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Intellect

Ninth century Baghdad subject of BYU-sponsored symposium

The Institute for the Study of Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts at Brigham Young University, in conjunction with the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, recently sponsored a symposium on the scientific legacy of 9th century Baghdad.

The symposium discussed topics related to the role primary texts and the history of Arabic science play in creating a greater understanding of the contributions of Baghdad and the surrounding Arabic world in the 9th century.

A Webcast of the symposium can be found at http://www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/baghdad.html.

The symposium's panel comprises part of the advisory board for the Graeco-Arabic Sciences and Philosophy series (GrASP) of BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. Board members are internationally renowned scholars in their respective fields, including Dimitri Gutas of Yale University, George Saliba of Columbia University and Alfred Ivry of New York University.

"It is a scholarly enterprise of the first order," said Prosser Gifford, director of scholarly programs at the Library of Congress, speaking about BYU's Middle Eastern Texts Initiative.

"[It is] an enterprise which is taking texts in a variety of languages and making bilingual translations available very handsomely to a much wider public at a time when the need to understand the Arab world and its rich history could hardly be greater," he said.

One of the purposes of the BYU ancient text program series is to foster a greater understanding of Islamic culture and heritage, said Daniel C. Peterson, executive editor of the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative at BYU.

"There is a deep chasm of misunderstanding and mistrust between the West and what might be broadly styled the Islamic world," he said. "Much of that comes out of a failure to understand and appreciate one another. This project can be a small contribution, at least, to a broader understanding and appreciation of the other."

BYU is the only university to sponsor such a large translation program dedicated to the preservation of ancient Islamic texts, Peterson said.

"The history of Arabic science has been neglected," he said. "We're hoping to produce editions of translations that will be useful to people for a hundred years to come or more."

For more information, contact Peterson at (801) 376-6641.

Writer: Thomas Grover

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