Fund for Freedom of Thought


Convictions and Beliefs

One hundred years ago, Khayr ad-Din at-Tunisi, Mohamed Abduh,  Gamal ad-Din al-Afghani and und Abdul Rahman al Kawakibi called for progress, social reform and enlightenment in the Islamic Arab world. At that time, catching up with the dominant Western civilisation, still seemed feasible.

Nowadays the gap between the two cultures seems impossible to overcome. During the past six centuries, the credit for research, discoveries and inventions, in philosophical and scientific questions is entirely the West's. Acknowledging this is very painful for those whose ties of culture are with the Arab World. It is frightening to see that the Arab World did not render any service - neither to itself nor to mankind - throughout all this time.

The West is controlling the world on a military, cultural and economical level by using its leading superiority consisting in knowledge, science and reasonable thinking. Throughout the whole world, Western Culture has assumed the leading role. The cultures of the Third World and the Arab Culture became just one follower circling in its orbit.

This is a position demanding to be overcome. But in order to be an even match with the Western World, the Arabs need to understand from where Western Culture generates its strength instead of just mimicking the West by using its products. They should think about applying a different kind of Western values, which lead to economical and social development, namely values that grant dignity for all citizens. So far, they find all kinds of social and religious excuses when they are confronted with those values: equality, human rights, dignity and justice for all.

Western Culture was not alone in bringing forth these values. Human minds from all cultures always contributed their knowledge, among them Arab thinkers who translated and digested, improved and developed the knowledge of preceding cultures and thus contributed their product to the current culture. A climate of freedom of thought and tolerance towards somebody else's thoughts is the foundation for such a productive development of culture. Adopting these main principles would not imply adapting to the West: most civilized cultures elevated these same thoughts to a principle. They are global human values. For the Arab World, this would mean a reorientation towards itself, consisting in reviving thinkers, such as Abul Ala' al-Maarri, Ibn Sina, Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Tufail and many others who have largely contributed to humanity.

It is high time that members of the Arab Culture contribute to humanity again: Instead of being consumers only, the Arab peoples need to be makers of culture again. They need to be renewers instead of only being followers. The only way to achieve this goal is to establish internal order; i.e. to cultivate things in common, to be aware of their unity. Beginning with childhood the sense of belonging to the Arab Culture, to the Arab Nation, needs to be re-installed in an atmosphere of freedom of thoughts and tolerance. To really be able to contribute to the world's culture again, the mental attitude towards creativity, work and productivity in the Arab World must become more serious. People need to be encouraged in their creativity in searching for new dimensions and horizons to find solutions to the problems they have. These might be solutions that nobody ever thought of before, and that might go against tradition.

But the struggle between advocates of the cultural heritage and supporters of the new will bring about stimulating discussions and encourage finding realistic answers. Thus, a new reality could evolve that might henceforth be characteristic of the Arab World. It is for this reason that we welcome an open and free dialogue. We believe the dialogue between all political views can be successful if freedom of thought is guaranteed.

The IBN RUSHD FUND has been founded to achieve the afore mentioned goals. It is an independant fund not influenced by any government or religion. The Fund is a liberal fund holding up aspirations for progress in the Arab World, for liberty and equality, human rights and social justice. It will support independent thinkers, artists and scientists by annually awarding prizes.

The fund bears the name IBN RUSHD. Ibn Rushd, in the West known as Averroes, was an important Arabic thinker, scientist, physician, judge and philosopher. He lived from 1126 A.D. until 1198 A.D. in Andalusia and Morocco. In commemoration of Ibn Rushd and his ideas - especially freedom of thought - the IBN RUSHD FUND for Free Thought was officially founded on December 10, 1998, exactly 800 years after his death.