Tag Archives: frankie martin

Response to Campus Watch article on “Exposing the Infrastructure of Anti-Muslim Hate”

Frankie Martin sent this response to Campus Watch’s denunciation of his article “Exposing the Infrastructure of Anti-Muslim Hate” to Campus Watch director Mr. Winfield Myers last week, with the request that it be posted on Campus Watch’s website as to contribute to a scholarly debate. Regretfully, Mr. Myers did not reply, so we are posting it here:

I have seen the online debate about my article “Exposing the Infrastructure of Anti-Muslim Hate,” which Campus Watch called a “diatribe” and “hateful.” Because I do not believe I am “hateful,” and in the spirit of the wonderful holiday season, I would like to invite Mr. Winfield Myers of Campus Watch, who made this charge, along with the organization’s founder, Dr. Daniel Pipes, to attend and participate in two upcoming events in which I am involved. Both these events involve a respectful and free exchange of ideas and an exploration of differences with the intent to build bridges between cultures and religions rather than lead them towards confrontation and clash. The first is a lecture by Professor Akbar Ahmed at the Beth El Synagogue in Bethesda, Maryland on December 15th entitled “Judaism and Islam: The Path Forward,” and the second is a high-level Abrahamic dialogue featuring Professor Ahmed to be held on January 29th at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City.

I also thought Campus Watch readers might like to know that Professor Ahmed recently had a dialogue with Professor Bernard Lewis, a “Special Briefing” at the Washington D.C. World Affairs Council, which the Council called “an example of civil dialogue” and a “tool of understanding.” It is this model that is desperately needed in our times, when we too often are reduced to shouting at or slandering each other. It is precisely this that I attempted to do in my article. Let the reader judge.

Happy holidays,
Frankie Martin

Journey into America at the National Cathedral: A Testament to the Interfaith Vision of the Founding Fathers

by Frankie Martin: On June 10, the Washington National Cathedral hosted an extraordinary event. The Episcopal Bishop of Washington, the Rt. Rev. John Bryson Chane, launched the new book Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam by Akbar Ahmed, which is published this month by the Brookings Institution Press.

Participating in a roundtable discussion in the Cathedral’s gothic library was a powerful assortment people in different fields, including a priest from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a top Jewish interfaith leader, a representative from the Turkish Embassy, and prominent Washington journalists including the London Times Washington Bureau Chief, Christina Lamb, and Sally Quinn, the co-moderator of the Washington Post‘s On Faith. Also attending was one of President Obama’s liaisons to America’s Muslim community, several American Muslim journalists, a member of the Rumi Forum, and representatives from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

They had all come together to hear the results of a two-year project in which Professor Ahmed, American University’s Chair of Islamic Studies, and a team of researchers including myself, went on a grueling journey to 75 US cities and 100 mosques to study Islam in America and its relationship to American identity. The diverse attendees wanted to understand the important issue of Islam in America, discover ways to better build bridges between members of different faiths, and seek solutions to problems like homegrown terrorism.

Speaking about the book, Bishop Chane described it as an remarkable work on Islam in America and also American history, which everyone should read “not once, but twice.” The Rev. Dr. Carol Flett, the Cathedral’s Interfaith Programs Coordinator said she “learned so much about America” from the book and in a glowing review on the Cathedral’s website wrote that “the book will open your eyes and hearts into the lives of Muslim Americans.”

I was especially proud that Journey into America was launched at the National Cathedral because I grew up in the Episcopal Church. Reaching out to members of other faiths has always been extremely important to me and I was inspired on our journey to find Muslims and non-Muslims making great strides in interfaith dialogue at a time of great tension and misunderstanding.

We learned of church members surrounding mosques to protect them after 9/11 and met a rabbi in Los Angeles who prays with Muslims to reinforce the notion that they are worshipping the same God. The Jewish vice mayor of Chicago, Berny Stone, named a street in the city after Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and said that he actually has more support among local Muslims than Jews. In Omaha, we met members of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities who have assembled in an organization called Tri-Faith to build a synagogue, church, and mosque on the same property. And in the small town of Columbia, Tennessee, we heard the inspiring story of a Presbyterian pastor who gave the town’s tiny Muslim community the keys to his church to pray in after Christian white supremacists firebombed their mosque. The destruction of the mosque was a reminder of what can occur when people of different faiths and cultures fail to reach out to one another.

For the Founding Fathers, interfaith dialogue and pluralism was the very definition of what it meant to be American. That a book on Islam in America by a world-renowned Pakistani anthropologist could be launched at the National Cathedral by Washington’s Episcopal Bishop is a testament to this vision.

For me, the setting and theme of the event was both familiar and inspiring. It was in the same Cathedral where Professor Ahmed, joined by the Bishop and Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, had first announced his plans to study US-Muslim relations and I had committed to joining him. I was pleased to see that the project had concluded in that same atmosphere of support, understanding, and hope.

Video from the National Cathedral screening (in Urdu)

Courtesy of Voice of America Urdu Service


The Diane Rehm Show this morning on NPR

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”.

Interview on Al Jazeera

We were interviewed for “The Riz Khan Show” on Al Jazeera last week. We had a blast at the interview and visiting with Riz and his production team. The show is airing today and is already up on YouTube.

It was a lot of fun and a little intimidating being interviewed for such a huge show. Riz Khan is a star and Al Jazeera English is accessible in 120 million households worldwide from Africa to Europe to China. It’s unfortunately only on the internet in the US.  Al Jazeera is available in China but not in the two largest democracies in the world, the US and India. Go figure.

Parts 1 and 2 are below.

Muslim man imprisoned during rescue of Katrina victims

Our trip to New Orleans gave us the opportunity to visit a unique American city and to speak to survivors of one of the country’s worst natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina. We heard some great stories of hope from Muslim New Orleanians who provided food and water to those, like Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American, who heroically saved people using their personal boats. But it was also from Zeitoun that we heard a different kind of Hurricane Katrina story that left me aghast and ashamed.


After a day of rescuing people from the crushing floodwaters, including an old woman, Zeitoun, who owns a construction business, returned to his home. Because of his house’s high stilts, he was spared the most devastating of the flood waters. His wife, Kathy, had fled with their family but he had remained in New Orleans. He was in his house with a Syrian friend and a white American client. A boat appeared carrying a group of men in military fatigues with machine guns. Zeitoun isn’t sure if the men were actual military personnel or employees of a company like Blackwater, which was also active in New Orleans at the time.


The men approached Zeitoun and asked him if he needed any help or food supplies. Zeitoun refused, saying that he had everything under control. Then they took a closer look at him. “What are you doing here?” they asked. “This is my home,” Zeitoun replied. Six men then jumped into his home from their boat, and waving their guns at him asked to see his ID. He produced it and the men yelled “get in the boat!” waving their machine guns in his face. They refused to say why he was being taken. Zeitoun asked if he could at least go back inside and get a piece of paper on which he had written his wife’s number. “If you step inside,” said one of the gun toting men, “I’ll shoot you.” He was forced on the boat and watched his house slip further away in the distance.  

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West African Hospitality in Memphis

dscn1405This week Jonathan, Craig and I visited Masjid Attaqwa in Memphis and interviewed the Imam, Baba Deme after Friday prayers. The masjid is predominately attended by Muslims from West African countries like Senegal and Mauritania. During our conversation, the Imam, who is a Senegalese American, spoke of his appreciation of our project and the need for Muslims and non-Muslims to understand each other in the United States. He said relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were very good in Memphis.

Communal eating

Following our talk the imam and his associates treated us to a delicious West African meal. There were two entrees served with rice; an okra dish and a beef dish with a peanut sauce. The Imam and his associates including the elder Bou Bou Diallo sat around the table and ate with their hands, encouraging us to do so. I decided to put down my fork and fully engage, drawing heaps of laughter from the group as more and more rice and sauce was heaped on my plate.

dscn14141After lunch the general secretary of the mosque, Abou Falle, presented us with kola nuts, and announced that it was a tradition in West Africa to give them to honored guests. The Imam showed me how to crack it open and I bit into the bitter nut as the group watched intently. After a brief facial contortion I recovered, but not before some more laughs were had. We thanked the group for the nuts and departed.

I had come to Memphis with so many fond memories of Southern hospility encountered in previous stops through the south. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy West African hospitality as well.

Frankie Martin

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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Frankie on Huffington Post and The Cato Institute

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

Mormons and Muslims

We got off to a great start in scenic Utah, meeting Mormon missionaries in training at the Missionary Training School and then going on to Brigham Young University, a school owned by Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints where Dr. Ahmed lectured. We were driven around Salt Lake and Provo by Elder Banks-who used to be a “seventy,” a top leadership position in the LDS Church. His wife, Susan, also accompanied us and was very hospitable.

At the MTC we met a Mandarin language class of about 10 missionaries in training. Each year 50,000 Mormon missionaries go out in to the world to share their religion and engage in humanitarian assistance. I tried out some broken Mandarin on the missionaries and they replied in perfect accents-these were dedicated, driven students. The students-all dressed in meticulous dark suits and short haircuts were confident and excited about their missions. Some were from European countries like Switzerland, underscoring the global vision of the LDS Church.

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