The translation of selected works of Jefferson into Arabic was inspired by Professor Juan Cole at the University of Michigan who is a leading interpreter of the Middle East. Following the dramatic events of 9/11, Professor Cole was concerned about the lack of availability of classic writings about America in translation and purchasable in bookshops in the Middle East. He also stressed the importance of making such publications easily affordable in paperback. His aim was to foster greater understanding between the cultures of the Arabic world and the United States.
Reid Nagle and SNL Financial generously provided funding for the project through the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. Professor Cole made the necessary arrangements to have Jefferson’s words translated by professors at the University of Cairo, with a forward by Hazem Saghieh, the editor of al-Hayat newspaper and a publisher in partnership wth Dar al-Saqi of Beirut. The project has been over five years in the making. The translation proved challenging to capture the eighteenth century prose style of Jefferson. The timing of the publication could not be better at such a critical moment of change in the Middle East.