Watch live-streaming video of the August Army Leader Forum
Join Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, at the next Army Leader Forum. Ambassador Ahmed’s lecture is titled, “The U.S., the Afghanistan-Pakistan Theater and the Way Forward.”
During 2008 and 2009, Ahmed was on sabbatical and conducted a study of American society through the experiences of the Muslim community. He toured the United States with his American assistants and their journey with accompanying film footage can be seen in the film, “Journey Into America,” and read in the book, “Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam.”
When/Where: Monday, Aug. 2, 2010, from 11 a.m. to noon, Pentagon Auditorium, Room BH650.
The Army Leader Forum is an open forum developed to keep Army officers, civilians and their Defense-related counterparts/associates current on Army initiatives and issues. The forum provides a broad variety of topics and is a platform for reciprocal Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff briefings. Initiated by the Director of the Army Staff, the forum began in 2003 and is coordinated and executed by The Army’s Executive Outreach Office.
To view the live stream of the presentation, click HERE.
“It is my great pleasure this morning to welcome Dr. Akbar Ahmed here at the Middle East Institute. He is an old friend of mine and a supporter and we are honored to have the chance to launch his latest book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam…this is one of the groundbreaking studies done, no one to date had gotten into the mosques and the communities to the extent that he has…please join me in welcoming my friend Dr. Akbar Ahmed.”
-Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain, President, Middle East Institute, former US Ambassador to Pakistan, and Deputy UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The article below originally appeared on The Washington Post On Faith website by Akbar Ahmed.
Compassion in Taliban territory
If you were a Swati and lived in that idyllic land and were suddenly forced to leave your home to seek shelter outside the district ,and then saw the destruction of your beloved home first by the violence of the Taliban and then the violence of the Pakistan army in their attempt to defeat the Taliban, you would be either dismayed or angry. You would argue that neither Swatis nor Pakistanis were involved in the events on 9/11 but the unfolding developments since that tragic day have directly or indirectly shattered your life.
I have just received a letter from Swat written by Zebunissa Jilani, my sister-in-law. Last year, she organized a trip to work among Swat refugees with my wife Zeenat, and their respective daughters, Zahra and Nafees after they opened the Swat Relief Initiative specifically to help refugees.
The girls did exemplary work among the refugees including the distribution of desperately needed medical supplies and equipment. But they observed the dire condition of the Swati population living in tents and makeshift accommodation in the Frontier Province. This was Taliban territory and the Taliban were targeting their families having killed several cousins. While the women were seen as a threat by the Taliban, for the ordinary Swati refugees they were a ray of hope. As they belonged to the royal family of Swat, their presence in the midst of the dire poverty and chaos allowed the people to rally around their own heritage and traditions.
These women were driven by the idea that charity and compassion are more powerful than the hatred and anger that had devastated Swat. While charity and compassion are seen as quintessentially Christian values that have driven millions of Christians to acts of kindness, these same virtues are at the core of Islam also. The Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet emphasize charity and compassion again and again. In Islam, God’s two greatest attributes are compassion and mercy and the Prophet clearly said that mercy must always trump anger.
These women had unknowingly introduced a new method of fighting the men of violence in their region. They were using the power of their own religion, Islam, in their acts of charity and above all giving people hope of an alternative vision of humanity to the violence that has prevailed.
This summer Zebu, tireless and courageous in her desire to help the population has gone to Swat by herself. She has left her comfortable suburban life and family in Princeton to work in the sweltering heat and challenging conditions of Swat. From her vantage point, she is able to give an unvarnished picture of what is actually going on there that should concern all of us. In her letter she writes: Continue reading
The following article by Akbar Ahmed was first published on the Washington Post “On Faith” website.
With the rumors of secret meetings between Gen.l Kayani, commander of Pakistan’s armed forces, Gen. Pasha, the head of the Pakistani ISI, Afghan president Hamid Karzi, and prominent Taliban commander Haqqani, it seems that a post-American scenario in Afghanistan is taking shape.
The fact that Haqqani was in the company of the President of Afghanistan is a hint of the shape of things to come as the major players in the region plan for an eventual withdrawal of US forces.
Perhaps the catalyst for these meetings was the dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Fortunately for America, he is being replaced by one of the country’s best military men, Gen. David Petraeus.
Despite President Obama’s contention that U.S. policy in Afghanistan remain the same despite the change of commanders, the reality is the differences between the two men will ensure a different approach. Although both field commanders have been successful in establishing a rapport with Afghans, McChrystal tends to rely on his heart, Petraeus falls back on his mind. The former understands and plays on emotion, the latter intellect.
But McChrystal and Petraeus are rare birds. Few Americans see the world as they do. Continue reading
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Tagged afghanistan, Akbar Ahmed, avid petraeus, culture, general, Islam, Muslim, Pakistan, Religion, scots-irish, Stanley McChrystal, washington post
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
Please see “Will my Books in Swat Survive?” by Ambassador Ahmed in the Huffington Post. This is a terrific piece and a personal one on the Taliban’s recent movements in the Swat region of Pakistan.
Also, Ambassador Ahmed was a guest today on ‘Talk of the Nation’ with host Neal Conan. It was an excellent show that allowed time for an analysis of what is happening and why. I recommend listening if you are interested in the region. Here is the direct link to the audio.
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).
We hope everyone has been enjoying a great holiday season. We have, but we’re back now researching , making travel plans and preparing for the next trip.
When we were in San Diego, we had the chance to take part in a special Christmas project: writing letters to troops stationed in Afghanistan to go along with a Christmas care package.
We wanted to extend our wishes of peace to all– the soldiers, the citizens of Afghanistan, Americans and non-Americans. For me, the most important part of Christmas is the message of Jesus–love and compassion. “Love your neighbor” means everyone.
It was a hard letter to write. Really hard. What do you say? We’ve never met these Soldiers before, we don’t know anything about them. As Frankie said in the video, we don’t know what age they are. Just their first names. It really made us think about the soldiers and how much they sacrifice in a time when everyone should be with their families. But the soldiers are not the only ones who have sacrificed; the people of Afghanistan have suffered for 7 years during this war.
We have a saying on the team when someone is struggling with the extensive travel or long days: Stop Whining. We would do well to remember the troops in Afghanistan and people suffering all over the world-in Kashmir, Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Israel and on and on–when we are tired or grumpy on the road.
Here’s a video from San Diego when we were writing the letters.
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