I am excited to announce that the Global Americana Institute has, in partnership with Dar al-Saqi of Beirut brought out a volume of selected writings of Thomas Jefferson in Arabic. It was elegantly translated by Professors Mounira Soliman and Walid Hamamsy of Cairo University and is entitled in Arabic the equivalent of Revolutionary Democracy: How America became the Republic of Liberty.
It has a powerful, brief introduction by prominent Arab intellectual Hazem Saghieh, an editor of al-Hayat newspaper, which expresses admiration for Jefferson’s political thought while not attempting to paper over his personal foibles. Saghieh notes that post-World War II Arab thought has been strangely unengaged with liberal democratic ideas, especially in their American incarnation, but that that is a shame since figures such as Jefferson have much to offer. Of course, elite Arab families know English and travel to the United States, and don’t need this translation. But below that five percent at the top of society with regard to wealth and education, there is now a vast literate Arab middle class numbering in the hundreds of millions, who could not deal with Jefferson’s antique English but could read this translation. At least some of them will be interested in doing so.
JUAN COLE: I am hopeful that the book will find an eager reception in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries yearning for democracy in the Arab world.