On Thursday, March 15, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed presented his new book, Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity, at the 92nd Street Y in New York at part of their Daytime Talks series. The event was attended by several prominent community leaders in New York, including E. Nisar Khan and Nasima Khan, Founding Members of the Pashtun Cultural Institute, Rabbi David Fox Sandmel, the Anti-Defamation League’s Director of Interreligious Engagement, Aroon Shivdasani, the Executive & Artistic Director of the Indo-American Arts Council, author Sabeeha Rehman, philanthropist Bonnie Porta, and a number of American University alumni.
During the lecture, Ambassador Ahmed discussed strategies for strengthening interfaith relations in Europe and throughout the world. He referred back to periods of European history where Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived, worked, and created together, as exemplified in the Golden Age of Andalusia, Sicily, and Bosnia, and discussed how these periods of history can provide us a model for overcoming religious differences and fostering a more pluralist society in the 21st century. Ambassador Ahmed also told of a three-step path for building strong interfaith bridges – first, engage in dialogue, then seek out understanding and knowledge of one another, then reach out in friendship. The lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session and a book signing.
Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity, published by Brookings Institution Press, explores Islam in Europe and the place of Islam in European history and civilization on the basis of fieldwork spanning the length and breadth of the continent. The fourth in a quartet of studies examining relations between the West and the Muslim world, the book is based in years of fieldwork with a dedicated team of young scholars. Addressing such hot-button issues as immigration, refugees, terrorism, and extremism, the book promises to serve as a key guide to the challenges facing Europe today. The book has received a number of strong reviews since its publication. Aijaz Zaka Syed calls it “a must-read book” in the Saudi Gazette. Professor Todd Green writes in Reading Religion, a publication of the American Academy of Religion, that Journey into Europe is “a masterpiece” and “a magisterial examination of Islam’s place in Europe’s historical, cultural, and political landscape.” Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, states, “It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this work.” Dr. Haris Silajdzic, the former President and Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, writes, “Ambassador Akbar Ahmed’s latest project on Muslims in Europe is yet another illustration of his vision by offering us understanding of, commitment to, and hope and compassion for humanity.”