borders are humanitarian efforts.
Lisa Pirovano, Communications Director at Ideas Beyond Borders, on one recent effort, stated, “This effort includes working with local distribution partners to deliver 15,000 N95 masks to public hospitals facing dire PPE shortages, as well as 100,000 surgical masks and more than 50,000 meals to communities in need.”
Many areas are in poverty, lack education, and are wracked with sectarian violence. This is the context of life for other human beings throughout the Middle East and North Africa region. While these areas are dealing with life and death issues, a compound on top of these aforementioned, potentially a multiplier, is the issue of proper information and then the coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is being exploited by extremists and authoritarians alike, both digitally and offline. I’ve seen it before when my own community was taken over by extremist groups; they hand out blankets, they give water bottles on severely hot days in Baghdad, and in the case of COVID-19, they hand out masks and food to build trust,” Ideas Beyond Borders Founder, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, stated, “When the pandemic is over, that’s what people remember, and it makes them even more vulnerable to believing extremist ideas. Ideas Beyond Borders is beating extremists to it. We’re handing out food and masks simply because it’s the right thing to do, and we ask nothing in return.”
The name of this new effort is the Stop the Spread (of coronavirus and misinformation) campaign, so as to provide a counter push from the rather large amounts of public health misinformation available in the region. This effort can provide a means by which the public can develop a healthier possibility of survival as communities and peoples in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Not only misinformation, but there are also deliberate spreading of bad information, disinformation, via the common means of conspiracy theories. Many in North America are familiar with the common sources including Alex Jones, Breitbart, Louis Farrakhan, and others. The program or intiative launched in March with distribution to 4.5 million Middle East and North Africa region youth.
Ideas Beyond Borders stated, “It… includes dozens of videos, infographics, and articles on the virus. The recent campaign expansion also expands these efforts, including translation of mental health resources, as well as a significant increase in video production.”
This is one among a large number fo efforts by Ideas Beyond Borders to provide “a positive alternative to the extremism, authoritarianism, censorship, and violence that plagues the Middle East.” Many of their efforts are for translation from English into Arabic and the sharing around the world with the intent to foster some critical thought, as well as the advancement of civil and human rights, pluralism, and science, in the Middle East, primarily, and the Middle East and North Africa region in general.
Some provide to the populations for the development of the critical communities by the local populations.