A terrific interview with Professor Ahmed about Journey into America, his life’s work, Obama, politics, etc.
Dr. Akbar Ahmed, is currently the chair of the Islamic Studies Department, at American University in Washington DC. You may have seen him on The Daily Show, as a commentator on BBC, and even Oprah! His recent book, Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam documents the Professor’s fieldwork visiting Muslims throughout the United States. Dr. Ahmed recognizes the challenges young Muslims face today and offers his guidance, wisdom, and support to the difficult yet exciting times ahead.
You are an ambassador, playwright, professor, author, amongst many other roles. Which one is your favorite?
My favorite role, which you haven’t mentioned, is of a poet, that’s one that is always left out. I’m just getting my poetry book published. The reason I mention poetry is because it’s something so personal. It really reflects who you are. I have been writing poetry for a long time, and it’s like I’m finally coming out of the closet.
Is it nerve-wracking to be considered a world authority on contemporary Islam?
It is nerve-wracking because people think you know everything. I’m just a constant student of the world around me. I’m surprised at human beings, their behavior and their capacity to create predicaments for themselves.
It is nerve-wracking because people ring up at an instant, especially over the last few years, they’ll request a comment on something that has happened in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, West Bank or here, in America. You have to, as an expert, constantly prepare.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Muslim youth today?
The biggest challenge is to clearly understand their identity. It’s a very exciting time to be a young Muslim because there is so much happening but it is also a time of confusion and anxiety. I have the highest respect and affection and regard for the young Muslims. I realize the scale of the challenge they face.
What do you think of President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world? Do you think it will yield positive results?
I think his intentions were noble, and I applauded them though his follow up has been disappointing. He needs to match his actions to his rhetoric – to his vision.
Continue reading the interview here.
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Tagged Akbar Ahmed, elan, facebook, Islam, john stewart, Muslim, Obama, Religion, stephen colbert, twitter, youth
An op-ed from The Guardian about Obama/McChrystal and whether the US should send more troops into Afghanistan.
General Stanley McChrystal has all but admitted defeat in Afghanistan. Unless he gets an additional 40,000 troops, the game is up. Unusually for a commanding officer in the middle of a war, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has gone public with his thoughts. Equally unusual, he is pleading for a “new strategy“. His appeal falls on strangely deaf American ears. Polls confirm that more than half of the US public have no interest in staying on in Afghanistan. Barack Obama, who had begun his presidency emphasising the importance of Afghanistan and Pakistan, appears increasingly like an articulate but absent–minded professor. He needs to be a much more involved commander-in-chief. His Nato partners are already wobbling and will soon increase pressure to pull out troops altogether.
The enormous cost of losing in Afghanistan is yet to dawn on the American public. Should the US and Nato withdraw, neighbouring regional powers such as Russia, China and Iran will rush to fill the vacuum. None of them will be friendly to US interests in the region. Pakistanis who already harbour considerable resentment towards America, feeling much like jilted lovers, may be pushed over the brink into fully fledged anti-Americanism. It is well to remind ourselves that Pakistan is nuclear.
To continue reading the article, please click here.
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Tagged afghanistan, Akbar Ahmed, China, iran, Islam, McChrystal, NATO, Obama, Pakistan, Pashtun, Religion, Russia, War on terror
Ambassador Ahmed was on the Diane Rehm Show this morning for an interview on President Obama’s speech in Cairo. Here is the audio from the website.
Also, Frankie Martin’s newest article on the Huffington Post “Obama and the Dialogue of Civilizations”.
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Tagged Akbar Ahmed, Dialogue, diane rehm, Egypt, frankie martin, huffington post, Islam, Muslim, NPR, Obama, Religion
We are working hard on the project at the moment, with a few more trips left. We have a lot of good video and thoughts left to post, but in the meantime, we wanted to link to a few interesting articles this week.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the news again and President Obama’s trip and remarks directed at the Muslim world in the Turkish Parliament have been hot topics. So we’ve been busy. Ambassador Ahmed has done several interviews over the past few days. Here is one from the San Francisco Chronicle on President Obama’s speech in Turkey. Another from Voice of America, on the Presdent’s plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
An interview on PRI’s “The World” yesterday discusses “President Obama and the Muslim World”.
Left to Right: Jonathan Hayden, Ambassador Ahmed, General Petraeus and Hailey Woldt
On Friday, we had the priviledge of attending President Obama’s speech unveiling of his strategy on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ambassador Ahmed wrote an article for The Huffington Post entitled “With Obama at the World’s ‘Most Dangerous Place'” . We were also able to meet General David Petraeus as he and Ambassador Ahmed spoke for a while afterwards (pictured above).
While the whole world watched the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama in Washington DC our team was far away on the island of Sapelo in Georgia. We were there to investigate links between the US and Islam going back centuries to the Africans brought to this country as slaves. After almost being refused seats on our American Airlines propeller flight from Miami to Jacksonville due to an “excess in weight” and taking a rickety boat from the Georgia mainland, we were met by our host, Cornelia Walker Bailey.
Ms. Bailey is a direct descendent of Bilali Muhammed, a West African slave brought to Sapelo in the early 19th century. She is a writer and preservationist of the island’s unique culture and is proud of her Muslim heritage. Attempting to ignore it, she said, would be like “chopping off an arm.” Although Bilali’s descendents converted to Christianity, the isolation of the island meant that certain Islamic practices remained. We were surprised to discover that men and women commonly sit on opposite sides of the church during services as in a mosque, and all shoes had to be removed in services until recently. The churches face Mecca and people are buried facing Mecca. The island only has around 50 slave descendents living there today, and history is all around, from the old plantation house bought by tobacco titan R. J. Reynolds to a slave cemetery we visited with graves dating back well into the 19th century.
Please see Frankie’s excellent article on the Huffington Post on the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan: “Obama Must Learn to Play Cricket”
Also, Ambassador Ahmed is speaking today at The Cato Institute at 11:00 on “Afghanistan: Seven Years Later”. You can watch the event live in RealAudio by clicking here.
More videos and writing to come in the next few weeks. We are still recovering from the marathon west coast trip and planning for our next destination: Dixie
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Tagged afghanistan, Akbar Ahmed, Cato, Dixie, frankie martin, huffington post, Islam, Obama, President, Religion, War on terror
Last Saturday Jonathan, Dr. Ahmed, Hailey, and our hosts Dr. Arain and Mr. Munir Akthar Chaudry visited Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition headquarters for an interview with him. We could hear the booming gospel music as we approached the beautiful church with white columns and gold embellishment. We entered the sanctuary which was filled with about a third to capacity. I noticed a loud, frustrated energy in the room and the lights, music, and beauty of the building made a half-hearted attempt to divert that attention into something positive.
In vibrant and impassioned booms, Jackson preached about the poor and invisible of America. He talked about how Jesus himself was born poor—“he was born in the slum.” He cited that those who were poor in spirit and those that were poor would inherit the kingdom of heaven. He also described the cycle of poverty and injustice in the black community. He asked women whose sons were in prison to stand up and out of a small audience a large number rose up in their seats.
Moved by this, our generous host Munir Chaudry offered to donate ten jobs from his cosmetics factory to the congregation. He described the work and pay, only barely above minimum wage, and then Jackson asked the audience to raise their hands if they were interested. Again, many hands went up in eager yet desperate response. I do not often visit places like this, but what struck me was the utter despair and hopelessness; there was no bright future although they put all of their effort into believing it, as if that would make it a reality.
Our interview with Mr. Jackson himself was enlightening on the African-American experience. His role models included his mother and father, and his good friend and mentor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. When asked about the founding fathers, his favorite again was Dr. King. He said that only now was the country beginning to “mature.” “When I think about the values espoused by our country and the reality, I tremble for my country,” he quoted. Although Jefferson may have intended something else with this statement, Jackson interpreted it through the experience of the slaves and the theory of freedom belied by the reality of their bondage. He noted however that to have a black candidate for president of the United States meant that we had “matured as a nation.” America is a young country, and we are suffering the growing pains even today.