By Michael Slackman
FROM his pulpit at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Ismail Serageldin preaches what might be called Islamic liberalism, a philosophical view grounded in reason and tolerance with roots in the early days of his faith, when Muslims led the world in intellectual pursuits.
His goal is to help spark the Arab world’s own age of reason, though he acknowledges that there is a long way to go.
“We can defeat the forces of hate and confrontation and build through education, science and culture better understanding for our future,” he said at the opening ceremony of a recent conference at the library.
Mr. Serageldin has fashioned himself as the anti-Islamist, a self-declared “secularist when it comes to the civil state,” a calling that does not endear him to the conservative majority of this society. But he is comfortable in his role as the founding director of the library, the modern successor to the ancient library of Alexandria.