Monthly Archives: September 2016

“Lights, Camera, Action!” – The University of Tennessee Department of Political Science

Although he just completed his first year in our PhD program, Harrison Akins is already having a significant impact on a very timely issue: Muslim communities of Europe.
Graduate Student spotlight: Harrison Akins (right) with Ambassador Ahmed (left) and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (center) in Cambridge during fieldwork in the UK.

 Harrison Akins, a PhD student in our department, served as the associate producer and director of cinematography for the documentary film, Journey into Europe, which he presented to the Southeast Regional Middle East and Islamic Studies Seminar Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy April 16, 2016.

The film, which has also been screened worldwide, is part of a larger project by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and former Pakistan Ambassador to the UK and Ireland, examining the history and contemporary challenges of the Muslim communities of Europe. Relying on fieldwork in ten European countries over a two-year period, Ambassador Ahmed and his research team, including Akins, who served as the Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow prior to beginning his PhD, examined controversial issues surrounding the European Muslim communities including Sharia law, terrorism, the building of mosques, female dress, and the pressures of immigration and multiculturalism. The Stiftung Mercator Foundation of Germany, the British Council USA, and American University’s School of International Service provided support and funding for the project.

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Ambassador Ahmed appears on the DC Night Show with Frank Islam


Journey into Europe to screen as part of Chai Time in Potomac, MD Sunday Oct. 2 at 2pm


Journey into Europe to air on Next TV

For more information, visit the Next TV Facebook page.


Journey into Europe to screen on Capitol Hill Wed. Sept. 28 at 1pm



Journey into Europe to screen at Texas Christian University Wed. Oct. 5 at 6:30pm



Journey into Europe to screen in West Lafayette, IN on Thurs., Sept. 22 at 6pm


Omran Daqneesh and Aylan Kurdi – Ambassador Ahmed, Express Tribune

The waves of migrants who have arrived in Europe, hoping to escape horrors in their home countries, have evoked a broad range of emotions in Europe and around the globe. Throughout the crisis, desperate refugees, after initial goodwill, have faced unparalleled hate and dehumanisation, but two photographs, in particular, have created empathy for the impossible choices faced by those fleeing their home nation. The world responded in outrage when the photograph of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a young Syrian boy who was face down on the Turkish shore after drowning in his family’s attempt to reach Greece went viral in September 2015. It seemed that the world finally understood the dangers that refugees faced as they attempted to make their way across Europe. But all too quickly, as the backlash began against the refugees, Aylan’s tragedy was forgotten and he was being depicted in cartoons, had he lived, as a future rapist chasing white European women. Angela Merkel, seen as the champion of the refugees, saw her political fortunes decline.

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Ambassador Ahmed and team join distinguished interfaith roundtable with State Dept. delegation from Pakistan and Afghanistan


Ambassador Akbar Ahmed (center), Dr. Amineh Hoti (right), and Patrick Burnett (right) join a distinguished interfaith roundtable featuring a visiting delegation from Afghanistan and Pakistan at the National Cathedral  on September 9. The roundtable featured top interfaith leaders from Greater Washington engaging with government officials and scholars from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On the morning of Friday, September 9, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed and team members Dr. Amineh Hoti and Patrick Burnett joined a distinguished roundtable of Greater Washington interfaith leaders at the Church House of the National Cathedral to welcome and speak with five visitors from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The visitors are touring the US as part of the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program, conducted under the auspices of the Meridian International Center. The purpose for the visit of these distinguished government officials and scholars is to explore “religious dialogue influencing foreign policy” as part of a State Department Sub-Regional Project for Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The visiting delegation took the opportunity during this two-hour closed-door session to explore some of the challenges American interfaith leaders have faced in working to build bridges between different faith communities, particularly in the years since 9/11, and seek advice for how to overcome some of the great obstacles individuals and communities face in trying to come together and overcome differences.


Ambassador Ahmed, hailing from Pakistan and having worked extensively as a Commissioner in the Tribal Areas, was able in particular to poignantly illustrate to the delegation the importance of knowledge and understanding, as well as the importance of reaching out directly to both leaders and community members in order to build bridges. He made a strong plea to the Pakistani and Afghan leaders at the roundtable to not fall into the trap of many American Muslim leaders immediately following 9/11, who frequently echoed the hollow phrase, “Islam is a religion of peace,” as people were cynical and did not believe it to be so in light of the attacks. Fifteen years since 9/11, Ahmed emphasized that the challenge remains for Muslims to convince the world that their religion is one of peace and for the world not to indulge in Islamophobia – issues that remain at the fore of global affairs today.


Ambassador Ahmed (center right) and Dr. Hoti (center) discuss  the importance of engaging non-Muslim communities around the globe as Muslim leaders with the visiting delegation.


Ahmed also stressed the importance of overcoming differences within one’s community and making a stand against those oppressed groups in their own society, while also emphasizing to the delegation the importance of having their voices heard both as interfaith leaders and as ambassadors of Pakistan and Afghanistan in a time when so many in the West grossly misunderstand the politics, culture, and society of these two nations. Without greater understanding in the West, Ahmed argued that it would continue to be difficult for American Muslims to make a strong case for themselves.


Following the roundtable conversation, the visiting delegation took a detailed tour of the National Cathedral and had a chance to learn more about Christianity, particularly the Episcopalian denomination. In the coming weeks, the visiting delegation will be traveling around the US further exploring how American interfaith practices are conducted.



A delegation of leaders from Afghanistan and Pakistan discuss the challenges of interfaith dialogue with leading interfaith practitioners from Greater Washington at the National Cathedral on Sept. 9. The visit was part of a nationwide tour for Pakistani and Afghan government officials and scholars sponsored by the US Department of State, under the auspices of the Meridian International Center.



The program was facilitated by Rev. Carol Flett, the Interreligious Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and former Interfaith Programs Coordinator at the National Cathedral. The Washington-based delegation, in addition to Ambassador Ahmed and Islamabad-based Dr. Hoti, included Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Ann Korky, a retired US Foreign Service officer and active lay member of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, and Alan Ronkin, the Regional Director for the Washington office of the American Jewish Committee. Representing the delegation from Afghanistan and Pakistan were Mr. Sayed Muzammel Ferqat, the Director of the Secretariat of Afghanistan Moderation Center; Dr. Noorullah Kawsar, the Chief Editor, of Esteqamat (monthly) and a Lecturer at the Sayed Jamaludin Institute of Higher Studies; Professor Junaid Iqbal, a Religious Scholar and a Senior Anchorman for A Plus TV, Dr. Mohammed Khan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at Iqra University and Visiting Faculty at National Defense University Islamabad, and Professor Khurshid Ahmad, a Lecturer in the Department of International Relations at the University of Peshawar.