Humza Yousaf: a Pakistani Braveheart in Scotland – Amb. Akbar Ahmed, Express Tribune

The recent referendum in the UK to leave the European Union has brought widespread xenophobia to light throughout the country. Following the June 23 vote, one Muslim schoolgirl in England was told “Get out, we voted Leave”, while a Muslim native of Wales who campaigned for Remain received a Tweet saying, “Great news…you can pack your bags, you’re (sic) going home… bye then!” Meanwhile, in the week leading up to the vote, Labour MP Jo Cox, known for her advocacy for Syrian refugees, was fatally shot and stabbed by a man shouting “Britain First”.

These examples of hatred throughout the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote are truly shocking. Yet, they are not reason to lose hope in the plight of Muslims in the West. Some of the UK’s finest young leaders today are from the British Pakistani community, and are as British as any Anglican Englishman from Essex.

One of these top young Pakistani leaders is Scottish native Humza Yousaf, a member of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Minister for Transport and the Islands. A mere 31 years of age, Yousaf has already served for four years as Scotland’s first minister for Europe and International Development. During his rapid ascent to power he has faced racist attacks.

To continue reading, click here.

Amb. Ahmed Interviewed on Voice of America’s TV2 Africa on Journey into Europe

Mohammed Elshinnawi interviewed Professor Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University, on his Documentary “The Journey Into Europe.” The film is about the influx of Muslims to Europe, the challenges they face and the perceptions European have of these migrants.

Team member Elisa Frost featured as St. Helens, OR success story

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Team member Elisa Frost (center left) gathers with Amb. Ahmed and the Journey into Europe team in the lobby of the State Department prior to a screening of the film on February 24. Frost was recently named a “St. Helens [Oregon] success [story]” by the St. Helens Chronicle.

Elisa Frost, a member of the Journey into Europe research team, was featured in the St. Helens (OR) Chronicle as a “St. Helens Success [Story]” for her incredible work  as an undergraduate student and masters candidate at American University and on the Journey into Europe team.  Warm congrats, Elisa! We are all very proud!

To read the interview with Elisa, click here.

Bradford comes of age – Amb. Akbar Ahmed, The Friday Times

Akbar Ahmed on the many faces of Bradford – including the ones that are conveniently ignored.

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Amb. Akbar Ahmed with Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and her husband Iftikhar Azam at the Zoya Pakistani restaurant in Bradford. 

 

For several decades, the image of the Muslim community of Bradford, and the region around it, has been depicted in the media as that of angry-looking, white-bearded Pakistani men dressed in shalwar-kameez demanding the death of Salman Rushdie. Today, however, it is that of educated, intelligent smart women – also with a Pakistani background.

Bradford in the popular British imagination has long meant Islamic fanaticism and fundamentalism, urban crime, drugs and poverty. It has also more recently been associated with such phenomena as “grooming”, terrorism and the shariah-dominated “no-go zones” – defined by Islamophobes as places where non-Muslims ‘fear to tread’. Feeding in to these perceptions was the news last year that three Bradford sisters and their nine children had traveled to Syria to join ISIS together. Terrorism experts tend to look at dense communities like Bradford as hubs of terrorism producing an endless stream of recruits. It is for this reason that the government is constantly placed in the awkward position of implementing extreme measures only to come up with embarrassing results, such as the case of the young schoolboy who was arrested and taken for interrogation when he wrote in a school assignment that he lived in a “terrorist” house when he meant “terraced.” Bradford has thus been labeled a breeding ground for terrorist activity, which has made the city a particular target of the British government’s “Prevent” security strategy, a program that is increasingly being seen as coercive and unfair by the Muslim community. British Muslims use terms like “thought police” and “big brother” when discussing Prevent.

To continue reading, click here.

SOAS Centre for the Study of Pakistan (CSP) Annual Lecture 2016: Short video reflecting upon Amb. Ahmed’s address with Lord Bhikhu Parekh

Dr. Todd Landman, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Univ. of Nottingham, discusses Amb. Ahmed visit to Nottingham in context of Orlando tragedy.

“Last month The University of Nottingham welcomed Professor Akbar Ahmed, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to the UK and now the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC as part of a three-day event to build trust between the Muslim and non Muslim communities of Nottingham. His speech was frank about the non-Muslim community vilifying all Muslims and grouping them together as a homogenous radical and terrorist force. He was equally frank in urging the Muslim leaders present at his lecture and those whom they represent to be stronger in their condemnation of all violence being committed in Islam’s name.”

To read more, click here.

Journey into Europe has mainland Europe premiere in Berlin

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Ambassador Ahmed and Kristiane Backer speak at the European continental premiere of Journey into Europe in Berlin. 

On June 1, the European continental premiere of the Journey into Europe film was held in front of a full house audience at the Hackesche Höfe Kino cinema in Berlin. Ambassador Ahmed introduced the film at the screening, which was co-sponsored by Stiftung Mercator, the principal backer of the project, the British Council, another important backer of the project, and the Aspen Institute Germany. The event was hosted by the author and activist Kristiane Backer, who also moderated a Q and A with Ambassador Ahmed following the screening.
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Ambassador Ahmed with Michael Schwarz, the Executive Director of Stiftung Mercator. 

The Executive Director of Stiftung Mercator, Michael Schwarz, addressed the audience at the screening and in his remarks spoke very warmly about the project and congratulated the team. Rachel Launay, the Germany director at the British Council, also spoke. There were many distinguished guests present, including Anna Kuchenbecker, the Deputy Director of the Aspen Institute Germany, Dr. Klaus Mueller, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Representative for Europe, Philomena Poetis, representing the Pakistan Honorary Counsel General in Munich, and Brigadier General Asif Adnan Jah Shad, the Defence Attache at the Pakistan embassy in Berlin. All spoke enthusiastically about the film and wanted it shown and circulated widely in venues like schools and centers.

The day following the screening, H.E. Jauhar Saleem, the Pakistani ambassador to Germany, hosted a grand dinner for Ambassador Ahmed at a top Turkish restaurant in the city and invited many distinguished guests. Ambassador Ahmed and the team were also able to do some fieldwork for the upcoming Journey into Europe book, visiting one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church on the Kurfürstendamm.

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The iconic Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin.

Ambassador Ahmed presents Journey into Europe at Bradford Literature Festival

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Ambassador Ahmed holds a discussion following the Journey into Europe film screening moderated by the public intellectual Aftab Malik.

In Bradford, England, Ambassador Ahmed participated in the 2016 Bradford Literature Festival, which ran from May 20-29. On May 28, Ambassador Ahmed presented the Journey into Europe film and discussed the film following the screening and held a Q and A with the audience. The screening was in the National Media Museum’s Cubby Broccoli theater, which is named after the producer of the James Bond films. The film received a very enthusiastic response. Earlier that day, Ambassador Ahmed spoke on a panel entitled “Mainstreaming Hate Speech: The Rise of the Far Right.”

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Ambassador Ahmed speaks during the panel discussion, “Mainstreaming Hate Speech: The Rise of the Far Right.”

The Literature Festival is in its second year, and it was an incredible event with some 200 sessions including poetry recitals, performances, lectures, panels, and films. The festival is co-directed by two dynamic Bradford Muslim women, Irna Qureshi and Syima Aslam. The festival was distinctly multicultural with numerous Muslim-themed events such as the evenings devoted to giants of South Asian Muslim literature like Ghalib, as well as English authors like the Bronte sisters, who were from Bradford.

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A traditional poetry recitation in honor of the great Ghalib.

Also participating in the festival was Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, one of the UK’s most prominent Muslim political figures. Warsi escalated to fame when she was made a member of the House of Lords and also served as chairman of the Conservative Party. Warsi generously took Professor Ahmed and his family for a magnificent Pakistani breakfast to Zoya, a well-known restaurant in Bradford.

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Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and her husband Iftikhar Azam with Ambassador Ahmed in front of the Zoya restaurant.

Frankie Martin, Zeenat Ahmed, and Mina Hoti joined Ambassador Ahmed in thanking the organizers for their warmth and hospitality and for providing such a wonderful venue for intercultural and interreligious communication.

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Team member Mina Hoti enjoying an event at the festival.

 

Journey into Europe’s Global TV Premiere begins Monday on N1 in Bosnia

N1 in Bosnia, beginning this Monday, will be airing Journey into Europe, subtitled in Bosnian in four parts. Each part will play every Monday in June, corresponding with the month of Ramadan. To learn more (in Bosnian), please visit the N1 website here.

Journey Into Europe: A Discussion With Filmmaker Akbar Ahmed – Wilson Center NOW

For more information, visit the Wilson Center webpage here.