Last week, the Rumi Forum hosted a fascinating discussion between Akbar Ahmed and Michelle Boorstein, religion writer from the Washington Post, on Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam. The audio is available here.
An interesting commentary on the debate from Adam Serwer at “The Plum Line“, a Washington Post blog:
Frank Gaffney is part of a group of conservatives who have been trying to mainstream the conspiracy theory that the United States is on the verge of a stealth Islamist takeover, a group that has recruited at least one high-profile convert in former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. A couple of days ago he appeared on Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN across from Former Pakistani Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Akbar Ahmed, who matter-of-factly explained that an Islamic takeover of the United States was a numerical impossibility. The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman once described these theories as “nonsense.”
While Akbar Ahmed may have made Gaffney look paranoid and foolish on CNN, the frustrating reality is that more and more conservatives are finding his particular brand of paranoid Islamophobia persuasive.
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Tagged AC360, adl, Akbar Ahmed, anderson cooper, frank gaffney, Islam, murfreesboro, muslims, relisgion, ridiculous arguments, sharia
Watch the very interesting discussion with Anderson Cooper, Frank Gaffney, and Ambassador Akbar Ahmed on sharia, the absurdity of it taking over America, and the controversy at the Mosque construction in Murfreesboro.
AC 360 video is here.
Every single time we have had an event, lecture or public discussion, and hundreds of times through e-mail, we are asked to explain why “moderate” Muslim voices are not speaking up against the “extremists”, “jihadists”, “Islamofacists”, etc.
Of course, the premise of the question is that Muslims are not speaking up and the person asking wants to know why not. On the surface, it seems innocent and an obvious question. The person asking doesn’t see Muslims speaking out against it, doesn’t understand why not and therefore wonder if the silence means that all Muslims approve of the actions of the most extreme. But, it also means that we are not paying attention to the actions and sacrifices of the Muslim community.
It would be easy to blame the nature of the media. A story every time a Muslim individual or organization denounces terrorism, stands up for free speech or declares their patriotism is not exciting enough to be featured in the newspapers or on television.
I used to keep a list of examples of times individuals or organizations issued press releases condemning terrorism but I lost count in the hundreds. If you look, the statements are easy to find. On any Muslim organization website, you will find a section for these statements. In some cases, the organizations have gone above and beyond, even showing support for other religious organizations that were attacked, vandalized or smeared even when Muslims had nothing to do with the attack as in this case.
For those not impressed with statements, let us look at what people are doing on the ground. Professor Ahmed uses two great examples of how Muslims are giving their lives for the fight. In Pakistan for example, over 30,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in he War on Terror. 30,000 people killed by the Taliban or in service of the US backed fight against the Taliban in Pakistan. How’s that for Muslims standing up to terror? Continue reading
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Tagged Akbar Ahmed, America, cair, cartoon, constitution, free speech, Islam, ISNA, matt ston, molly norris, Muslim, Religion, south park, terrorism, The american muslim, trey parker
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
From Hearts and Minds Bookstore comes a warm review of Journey into America.
Read the full review here.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed it, it has made me think, it has made me wish to be in greater contact with folks outside of my own religious and cultural community, and it has reminded me that it is a very, very good question, namely, what does it mean to be an American? And can the story of American be told and construed in such a way that it upholds a dream not of a melting pot, but a beautiful mosaic or crazy quilt. Principled pluralism is what the old Dutch religious leader and politico Abraham Kuyper called it. Journey into America takes us back in history and offers a glimpse into the future. It is worth twice to the price to learn this stuff, and well worth the hours invested in reading through this lively, provocative work.”
Inside American Islam
Top Islam expert Akbar Ahmed just visited one hundred mosques in America. We get his report.
A picture taken as part of Prof. Akbar Ahmed’s project “Journey Into Islam” (Credit: flickr/journeyintoamerica)
It’s been a head-spinning couple of months for American Muslims. After quiet centuries in the country, and years of post-9.11 life that were sometimes tense but overall peaceful, suddenly Muslims in America are confronted with headlines and attitudes shouting “Islamophobia.”
That’s tough to take for citizens who have quietly weathered some tough years of war and strain. Very tough.
We look at Americans, Muslim Americans, in the storm. We hear from the leader of a team that’s visited a hundred mosques around the country and ask – what next?
Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic Studies at American University’s School of International Service. He traveled with a team to some 100 mosques in America. The result is chronicled in his new book, “Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam.” You can read an excerpt.
Resa Aslan, author of “No god But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam” and a contributing editor for The Daily Beast. Read his latest piece there, “The Charlatans Have Taken Over 9/11.”
You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, or on Facebook.
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Tagged Akbar Ahmed, America, ground zero, Islam, Journey into America, Mosque, NPR, pn point, Quran, Religion, reza aslan, tom ashbrook
Inside America’s Mosques
From tie-dyed hippies to hard-line radicals, they’re not all the same — and they’re not what you think.
Foreign Policy Magazine
BY AKBAR AHMED | SEPTEMBER 9, 2010
The ninth anniversary of 9/11 is almost upon us, and the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States is as fraught as ever. Witness Florida pastor Terry Jones, whose planned “International Burn a Koran Day” held the nation shocked and riveted for weeks until he finally agreed to cancel the event.
In this environment of heightened intolerance, people focus on symbols, and no symbol is more representative of Islam than the mosque. But most outsiders have no idea what actually goes on inside mosques. Some have let their imaginations — and their mouths — run wild in depicting these places of worship as nurseries of homegrown terrorist plots against America, as the recent controversy over the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York revealed.
But the conversation about mosques doesn’t need to be so ugly. Long before the latest controversies erupted, I, along with a team of young American researchers, traveled throughout the country studying U.S. mosques for the book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam. From fall 2008 until fall 2009 we visited over 75 cities and over 100 of the estimated 1,200 mosques in the United States, some of which are little more than a room or two. And we were reminded that Muslims in America are as diverse as Americans overall. There is no one pattern that can describe them all, and any generalities fail to cover the whole picture.
Read the entire article here.
A Conversation with Akbar Ahmed: Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam
September 9, 2010 | 06:00PM
Bunn Intercultural Center (ICC) Auditorium, Georgetown University
Sally Quinn, founder of the Washington Post’s On Faith page, will moderate this conversation.
The most comprehensive study ever done on the American Muslim community, Journey into America explores and documents how Muslims are fitting into U.S. society, seeking to place the Muslim experience in the U.S. within the larger context of American identity. Scholar Akbar Ahmed and his team of young researchers traveled through over seventy-five cities across the United States and visited over one hundred mosques. Ahmed illuminates unexplored Muslim-American communities through his pursuit of challenging questions: Can we expect an increase in homegrown terrorism? How do American Muslims of Arab descent differ from those of other origins (e.g. Somali or South Asian)? Why are so many white women converting to Islam? Much like Ahmed’s widely hailed Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (Brookings, 2007), Journey into America is equal parts anthropological research, listening tour, and travelogue. Whereas the previous book took the reader into homes, schools, mosques, and public places in heavily Muslim nations, Journey into America takes us into the heart of America’s Muslim communities in America. It is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of America today, especially its Muslim population—the challenges it faces, the challenges it poses, and its prospects for the future.
Sally Quinn, a Washington Post journalist, is the author of several books. She founded and co-moderates the Washington Post’s On Faith page.
Editor’s note: Akbar Ahmed is professor and Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington and the former high commissioner from Pakistan to the United Kingdom. He is author of “Journey Into America: The Challenge of Islam” (Brookings Press). The following is based on a letter he delivered to the senior most Iranian diplomat in Washington to be sent to Iran’s supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Washington (CNN) — When the month of Ramadan began, I received a letter from Laura Fattal, the mother of one of the three young American hikers detained in Iran. In it, Fattal appealed to me, the first Muslim scholar she had contacted, to intervene on behalf of her son and his two friends.
The Iranian government has stated that Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd crossed the Iranian border while on a hiking trip in Iraqi Kurdistan on the last day of July 2009, and they may have.
All former top students at the University of California, Berkeley, these are the best and the brightest of America, much like the American students I have had the pleasure of having in my classes. But sometimes young people do things that land them in trouble and travel to places they should not go.
These young people did not set out to cause any problems or tension between the U.S. and Muslim world or the U.S. and Iran, but had the opposite intent. They were committed to dialogue, understanding and making the world a better place. Read the entire article here.
Read the full letter at the Washington Post On Faith page
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Tagged Akbar Ahmed, ayatollah, CNN, compassion, hikers, hostage, iran, Islam, Muslim, night of power, prison, ramadan, Religion, washington post