Tag Archives: iran

A plea to free American hikers in Iran

From CNN.com:

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

Akbar Ahmed article on Afghanistan: “America has yet to grasp the cost of losing in Afghanistan”

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.

Interview with Noam Chomsky

In Boston, we had the honor of interviewing Professor Noam Chomsky, the “world’s top intellectual” according to the New York Times. I was extremely excited to meet him because I had studied his work in school and admired his courage for speaking his convictions on the global stage.


As I tried to find his office in a perplexing MIT building that appeared as though the fabric of reality had collapsed in on itself, I flashed back to a philosophy class I had taken at American University. The class, “Greatest Minds of the 20th Century” had spent a week on Chomsky’s work. This time we were not in his office to discuss linguistics or his groundbreaking refutation of B.F. Skinner’s work on behavioral psychology (although I did spy two of Skinner’s books on the shelf in Chomsky’s office) but American identity.

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A visit with Iranians, “30 Days” and Dearborn/Detroit

We had a really great day last Thursday in St. Louis. Starting at breakfast hosted by the lovely Ms. Susan Zuckerman, our journey was blessed by a Rabbi. This isn’t an interfaith project and we are on a mission to listen, not to convince anyone of anything, but a blessing by a Rabbi was a great way to start the trip.         

Following breakfast, Dr. Ahmed, Frankie and Hailey went to a lunch and got some great information. Hopefully, one of them will be blogging about that later. After that, me, Madeeha, Craig and Frankie went to a meeting at Mayor Slay’s office where we met with the Mayor and had a discussion on American identity.

Hailey, Madeeha and I then ventured out into the night viiting Webster University and finally after an exhausting day headed to a dessert organized by Parsa Bastani from ISPU and hosted at the Bastani family’s home. The Bastani family was great. They gathered about 15 people to discuss some of the issues that we are researching. This was an Iranian focus group and one with strong opinions. Some were new to the US and some had been in St. Louis for a long time. This was by far the most open and honest discussion that I was involved in during our stay in St. Louis.

We discussed several very sensitive subjects, from Israel, to President Ahmedinejad, to American arrogance–”you have the World News Tonight with only what is happening in America, you have the World Series and you only play with each other”, we were told by one man. He had a point on that one.

We may post some of the video from the discussion. Some of it was very critical of American culture and I’d love to hear some reaction to it. I know some will say “If you don’t like it, get out.” We’ve heard this already a number of times. I’ll save my opinion for later.

At the end of the evening, when we asked one man with some of the strongest criticisms what he admired most about America, he said “that we can have conversations like this”. Indeed.

As in Journey into Islam we are having many conversations like this very often and as researchers we have to remain impartial when you disagree and even when you agree. We’re just here to listen.

We arrived in Dearborn, Michigan late Friday night and were all exhausted but excited about a new challenge in a new city.

On Saturday night in Dearborn, I had the chance to talk to Shameal Haque who starred on “30 Days” for an episode. This is the reality show where a person immerses himself in some culture or lifestyle and has to adjust and learn from his or her surroundings. He and his family hosted a Christian man from West Virginia who knew nothing of Islam but the stereotypes. It was a really interesting episode. I would suggest taking a look. Here’s the link.
Here’s my conversation with him.

Also, as you may have noticed, the blog addressed has changed to wwww.journeyintoamerica.wordpress.com Bookmark it.
Jonathan Hayden