Category Archives: Project Activities

Journey into Europe reviewed in Publishers Weekly

Ahmed (The Thistle and the Drone), Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, turns his eyes to Europe in this sweeping ethnographic exploration of Islam and its multiple narratives across the continent. The central thread woven throughout is the question of “primordial identity” (an imagined ethnic essence and tribal memory) in the modern world. Through interviews, surveys of history, and reflections on his own experience, Ahmed argues that communities in Europe—whether they primarily identify as Muslim or European—need to turn away from these primordial identities and instead seek mutual flourishing through a “pluralist identity.” As a model, he examines Andalusian, Balkan, and Sicilian communities and identities that are defined by the coexistence of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Ahmed is perhaps a bit utopian, and the language of the book can be simplistic when it frames Islam and Europe as opposing and separate entities. Nonetheless, this highly instructive work deserves careful and critical attention as people across the world wrestle with how to balance community with difference in an age of reinvigorated tribalism. (Feb.)
The review can be found here.
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Journey into Europe reviewed in Kirkus Reviews

A dense but rewarding anthropological account of European reactions to Islam and Muslim immigrant communities, and vice versa.

In Germany, reports the newsmagazine Bild, 110,000 jobs rely on the döner kebab—a Turkish version of the gyro, that is—alone. That the food has been so widely accepted does not automatically translate into easy acceptance of other Islamic artifacts, though, to say nothing of people. As Ahmed (Chair, Islamic Studies/American Univ.; The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam, 2013, etc.) argues, this speaks to the enduring strength of tribal separatism. The term “tribalism” has long been reserved for so-called primitive societies, but “the classical attributes of tribes are present in modern European societies, however heavily they are buried or disguised, in cultural norms, language, rhetoric, symbolism, and assumptions of who ‘we’ are.” When such tribes meet with Islamic ones with their own assumptions of ethnic identity, then trouble is bound to ensue, as it certainly has, with many manifestations. One, for instance, is the refusal of Turkish players on Hungarian soccer teams to sing the national anthem—and no wonder, given that “the anthem depicts the ‘wild Turks’ as an excrescence, a ‘barbarian nation.’ ” It’s easy to see how a Hungarian nationalist might react to such a response. Ahmed ventures that given the experiences of Eastern European societies with predatory neighbors—i.e., Germany and Russia—such expressions of “primordial tribal identity” are not unexpected. The author examines differing ideas of nationhood among the European powers, such as the marked distinction between French and British ideas of imperial management and citizenship. More pointedly, he considers how Muslim immigrants with “a tribal background,” confronting prejudice and discrimination, might develop primordial responses of their own to the insult on their honor—responses that include being ripe for recruitment into terrorist organizations, especially by way of “kinship and neighborhood links, as in areas like Molenbeek in Brussels.”

Academic but of considerable interest to any student of current affairs and geopolitics.

The review can be found here.

Reconnecting with Dr. Haris Silajdzic

Ambassador Ahmed had the pleasure of reconnecting today at American University with former Bosnian Prime Minister and former Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr. Haris Siladjzic, alongside his wife, Selma, and Dr. Emir Kremic, Director of the Federal Bureau of Statistics in Bosnia. Dr. Silajdzic’s rich, insightful interview can be found in the film as well as the forthcoming book, Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity.

My Heart Moves to See Befitting Farewell to Pakistan’s Mother Teresa, Dr. Ruth Pfau

By Dr. Cllr. James Shera (Sitara-e-Pakistan, MBE)

The coffin, wrapped in Pakistani flag, carried by Pakistani soldiers. Nineteen cannon shots fired to pay salute. Live coverage on all the TV channels of Pakistan. This was the scene of a recent funeral ceremony attended by nobody less than President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman and Vice Admiral Zafar Mahmood, along with thousands of mourners from all walks of life, including Muslim religious leaders, gathered at the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi.

These may appear to be glimpses of a funeral of a head of state but they are not. This was the befitting farewell given by the people of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to their heroine Dr. Ruth Pfau, a German Christian missionary who passed away on 10th August after serving people for nearly 57 years. The state funeral of Dr. Ruth Pfau on Saturday proved that the people of Pakistan value those who care for them. As I watched on television, as the state-run and private television networks of Pakistan broadcast live footage of her funeral, this sight of an exceptional measure for a foreign Christian in this Muslim country overwhelmed my heart and soul.

Seeing thousands of mourners along with the President of Pakistan gathered at the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi to honor her memory and top brass of all three armed forces of Pakistan saluting the casket of Dr. Pfau as it proceeded through the Christian grave yard, I thanked God for making the Pakistani people thankful to those who cared about them, irrespective of their religion and nationality

Every Pakistani has paid tributes to this person who was not born on this soil and practiced a religion different from the majority of population. Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also paid rich tributes to Dr. Pfau stating “Although she was born in Germany, her heart has always been in Pakistan”. The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nafees Zakaria emphasized, “The entire Pakistani nation is paying tribute to the extraordinary work of Dr. Pfau, and we will always remember her with fondness. We lost a national heroin.”

The respect and love of people of Pakistan for Sister Pfau was very well deserved. She had devoted her life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan for nearly six decades. She arrived in Karachi in 1960 and complications with her visa to India forced her to stay in Pakistan. After visiting lepers, she decided to stay and for almost 50 years she took care, as a doctor, of the sickest and poorest of the city.

In collaboration with the government of Pakistan, Ruth Pfau had helped open leprosy centers in nearly 150 cities in Pakistan, trained physicians, assisted thousands of victims, and helped develop a national program in order to control the epidemic, which had earned her high distinctions in Pakistan.

I feel happy that it is not after her death she earned the recognition; she was decorated with highest honors and awards of Pakistan in her lifetime. The awards and medals earned by sister Pfau include Sitara-e-Quaid-i-Azam, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Pakistan, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the Jinnah Award, an Honorary Doctorate of Science (DSc) by Aga Khan University, Karachi, Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam for public service, and the renaming of Civil Hospital, Karachi to Dr. Ruth K.M. Pfau Hospital. For her dedicated work on leprosy Dr. Pfau was awarded Hilal-i-Pakistan on 23 March 1989. The award was presented by the then-President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan at the President’s House.

On 30th January 2000, while speaking at a function in Islamabad to mark the 47th World Leprosy Day, the then-President of Pakistan Rafiq Tarar praised Dr. Pfau for building up the National Leprosy Control Program in Pakistan. Dr. Pfau helped not only those afflicted with leprosy, but also patients of tuberculosis. In 2006, radio station The City FM89 honored Dr. Pfau as the “Woman of the Year.”

On 14th August 2010, on the occasion of Pakistan’s Independence Day, the then-President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari conferred Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam on Dr. Pfau in recognition of her public service. After her work towards helping people displaced by the 2010 floods, she was hailed as Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa” Dr. Pfau also received the highest award of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, the Staufer Medal, in 2015.

As an acknowledgment of “selfless services” of Dr. Pfau, on 19 August 2017, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has announced that the Civil Hospital Karachi would be renamed to Dr. Ruth Pfau Hospital.

Her wish was that the different “religions work together and the biggest religion was humanity.” asserted Dr. Claudia Vilani, an expatriate and colleague of Ruth Pfau. No doubt the way her funeral has been conducted manifests that the bonding of humanity is above religion, nationality, culture, cast and creed and the people of Pakistan do understand this.

(The writer is a British Pakistani politician, educationist and councillor for the last ten years and first Asian to become Mayor of Rugby in 1981)

Journey into Europe to Screen in Chautauqua, NY on Tuesday, July 18 at 3:30

Where: Hall of Christ, Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, NY

When: 3:30pm on Tuesday, July 18

Additional info: “Gate pass required. Purchase at our Main Gate Welcome Center, (716) 357-6250”

For more information, please visit the Chautauqua Institution website.

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed appears on WNYC’s The Takeaway today to discuss the London terrorist attack against Muslim community

To listen to the entire interview, click here.

“Aizaz felicitates Akbar on achieving Scholar Teacher Award” – The Nation

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry commended Ambassador Akbar Ahmed on his winning of ‘Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award for 2016-17’ by the American University School of International Service (SIS).

As a leading faculty member of SIS, one of the top 10 schools of international affairs in the US, Ambassador Ahmed has received this award in recognition of his “innovative, important and inspiring” mentoring of his students and his services to the community, according to a message received here. The award given to Ambassador Ahmed is a reflection of his achievements as a member of SIS faculty.

Speaking at the Faculty Awards ceremony, Dean of SIS James Goldgeier said “Ahmed is a legend”. He spoke highly of Ambassador Ahmed’s contributions to both his field of study and to the student experience in SIS as reported in the Huffington Post on 11 May. Ambassador Ahmed is an extraordinary teacher and a real mentor to his students, he added.

To continue reading, click here.

Journey into Europe Film Screening & Discussion with Ambassador Ahmed at American University this Wednesday

 

Please join the CAS Department of Anthropology as it welcomes Ambassador Akbar Ahmed (SIS) for this Social Justice Colloquium event, held at a special time and place, April 5, 530pm, in MGC 2. We hope to see you there!

Akbar Ahmed’s Journey into Europe

Film Screening & Discussion

Wednesday, April 5

5:30 p.m.

Mary Graydon Center 2

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the world-renowned Islamic scholar, anthropologist, and filmmaker, explores Islam in Europe and the place of Islam in European history and civilization in this unprecedented study. In the film, shot across the continent in countries such as Germany, the U.K., France, Spain, and Bosnia, we meet some of Europe’s most prominent figures, including presidents and prime ministers, grand muftis, archbishops, chief rabbis, heads of right-wing parties, recently-arrived migrants, and every-day Europeans from a variety of backgrounds.

It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this work.” – Dr. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

Ambassador Ahmed joins his students and Srimata Carrie at the Gandhi Memorial Center

IMG_0382

Ambassador Ahmed’s students, as part of their undergraduate fieldwork course, Researching Islam, ventured today to the Gandhi Memorial Center in Bethesda, MD, among other sites around Washington, to conduct fieldwork on Islam in America and how groups such as Hindu-Americans and Jewish-Americans perceive Islam. Ambassador Ahmed’s students were warmly received and hosted by Srimati Carrie, the Director of the Gandhi Memorial Center.

Ambassador Ahmed meets Sen. Chris Murphy in his Capitol Hill office

AA and Sen Murphy 3.22.17

AA, PB, and Arsalan Suleman with Sen Murphy 3.22.17

Today, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed met with Senator Chris Murphy in his Capitol Hill office. Joined by Arsalan Suleman, the former Special Envoy to the OIC under President Obama, and his Chief of Staff, Patrick Burnett, Ambassador Ahmed presented Sen. Murphy with a copy of his most recent book, The Thistle and the Drone, and a copy of the Journey into Europe film.