Tag Archives: Christianity

“Journey into America” reviews in The News and The National Cathedral

Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, former envoy to the US and the UK from Pakistan, and a former editor of The News, Pakistan writes a wonderful review of the book.

Dr Akbar Ahmed’s latest book Journey into America: the Challenge of Islam is timely, important and audacious. It is a remarkably perceptive account of the Muslim experience in post-9/11 America. In the portrayal of the six- to seven- million-strong Muslim community and its encounter with mainstream American society, the study examines the mutual fears as well as common aspirations in the context of a challenged national identity. Read the full review here.

And Rev. Carol Flett reviews Journey into America for the Washington National Cathedral.

There are many reasons that one should read Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam by Dr. Akbar Ahmed. The book will open your eyes and hearts into the lives of Muslim Americans. You will learn aspects of American history you may not have known before and aspects of present American society of which you are probably not aware. Read the full review here.

“Journey” Teaser series: How did a Priest turned Grand Mufti of Rwanda end up at a run down mosque in South Dallas?

For a full answer to this and other questions, see Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.

We found the former Grand Mufti of Rwanda in a small, run down Dallas Salafi Mosque. Sheikh Issa Gisesa met with us after a Sunday afternoon Quran class (in Arabic) that he allowed us to sit in on. Imam Gisesa was the highest official of religious law over the Muslims in Rwanda.

But, before he was a Muslim, he was a Catholic. And not just a Catholic but a Catholic Priest. His birth name is Edward and it is befitting that his Muslim name is Issa, which means Jesus. Islam is spreading in Rwanda, he told us, and 2,000- 3,000 people convert every month, partly because the 1994 genocide was conducted in Christian churches. “Before I was a Muslim,” said the Imam, “I was a Tutsi.”

Imam Gisesa is in his 70’s and told us he fled Rwanda after he started to have doubts about his faith.  “People looked at me as the devil because I questioned.” He was afraid of being captured and hid from his pursuers in a Muslim community in Burundi. The Muslims there welcomed him and treated him like family.  He began to study Islam and in 1958, he became a Muslim. He went away to study in Medina,  in Saudi Arabia. After the genocide in Rwanda he returned, and was voted Mufti of Rwanda. After five years he decided to return to Saudi Arabia for studies, this time to Mecca, and then decided to come to the United States. The imam had led such an incredible life and we found him, the Grand Mufti of Rwanda, having experienced all the pain of genocide, sitting with us in a small Salafi mosque in a depressed area of South Dallas.

Order Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.
Next: Why are so many white women converting to Islam?

Teasers and bits from the cutting room floor

While researching for the book, we uncovered an enormous amount of information in interviews, on the road and when we were back in the office putting it all together. Fitting it all into a book was a challenge. So we decided to post some of the  really interesting bits of information that we really enjoyed reading and talking about. Some of it is explained further in the book, some had to be left on the cutting room floor due to space constraints. But we didn’t want it to go to  waste  because it is all relevant to American Identity and Islam in America.  So we’ll be using this space to start some conversations and give you a taste of what you may find in the book.

This week: Why did Benjamin Franklin wish the Native Americans were Muslim? and What movie did John Wayne call “the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life”?

Two articles

One from last month on a Christian Pastor observing Ramadan. Read it here.

And an extended interview from Anthropology Today with on Swat in Pakistan. Download the pdf of “Swat in the eye of the Storm”.

Trailer for “Journey into America”

The world premiere of “Journey into America” is premiering on Saturday, July 4th. This feature film will be shown around Washington and throughout the United States.

The film shows Akbar Ahmed in his journey to over 75 cities and 100 mosques asking hundreds of Muslims and non-Muslims what it means to be “American.” From a bishop and an imam in Las Vegas to Somalis in small-town Nebraska to Noam Chomsky in Boston, this is the first film of its kind giving insight into the diverse and closed Muslim community in America and how they are fitting into American society. It ends on the hopeful note of coming together as a nation based on our pluralist identity going back to the Founding Fathers.

Islamic Center of Columbia Attack–One Year Later

When we were planning our southern leg of the journey, my brother Josh, who lives in Nashville, told me about a small Muslim community in Columbia Tennessee whose mosque was attacked. Frankie, Craig and I immediate decided that we should visit.
We met Daoud Abudiab, Director of the Islamic Center of Columbia, when we arrived in Nashville at the Nashville Islamic center. He invited us down to Columbia to tell us the story of the attack and have lunch with some of the community.

On February 9, at 5:00 a.m., Daoud was awakened by the fire department. His Mosque and the home of the Muslim community was ablaze.

The community of 55 people at the maximum had purchased the building paid it off and was extremely proud that they had a home in the idyllic small town of Columbia in south Tennessee. The mosque was the only one within a wide radius and people from many small towns in the area came to worship there.

Three individuals had broken in, trashed the inside and tossed Molotov cocktails into the Mosque. They had spray painted several swastika and “white power, we run the world”. They were part of something called the Christian Identity Movement. Fortunately, they were arrested immediately and are awaiting sentencing. Continue reading

An Arab in Arab, Alabama

By Craig Considine – We stopped in Huntsville, Alabama (Jonathan’s hometown) after staying in Atlanta for four very busy days.  About 45 minutes south of Huntsville is a town called Arab.  We had to be in Nashville, Tennessee by Sunday night, but we figured we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit, considering we are studying Islam in America.  We ended up driving one hour in the opposite direction from Nashville just to visit this town.  Watch the video and you can see why it was well worth it.  

Continue reading

Meeting with Jesse Jackson

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.

Hailey Woldt