ISMAIL SERAGELDIN
     
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Protecting the library during the Arab revolt.

Announced as the Arabic Voltaire, Ismail Serageldin lectured at the Nexus Institute on 'Knowledge and Memory in Alexandria. A bridge between Islam and Europe':

Ismail Serageldin, a construction engineer and former vice president of the World Bank, was as founder and director concerned with the rebirth of the Bibliotheca Alexandria. He has published over 60 books and monographs and over 200 papers on a variety of topics including biotechnology, rural development, sustainability, and the value of science to society.

The library, which went on fire sixteen centuries ago, is synonymous to intellectual freedom, tolerance and scientific curiousity. The building is home to several libraries, academic research centers, museums, several conference halls, a planetarium and a server room where a permanent copy of the global internet is kept. During the opening it was stated what literature actually is and it came up for discussion that the new library of Alexandria is an institute for excellence, based on humanistic starting points.

Europe has to change if not to loose achievements and there is certainly a role for intellectuals to work on that. For a long time the West has dominated the world. But during centuries the Islamic world did too. From Andalucia till India. Europe brought us Erasmus, Spinoza, human rights, democracy, enlightenment and the European Union.
The Islamic world florished with Alexandria, Damascus, Cordoba and Al-Farabi, a scientist, philosopher of the Islamic world, a cosmologist, logician, and musician, whose majority of his philosophical output has been influenced by Aristotelian thought, and his practical philosophy is unmistakably based on that of Plato. Tolerance and knowledge are known to both entities.

During the uprise in February 2011 people protected the library and students opened a dialogue on (true) civilization in search of truth. Europe can no longer look at Islam it is outside there. Talks on enlightenment, democracy, human rights have to occur.

European politicians are almost only focussed on economy and finance, but it is not only about GNP as Robert Kennedy said (1). We lived in irregulated markets with people who take relentless benefits and we lost the quality of resource.

Europe's miracle is the emergence from the two WW's. Now we need a global vision of the future, a community of nations and we have to fight with ideas. Speak up! There is no equity without participation. People want to change the system, not the government. The West has been captured and the private sector does not take care of public goods. Politicians worshipped the economic system.

There is a common future to reinvent with no polities of fear and I ask you to believe in. There are sparks of Islam and sparks of Europe. You must have a direction, amoung other things, investing in institutions and structures. It is important to see how far it will go, for there is so much beyond that.

Previous, there was a vision, but it was not easy for the visionaries to be able to see visionary. Politicians and we, we have to have a vision.

At the end issues were raised as corruption, development of capitalism in Western world (a moderate one?), occurences related to the Kopts, the role of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine.

'We have to fight ideas with ideas, there is no substitute in the battle of ideas'.

The Library symbolizes the increasing self-confidence, also intellectual and democratic, of the Arab world, where Ismail Serageldin is considered a leading voice of reason. His plea for Islamic liberalism, freedom of expression, tolerance, nonviolence and rationalism makes Serageldin, who senses the hopeful eyes of the entire world upon him, today’s foremost Arab Enlightenment thinker.

(1) Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile'' .