Author Archives: Journey Into America

Much ado about nothing

Some notorious bloggers who spread hatred against and fear of Muslims have recently raised questions about my work after the publication of my book Journey into America last summer.  As the book was widely discussed in the media and I was even invited by John Stewart on the Daily Show, these bloggers seem to have gone into a frenzy. They did what they do best—spread smear and slander. They accused me of “lying” and “hiding” facts about my scholarship. Recently, they picked my small book—really an essay—on Islamic Anthropology, accusing me of “hiding” it. I was persuaded by Muslim scholars in 1980 when I was at Princeton to examine my discipline, Anthropology, in the frame of a global project called “The Islamization of Knowledge”. In my little book, I concluded that the quality of knowledge can only be based on scholarship, research and observation, not by attaching labels such as Islamic. I also emphasized, as I have throughout my writing, the importance of knowledge.

Far from hiding it—in spite of having to deal with the fate of about two dozen books—I noted with pride that it has been reprinted several times and even translated. It is mentioned in my full CV and references to it are given in two of my most popular books, Discovering Islam (see new edition 2002) and Postmodernism and Islam (see new edition 2004). I worked on it last year for yet another reprint to be published this year. The book is also widely available in bookstores and frequently checked out at the library here at American University.

As for the question of indirect support of the book by the Muslim Brotherhood through its publishers, I have no dealings whatsoever with the Brotherhood and have no idea what is on their website but if the book is being read by their members, I am confident they will benefit from the importance of knowledge in Islam—something which my blogger critics would also do if only they read it.

As a Muslim living in an atmosphere of poisonous hatred against Muslims, I expect to be attacked by this kind of Islamophobic nonsense, but to attack two world class scholars like Professors Lawrence Rosen and Tamara Sonn and accuse them of being linked to the Muslim Brotherhood is a disgrace, and these bloggers and their paymasters should feel ashamed about it.

These critics neither discourage nor intimidate me or the patriotic, brilliant young Americans who have been working with me. They do amuse us. However, we need to get on with our work spreading knowledge, light and compassion—clearly desperately needed in the dark quarters inhabited by these bloggers—and not be distracted by their fear and hate mongering.

Akbar Ahmed

Diversity and Perspective in America and Beyond: My Journey to America to Join ‘Journey into America

By: Dr. Amineh Ahmed Hoti

I am on an unprecedented journey called ‘Journey into America’. My father, Professor Akbar Ahmed is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University (Washington DC) and has been traveling on a major study through the length and breadth of America with his three male and two female American students to understand attitudes to Islam and to study American identity.

In this last leg of the over eight-months Journey, I have participated in the team work to find something I did not expect: a degree of diversity I am surprised by. At different periods the team met an array of people from diverse communities such as the Sunni, Shia, Ismaili, Bohra as well as Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian, notably the Archbishop of Houston who especially prayed for all communities to understand each other and particularly for the Abrahamic communities to work together towards global peace and harmony with greater love and respect that the God of Abraham himself calls for.

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“Live at 9” on Channel 3

Ambassador Ahmed’s interview is  up on the website now. You can see it here.  The interview starts at the 4:51 mark.

Inauguration Day on Sapelo Island

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.

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ABC News San Francisco

ABC News in San Francisco did a piece on the project while we were in San Francisco. Take a look here.

We have had a busy trip to the West Coast and will continue to post some stories while we are traveling for the next two weeks. We appreciate all of the people reading the blog and look forward to hearing some more comments and open discussion.

Journey into America makes CNN

On I Report. See the link here: CNN I Report

This is the video that Craig and Frankie made of the Somalian Muslims in Grand Island, Nebraska that were fired from the meatpacking plant. Here is a USA Today article that features one of the men in the video.

Live webcast – Friday at 9 a.m.

If you’re an early bird, you can catch Dr. Ahmed, Jonathan, Madeeha, and Hailey on a live webcast about the Journey from 9 – 10 a.m. (ET) on Friday morning at Saja Forum. The webcast will be hosted by Columbia University professor and Saja Forum contributor, Sree Sreenivasan.

End of Trip One

As we come to our final days of this leg of the journey, I want to thank the team for their dedication to the project. We have been travelling for 24 days staright, working 18 hour days, listening, writing, researching. It has been a grueling travel schedule and the team has not stopped working for a moment. They have shown a staggering level of dedication and have inspired me in the process.

We are all enjoying writing on the blog and will continue during our brief respite before the next leg. We have aquired so much information and fascinating stories that we will have no problem finding topics for posts over the next few weeks.

We leave Omaha tomorrow to return home to Washington, D.C. before embarking on our next leg of the trip. The trip has been an eye opener for all of us, including my team of young Americans. I look forward to continuing our Journey and discovering this wonderful place called America.

This team, for me, is the best Ambassadors for the United States with their intelligence, commitment, patience and compasssion. I am proud to be leading them into this Journey into America

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed

A visit to the “Arch” with Governor Holden

Like most nights during this month of Ramadan, last night we attended an iftaar dinner at the home of Dr. Sadiq Moyhuddin. After our meeting with the board of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis, we were welcomed by Dr. Mohyuddin, and his wife and daughter to a wonderful spread of traditional Pakistani food. This dinner, sponsored by the Interfaith Partnership of St. Louis, represented the openness and harmony that is in St. Louis between the different faiths. Muslim, Christian, Jew, Quaker, and other faiths exist easily in this quiet city, which often has the look and feel often of a small Midwest town.

We met many important St. Louisans that night, including former governor of Missouri Bob Holden who was in office from 2001 to 2005. While at the dinner we questioned him extensively on the history and culture of Missouri and St. Louis in particular. A gracious, humble, and amiable man, who dressed casually and relaxed easily, he offered in particular to show us the famous arch in the morning and explain its significance. The next morning we agreed to pick him up at his hotel. Standing with a suit and briefcase on the corner, we stopped and he squeezed into the backseat with us, talking easily without a trace of pretension. Although it was my first time meeting a governor, former or current, I knew that this friendly informality was unusual.

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A Welcome Message from Ambassador Akbar Ahmed

When I was growing up in Pakistan in the 1960s, when the world needed superhuman acts from it leaders, I was always able to look west. I saw a land of giants with the Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and others. I had learned of the founding fathers and their extraordinary vision. The unique features that this young country was constantly striving to improve fascinated many Pakistanis, like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan who believed in minority and women’s rights. Concepts of pluralism, openness, and cultural integration put forth by Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, in the 18th century were being simultaneously challenged and enacted. I admired America from afar.

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