Category Archives: Project Activities

“‘Journey into Europe’: Reversing the paradigm” – Shadab Zeest Hashmi, Daily Times

In a silent and quite grainy black and white film clip showing members of the extended British royal family lined up for a photograph, one is struck by the overpowering dazzle and opulence of the jewels worn by the women. The scene is from the early part of the last century and the jewels are undoubtedly the spoils of empire. Another scene, one that Anthropologists and popular-culture buffs alike are familiar with, and one that is illustrative of why Akbar Ahmed’s Journey into Europe is an absolute must-read, appears in chapter one of his book: “Decked out in khaki shorts, knee socks, and solar topees, clutching binoculars, notebooks, and tape recorders, and suitably inoculated against deadly tropical diseases, they (Anthropologists of the colonial era) disembarked on the Pacific Islands or headed into the Amazon rainforest or the African hinterland. We, too, ventured forth to do our fieldwork; only our destination was Europe itself.”

As Noam Chomsky has noted, Ahmed’s study, which takes into account things such as Europe’s ‘primordial tribal identity’ as well as the deep-rooted effects of Western imperialism, in addition to the flux of immigrants from former colonies- in order to study contemporary dynamics between communities of Muslims and the European countries they call home, reverses the traditional paradigm in the social sciences (“in this case, not Europeans studying African and Asian societies but an Asian author examining Europe”). This, in my view, provides the long-awaited necessary corrective, the radical shift in connotations derived from Imperialist attitudes and agendas, coining, finally, a language without which neither academic discourse nor artistic representation can be fair or go far, one that may finally make it possible to have balanced, nuanced perspectives on subjects relevant to Islam and the West.

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Amb. Ahmed to Present Journey into Europe at the World Affairs Council – DC on Tues. Mar. 13

DESCRIPTION

In today’s rapidly globalizing world, there are many political, social and cultural shifts taking place. For instance, the last decade has seen an increase in the population of Muslim immigrants in Europe. While many believe that this is a new and recent trend, there has been an historic presence of Islamic culture and influence in Europe for centuries. How has the history of Islam in Europe had an influence on European culture? Can an understanding of this history help address some of the issues that Europe is facing today?

Join the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC as we host Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, author of “Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Identity” , to discuss the history of Islam in Europe and the effects of this history in the present day. Ambassador Ahmed is currently the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C.

6:00pm-6:45pm Reception and Registration
6:45pm-8:00pm Program

PLEASE NOTE WE WILL BE IN THE HEMISPHERE SUITES.

We are unfortunately unable to provide books for purchase at the event. Books however can be pre-purchased and picked up at the registration table.
This program brought in sponsorship with

DATE AND TIME

Tue, March 13, 2018

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

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LOCATION

Hemisphere Suites, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest

Washington, DC 20004

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To RSVP, please visit the Eventbrite page here.

A congratulatory message from Councillor Dr. James Shera on the publication of Journey into Europe

I salute Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, whom I have known for three decades as a warrior for peace, for the publication of his new book, Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity, particularly as he has written and released it in a time when the world grapples with great political, social, and religious challenges. Discussing relations between Europe and the East and the importance of building understanding between both cultures and faiths, the book is a breath of fresh air. It consists of more than 500 pages which have the power to create harmony and understanding. This book has not only been endorsed by the top scholars, but also by some of the great spiritual leaders of our time. It is not just a journey into Europe, but a journey into peace. I thoroughly recommend people not only buy this book, but when they read it try to act on and reflect its message, because each one of us has a role to play in building a more peaceful, harmonious world. I congratulate Ambassador Ahmed and his wonderful team of young scholars for this great accomplishment, and I salute Ambassador Ahmed for dedicating his life to building bridges of understanding.
-Councillor Dr. James Shera MBE, S.Pk, former Mayor of Rugby

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.

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.

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