American University Professor Akbar Ahmed to Embark on Study of Islam in Europe

Renowned Muslim Anthropologist To Examine Europe Through the Perspective of the Muslim Community

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 11, 2014)—Akbar Ahmed, renowned anthropologist and Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies in American University’s School of International Service, is embarking on a new field project, Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Empire, to study Muslims across Europe and the attitudes and perceptions of Europeans regarding their Muslim neighbors. This ethnographic study will take Ahmed and his research team across the continent of Europe during the Summer of 2014.

Throughout the trip, team members will be posting their thoughts as well as photos and videos from their experience to their blog,

This study is the fourth in an unprecedented quartet of award-winning books published with Brookings Press exploring relations between the West and the world of Islam after 9/11. The first, Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2007), examined what Muslims thought of the US and the West through field work across the Muslim world; the second, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010, Winner of the 2011 American Book Award), examined how Americans perceived Islam and Muslims based in Ahmed and his team visiting 75 cities and 100 mosques across America; the third, The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (2013, Named a “Book of the Year” in The Times Literary Supplement, Winner of the German Peace Prize, and short-listed for the Coca Cola Award for Best Non-Fiction at the 2014 Karachi Literature Festival) explored the tribal societies on the periphery of nations where the real “war on terror” is taking place.

Journey into Europe will complete Ahmed’s quartet by examining the historical relationship between Europe and the Muslim world and the contemporary challenges posed by increased immigration from the Muslim world, complicated and controversial issues including Sharia, terrorism, and Muslim female dress and the new pressures of security, globalization, and multiculturalism.

Following the trip, the results of in-depth interviews, questionnaires, and observations will be compiled and analyzed for the book, Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Empire and footage will be collected to produce the documentary film Journey into Europe.

Ahmed’s quartet of books has received praise from prominent politicians, journalists, religious leaders, and academics. Speaking of his previous book, The Thistle and the Drone, Professor Marilyn Strathern, the former William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, declared, “I am moved, horrified, and encouraged all at once. Above all, Professor Ahmed makes me proud to be an anthropologist!” The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, wrote of the same study, “This book is of genuinely global importance…Professor Ahmed combines a clear professional anthropological expertise with an equally clear, critical and humane moral perspective. This is an unusual and groundbreaking book, which should be compulsory reading for Western governments.” Commenting on the first book of the quartet, Journey into Islam, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel stated, “Akbar Ahmed’s voice needs to be heard, and his courage strengthened.”

Ahmed is the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Ireland. He is considered “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” by the BBC. Previously, he was the Iqbal Fellow (Chair of Pakistan Studies) and Fellow of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge. He has also taught at Harvard and Princeton Universities. Ahmed is the author of over a dozen award-winning books, including Discovering Islam, which was the basis of a six-part BBC TV Series called Living Islam. He is regularly interviewed on Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, and NBC and has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.


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