Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Message for Our Time – by Elisa Frost

I was raised in the Post-9/11 World. I do not remember a time before buzzwords such as “terrorist” and “insurgency” became everyday terms. I was seven years old when the Twin Towers fell. I was raised in an era of fear.

Despite the climate of our time, I was raised with respect for the entirety of humanity. Even though I was raised in a small town, which was void of diversity, I was taught to respect all others and show great compassion for the less fortunate.

Even as a young child, I was exposed to other cultures through films and trips to museums in the city and taught to learn from and admire our differences. I learned the importance of compassion for the less fortunate through my family’s community service. My family taught me through their example the importance of respect and compassion.

I recognize that my story is vastly different from many others, especially that of others who were raised in small towns. I am truly grateful for my upbringing. It has meant that I have had the unwavering support of my family as I have dedicated my academic career to Islamic studies, the promotion of pluralism, and ensuring the cultural sensitivity of development projects.

While I know my family’s support is a constant, reminders are always warmly welcomed. Last night, an hour after I got off the phone with my grandpa, I received an email from him, which told me that he had been reflecting on Ambassador Ahmed’s work and wrote the poem that is included at the end of this post. I was beyond touched to receive this email and to know the true extent to which my grandpa values the work in which I am involved.

Widespread peaceful pluralism will thrive in future generations if we dedicate ourselves to teaching today’s youth the importance of respect and compassion for all of humanity.

Let Us Be A Beacon
by Robert W Clore, tune Finlandia

Our native land, oh, let us be a beacon
To all the world and stand tall and free,
And offer hope to al the poor and war torn
Across the world who from their homes must flee,
And struggle just for life and freedom,
To live in peace, justice and dignity.

In times of peace and loving harmony
When those of Faith love and respect each other:
Then life is good and all the people prosper.
Then let us pray that when we love another
Love will return to us in ample measure
And in our hearts will there remain.

Then let us be that beacon on the hilltop
A shining light for all the world to see:
That we should love and honor one another
Though while at times we all may disagree.
Let love return to us in equal measure
And in our hearts will ever there remain.

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Amb. Ahmed appeared on the Diane Rehm show 3/25 to discuss Belgian, European security challenges

Two Belgian-born brothers have been identified as suicide bombers in this week’s deadly attacks in Brussels. As Belgium mourns the loss of 31 people, investigators continue the manhunt for other suspects. This is the third major ISIS attack in the heart of Europe in little more than a year, prompting questions about Europe’s ability to get ahead of such assaults. Fluid borders and what some call a broken security apparatus across multiple countries are under renewed scrutiny. Belgium faces a uniquely difficult situation: it sends more western fighters to Syria than anywhere else, with many returning to Belgium. Understanding what’s behind security challenges in Belgium and across Europe, and what these recent attacks mean for threats to Europe and beyond.

To hear the show, please visit the Diane Rehm Show‘s webpage here.

Reflections on the “Journey into Europe” – C. Naseer Ahmad, Diplomatic Courier

The Chinese philosopher Laozi said that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Often for the memorable journeys, the company one keeps matter much.

The unforgettable “Journey into Europe” also began with a single step into the German Embassy in Washington. Instead of Laozi, it was Dr. Stefan Buchwald, Director German Information Center, who welcomed the guests to a special presentation of the documentary by Dr. Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University.

Braving the winter weather and the January snow storm, Washingtonians gathered to hear the famous scholar – who also is an anthropologist and served as a diplomat – speak about Muslim immigrants and Europe. In a little over an hour, Dr. Ahmed took everyone in the auditorium on a remarkable journey – going from country to country and introducing fascinating personalities while illuminating on the challenges they face and the accomplishments achieved.

To continue reading, click here.

‘Journey into Europe’: Conflict, Migration and Religion – USIP, Wed. March 23 2:30p

Wars and oppression-from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan and parts of Africa-last year pushed more than a million people to seek safety and opportunity in Europe. This tide of migrating humanity has heightened Europe’s tensions around its growing Muslim community. Conflict is growing around terrorism, the status of sharia law, the construction of mosques, and the possibility and desirability of multicultural societies. American University anthropologist Akbar Ahmed will screen his 2015 film exploring these tensions in Europe, and discuss their implications, including those for relations between the Islamic world and the West.

Europe’s recent history with the Islamic world includes decades of immigration by Muslims, often as “guest workers” or from the colonies of European empires. But Europe has struggled over how, or even whether, to assimilate its Muslim peoples. Problems surrounding Muslim identity in Europe have moved to the fore of policy debates since the 9/11 attacks, and especially following last year’s terrorist violence that killed more than 140 people in Paris.

These tensions are addressed in Journey into Europe, a film based on Professor Ahmed’s travel with a team of researchers through nine European countries. They interviewed prime ministers and street protesters, archbishops, rabbis, muftis and a range of other Europeans. Ahmed is writing an accompanying book, the last of four volumes exploring relations between the West and Islamic world after 9/11. This screening and discussion are part of a long USIP history of engaging with people and institutions working through religion to build peace in areas of conflict.
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed
Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University

Rev. Susan Hayward, Moderator
Director, Religion & Inclusive Societies, USIP

Please register in advance here. All guests must be registered online in advance to attend public events at USIP.

Amb. Ahmed delivers talk to Congresswomen and Congressional Wives Mar. 10 at Pakistan Ambassador’s Residence

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From left, Dr. Rafia Zakaria, Madame Ambassador Mrs. Shaista Jilani, and Ambassador Akbar Ahmed gather in front of the Pakistani and American flags, in addition to a portrait of Mr. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, at the Pakistan Ambassador’s Residence in Washington following a talk and luncheon for about 40 Congresswomen and Congressional Wives.

 

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Amb. Ahmed delivers a lecture to a luncheon of top women at the Pakistan Ambassador’s Residence in Washington on March 10, where he discussed the urgent importance of building bridges between the West and the Muslim World.

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Amb. Ahmed delivers remarks to a full house of Congresswomen and Congressional Wives on March 10 at the Pakistan Ambassador’s Residence in Washington .

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From left, H.E. Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani, of Pakistan, poses with Amb. Ahmed and Dr. Zakaria, who has presented Amb. Ahmed with a copy of her newest book, The Upstairs Wife. Dr. Zakaria, a distinguished columnist and scholar, spoke following Amb. Ahmed. 

All photos courtesy Pakistan Embassy of Washington.

This is America and the World: Amb. Akbar Ahmed – Journey Into Europe, Part II

After President Obama’s first Presidential visit to a mosque, Dennis Wholey concludes a tremendously timely and important two-part discussion with renowned Islamic scholar, author and filmmaker Ambassador Akbar Ahmed. The Ambassador is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University. Their conversation aims to diffuse Western fear and resentment surrounding Islam and contribute to the understanding of the true basis of the religion and its positive contributions to the ideals of the Western world. Topics include global perspectives of Islam today and an examination of Amb. Ahmed’s recent film, Journey Into Europe: Islam, Immigration & Identity. The film explores the essential and often overlooked role of Islam in the crafting of Western civilization. Through film clips and earnest discussion, Dennis Wholey and Amb. Akbar Ahmed begin to untangle the powerful trend of religious intolerance which has become one of the most pressing cultural conflicts of recent history.

To see which PBS stations will be airing the program live this weekend, please visit This is America and the World‘s website.

Journeying through minds and hearts – Hamzah Rifaat Hussain, Pakistan Today

Akbar Ahmed’s documentary holds clue to peaceful existence of multiple faiths

In times when debates surrounding intolerance rages from India to the United States and heated debates over the status of refugees and Islamophobia in Europe continue unabated, the need for developing a cohesive narrative which promotes coexistence and tolerance is required. When presidential candidates such as Donald Trump mercilessly target immigrants and Muslims and the Middle East as a region continues to be torn apart by proxy warfare, sectarian violence and loss of human life, former Ambassador and Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University, Akbar Ahmed’s message of love and tolerance could prove to be the best way of moulding mindsets and promoting humanism.

Having met Professor Ahmed on my recent tour to the United States as a Visiting Fellow for the Stimson Centre, he briefed me on his latest documentary, ‘A Journey into Europe: The Spectre of Islam, Immigration and Empire’, which explored concepts such as Islam, immigration and identity. The documentary is based upon an ethnographic study and opens the viewers to the attitudes and perceptions about Muslims from their European counterparts as well as harks back into history where the 12th century king of Sicily as well as the role of rulers in the Ottoman Empire in Europe was featured. The in-depth analysis and vivid description of various shades which ranges from the youth being lured into the ideology of ISIS to how Muslim culture has had an impact on the lives of various Sicilians by Ambassador Ahmed provides a voice for peace mongers in turbulent times. While Muslims having a profound impact on the architecture, philosophy, music, culture and traditions of Europe is illuminated upon, the film provides one with the other reality of tensions taking place in places such as Andalusia after events such as the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and Jews by the Spanish Christian regime which makes it a truly illustrative and captivating documentary.

To continue reading, click here.

This is America and the World: Amb. Akbar Ahmed – Journey Into Europe, Pt. I

Episode 1923: Amb. Akbar Ahmed – Journey Into Europe, Part I
After President Obama’s first Presidential visit to a mosque, Dennis Wholey begins a tremendously timely and important two-part discussion with renowned Islamic scholar, author and filmmaker Ambassador Akbar Ahmed. The Ambassador is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University. Their conversation aims to diffuse Western fear and resentment surrounding Islam and contribute to the understanding of the true basis of the religion and its positive contributions to the ideals of the Western world. Topics include global perspectives of Islam today and an examination of Amb. Ahmed’s recent film, Journey Into Europe: Islam, Immigration & Identity. The film explores the essential and often overlooked role of Islam in the crafting of Western civilization. Through film clips and earnest discussion, Dennis Wholey and Amb. Akbar Ahmed begin to untangle the powerful trend of religious intolerance which has become one of the most pressing cultural conflicts of recent history.

To see which PBS stations will be airing the program live this weekend, please visit This is America and the World‘s website

Taking the Temperature of Trump’s America: The Power of Pluralist Dialogue Perseveres – Patrick Burnett, the Huffington Post

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Ambassador Akbar Ahmed speaks to a full house at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. on the increasingly urgent need for the West and the Muslim World to better understand one another for the sake of peace. The event concluded Amb. Ahmed’s keynote appearances at the William and Mary Global Film Festival. 

Eight months after announcing his campaign, presidential front-runner Donald Trump continues to radically shape American political discourse. He has managed to carry out a first in modern American politics by building a wildly successful presidential campaign around the Islamophobia that once lay latent in parts of America. In light of this new political reality, American Muslims and their allies are increasingly unsure how to cope with such rhetoric in a country built around ideas of liberty and justice for all.

Despite the increase in threats both perceived and real against American Muslims, I witnessed firsthand my Muslim professor, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C., venture into the field in a Southern town rife with political tensions. But rather than facing protests or threats upon arrival in Williamsburg, Va., Ahmed was received with the sincerest of Southern hospitality. The trip also allowed me the opportunity to take the temperature of America in the time of Trump.

On Feb. 18-19, I had the honor of traveling with Amb. Ahmed to Williamsburg to participate in the College of William and Mary’s Global Film Festival – a university-run festival that highlighted Ahmed’s academic contributions to interfaith bridge building in an unprecedented series of three events. Williamsburg may be a bucolic college town a mere two-and-a-half hours from Washington, but it is no haven from Islamophobic rhetoric.

To continue reading, click here.

Amb. Ahmed screens Journey into Europe preview at the U.S. State Department

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Amb. Ahmed gathers with his team in the lobby of the State Department prior to presenting a preview of Journey into Europe to officials from across the agency.

Amb. Ahmed and his research team traveled to Foggy Bottom for a State Department visit on Feb. 24, where Amb. Ahmed presented a preview of Journey into Europe and discussed the importance of the project with a wide number of State Dept. officials. The event, chaired by Arsalan Suleman, acting U.S. Special Envoy to the OIC, and featuring Shaarik Zafar, the State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, as a discussant, drew a distinguished standing-room only crowd from across the agency. Senior figures from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and the Office of Religion and Global Affairs, as well as top officials from the Foreign Service Institute, were among those grappling with the challenges facing Europeans of all stripes and actively seeking means to improve interfaith relations during and following the question and answer session with Amb. Ahmed.

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Amb. Ahmed, Arsalan Suleman, the acting U.S. Special Envoy to the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and their respective teams gather in the State Department’s Ralph J. Bunche Library to prepare for Amb. Ahmed’s presentation of Journey into Europe.

 

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Amb. Ahmed delivers remarks to a packed hall as part of the State Department’s Bunche Library Speaker Series on Feb. 24. The lecture was chaired by Arsalan Suleman, acting U.S. Special Envoy to the OIC (right), and featuring Shaarik Zafar, the State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities (center), as a discussant.