Monthly Archives: June 2014

Casa Arabe welcomed Ambassador Ahmed and the Journey into Europe team in Cordoba, Spain

Ambassador Ahmed and his team recently arrived in Cordoba, Spain where they were welcomed by Casa Arabe and its Director General, Ambassador Eduardo Lopez Busquets.

Casa Árabe is a Spanish public consortium headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. It operates as a strategic center for Spain’s relations with the Arab world, a meeting point where different stake-holders and institutions, both private and public, from the worlds of business, education, academia, politics and culture dialogue, interact, establish lines of cooperation and undertake joint projects.

In order to complete its mission, Casa Árabe possesses two headquarters, one located in Madrid and the other in Cordoba, which provide it with a privileged geographic position not only in the Mediterranean region, but also as a mediator of exchanges between the Americas and the countries on the Persian Gulf, where the presence of Spanish companies and professionals is growing larger and larger.

Ambassador Ahmed was honored to host Ambassador Lopez Busquets in April for a special lecture at American University’s School of International Service titled “The Islamic Legacy of Spain.”

While conducting fieldwork in Cordoba, the Journey into Europe team had the privilege to meet with leading figures in the Muslim community, the Bishopric of Cordoba, prominent scholars from across Spain at a conference specially organized by Casa Arabe, and cultural figures such as musicians and artists. Ambassador Lopez Busquets and his Cordoba representatives, Amira Kedier and Javier Roson Lorente, himself an anthropologist, received the Journey into Europe team with traditional hospitality. Our friend Javier graciously promised to accompany us to his hometown of Granada for the next round of our visit in Andalusia. Ambassador Lopez Busquets made special trips from Madrid in order to make the team feel welcome.

In Cordoba, the team had the opportunity to visit a number of historical sites including the Cordoba Cathedral/Mosque, seen in the background of the video of Ambassador Lopez Busquets. In the video, Ambassador Lopez Busquets discusses the idea of the Cordoba paradigm, based in coexistence between communities or la convivencia, in conjunction with the mission of Casa Arabe.

British Council Berlin and Heinrich Boll Stiftung to host a lecture by Professor Akbar Ahmed

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A lecture by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed

Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C.

at 6pm – 8pm, Wednesday, 9th July, British Council Berlin.

The British Council and Heinrich Böll Foundation are delighted to invite you to the lecture entitled “Clash or Dialogue of Civilizations? Relations between the West and the Muslim World After 9/11″.

As multiculturalism in European societies increases, so too does religious diversity. The growing presence and visibility of which can often be the source of controversial socio-political tension and debate. Islam and Muslim populations are particularly frequently at the centre of these debates which commonly become focused on the question of the compatibility of Islam and ‘European’ or ‘western’ values.

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is the author of an award-winning quartet of books focusing on the relationship between Islam and the West, (Journey into Islam, Journey into America, The Thistle and the Drone, and the forthcoming Journey into Europe) bringing out the nuance of this encounter after 9/11 and arguing for a dialogue between the two. The theme of fostering peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding between different communities in the cities we live in will be addressed and we would be delighted to welcome you to the discussion on what constitutes an ideal and discrimination-free culture in European society.

It will be followed by a conversation with Dr. Riem Spielhaus (Research Fellow, Erlangen Centre for Islam and Law in Europe, EZIRE, University of Nürnberg-Erlangen) about some of the historical aspects of the relationship between Europe and the Muslim world, as well as contemporary challenges posed by increased immigration from the Muslim world, more specifically in the context of Germany.

If you have any questions, please contact Julia.Rawlins@britishcouncil.de.

Lord Bhikhu Parekh on Islam in Britain

During a visit to Hull, United Kingdom, the Journey into Europe team had the opportunity to sit down with Lord Bhikhu Parekh, a prominent British scholar and pioneer in studying multiculturalism in Britain, to discuss the British Muslim community and the history of Islam in the UK and Europe.

Born in Gujarat, India, Lord Parekh completed his PhD at the London School of Economics and embarked on a career in academia at the University of Glasgow, the University of Hull, and as the Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. He has served as the Vice-Chairman of the Commission on Racial Equality and Chairman of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. He has also been the vice-chancellor of the Ghandi Foundation, a trustee of the Anne Frank Educational Trust, and a member of the National Commission on Equal Opportunity. In 2000, he was made a Life Peer in the House of Lords.

Two Generations of Scottish Muslim Politicians – Bashir Maan and Humza Yousaf

In Glasgow, the Journey into Europe team interviewed two distinguished Muslim politicians representing two different generations– Bashir Maan and Humza Yousaf.

Mr. Bashir Maan, CBE, is a leading Scottish politician, businessman, judge, community worker and writer. In 1968 he was appointed Justice of the Peace for the City of Glasgow, the first Asian and Muslim Justice of the Peace in Scotland. 1970, he was the first Muslim to be elected to public office in the United Kingdom, serving as a Labour Party councillor for the Kingston ward of Glasgow. He is the author of the books New Scots and The Thistle and the Crescent.

Mr. Humza Yousaf, MSP, is a member of the pro-independence Scottish National Party and represents Glasgow in Scottish Parliament. He is currently the Scottish Minister for External Affairs and International Development and is an alum of the University of Glasgow.

Dr. Amineh Hoti on the Life of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

In the footsteps of my relative, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

Dr. Amineh Hoti

Walking in the footprints of one of the greatest educationist reformers in South Asia was a huge intellectual gift for me. I am on the project, led by Professor Akbar Ahmed, called “Journey into Europe” in London’s Goodenough Club—staying in the same building in which Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had once lived. Visitors to Mecklenburgh Square can see the plaque on the building honoring his stay and those who have access to the building can see his portrait in the corridor as one enters.

Single-handedly, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) led the Muslims of the Subcontinent towards a modern Muslim identity. Inspired by his visit to the University of Cambridge in England, he set up a University for Muslims in Aligarh, India. From this institution came leaders, prime ministers, policy makers, historians, scientists, and many other prominent figures in society. In the colonial time when there was deep suspicion of “the Other” especially after the bloodbath of 1857 when Muslims were being persecuted, some Muslims were distancing themselves from all that was foreign, especially British education, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan encouraged Muslims to progress and not to hold back but to educate themselves, learn English, and develop better relations with the other in order to create deeper understanding and better communication. The idea of Pakistan came from Aligarh—the majority of the people in the Muslim League party that moved the motion for the creation of Pakistan were from Aligarh.

In Tehzeeb-e-Ikhlaq, a journal he founded and led, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan wrote articles calling for the people of the Subcontinent, especially the Muslims, to leave behind blind imitations of culture and use reason and logic to lead more meaningful and thoughtful lives. He argued that if the people of the Subcontinent (Muslims and Hindus) continued to follow old traditions and superstitions then they would be like a disabled person with one eye but if they progressed and developed the vision and thought to move forward through knowledge and education then their example would be, in his own words, like that of a beautiful bride.

The Centre for Dialogue and Action at FCC in Pakistan, which I have the privilege of being the founding Executive Director, has just successfully taught its first pilot Diversity course—one of the classes focused the students’ attention on the inclusive tolerant vision of Pakistan’s founding fathers, including Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and the Quaid-e-Azam, Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah. These leaders had a vision of a modern Muslim society with rights for every citizen regardless of race or religion and above all the respect for law and order. Considering the chaos of so much of the Muslim world, it is a vision worth reminding the world of. When men and women with extreme views hold up plaques of their heroes like Osama bin Laden (which they are openly doing in the capital city of Pakistan), leaders and teachers need to remind students and the public of the alternative model, in order to keep the symmetry—Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and the Quaid-e-Azam were clearly educated men of vision and above all they were great bridge-builders between different people and nations. This Journey into Europe is one such adventurous exploration in which Professor Ahmed and his team of field researchers and scholars (myself included) will look at how people in the modern world can live side by side more peacefully. It is rich fieldwork material for teachers and students of peace building courses and it is a valuable alternative for a world in which the cacophonous voices of hate and anger are unacceptably far too loud.

Professor Akbar Ahmed addresses “Beyond Islamophobia” Conference at SOAS in London

From June 7-8, 2014, the Journey into Europe team participated in the “Beyond Islamophobia” Conference at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. The Conference was organized by the Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue Project led by Professor Peter Morey and Dr. Amina Yaqin. Journey into Europe team members, Dr. Amineh Hoti and Frankie Martin, chaired two panel discussions. Professor Ahmed addressed the conference on June 7, introducing the Journey into Europe project and discussing the most effective ways to combat Islamophobia.

Islam and Dialogue in Northern Ireland

By Harrison Akins

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As the sun shone brightly as our plane touched down in Belfast after arriving from Edinburgh, I had no idea of the storm we were landing in.

I was traveling with my professor, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland, on a new study, Journey into Europe, examining Islam in Europe in collaboration with our UK partner the Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue project. We were arriving in Belfast for Ambassador Ahmed to give the 2nd Annual Harri Holkeri Lecture at Queen’s University Belfast on May 29, hosted by the Institute of the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice and its director Professor Hastings Donnan.

I was coming to Belfast for the first time aware of the problems this region had faced during the Troubles but largely unaware of the new challenges emerging in regards to the Muslim and immigrant communities. Just days before arriving in Northern Ireland, a local pastor named James McConnell had announced from his pulpit at the Metropolitan Tabernacle that the religion of Islam was “satanic” and stated that Muslims were “heathens” and he did not trust them. A statement of support by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson stoked the controversy around Pastor McConnell’s statements further. Having only been in Belfast for a matter of hours, Ambassador Ahmed was inundated with interview requests from BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, BBC Northern Ireland television, and UTV. For a region which has experienced such horrific violence in its history, these statements only serve as reminders of wounds still healing, wounds which lie upon religious lines.

These comments demonstrated the unfamiliarity, fear, and mistrust which is too often associated with the Muslim community in the United Kingdom…

To continue reading at The American Muslim, click here.

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Alex Salmond on Scottish Identity

The Right Honorable Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, welcomed Professor Akbar Ahmed and his team to his office in the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh. Professor Ahmed has a long friendship with the First Minister dating back to his support of Professor Ahmed’s feature film on the founder of Pakistan, Jinnah, starring Sir Christopher Lee, in the 1990s.

The First Minister, leader of the Scottish National Party, is the senior most politician in Scotland and is currently in the run-up to a referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom scheduled for September 2014 which he and his party are strongly supporting.

During the interview, the First Minister discussed Scottish identity, the position of the First Minister, and the important role of the Muslim community in Scotland. The First Minister voiced his support for Journey into Europe and presented Professor Ahmed with a tartan tie. Also present in the meeting were the First Minister’s External Affairs Minister, Humza Yousaf, and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, a recent SNP candidate for European Parliament.

Professor Akbar Ahmed to address “Beyond Islamophobia” Conference at SOAS in London

BEYOND ISLAMOPHOBIA

Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue are delighted to announce that

 Professor Akbar Ahmed of American University, Washington

 will introduce his Journey Into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Empire

12:15pm on Saturday 7th June in Khalili Lecture Theatre at the Beyond Islamophobia conference.

Please register to attend:www.soas.ac.uk/csp/muslimstrustdialogue/07jun2014-beyond-islamophobia.html

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Dr. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, gives his blessing for the Journey into Europe project

On May 21, 2014, Professor Ahmed, accompanied by his research team, headed to Magdalene College of the University of Cambridge to interview the Right Reverend and Right Honorable Lord Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002-2012 and presently the Master of Magdalene College.

Dr. Williams, born in Swansea, Wales and educated at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, has been a key leader in interfaith dialogue between the Abrahamic Faiths for decades and, during his tenure as Archbishop, working to improve relations with the Muslim community through knowledge and compassion, such as raising the issue of the compatibility of Sharia with English law. His last major public appearance as Archbishop was a Christian-Muslim dialogue with leading Pakistani figures in the UK at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop’s London residence, in October 2012 where Professor Ahmed gave the keynote address. At the dialogue, Dr. Williams, amidst a hectic schedule, graciously spent personal time with Professor Ahmed and his daughter Dr. Amineh Hoti, Director of the Center for Dialogue and Action in Cambridge, which Dr. Williams has always been a strong supporter of.

Since January 2013, Dr. Williams has served as Master of Magdalene (pronounced mawd-lin) College of the University of Cambridge. Magdalene College was originally founded in 1428 as Buckingham College and re-founded in 1542 as Magdalene College by Sir Thomas Audley, the Lord Chancellor under Henry VIII. Among its alumni is the famous diarist of the 17th century Samuel Pepys, whose papers and personal library are housed in the Pepys Library, which abuts the beautiful and flowered garden of the Master’s Lodge.

Upon entering the Master’s Lodge for the interview, Dr. Williams led Professor Ahmed into his study where the walls were lined with scholarly books and his sister’s artwork. There was also a framed photo of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose 2011 wedding at Westminster Abbey Dr. Williams presided over.

During the interview, Dr. Williams, a paragon of intellectualism, compassion, and spirituality, discussed the need for knowledge and understanding for improving relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. He emphasized that the cornerstone of English identity is an openness and respect for others. At the end of the interview, Dr. Williams gave an inspiring prayer for the safety and success of Professor Ahmed and his team on their journey across Europe.