Tag Archives: Journey into America

World Affairs Council event: Akbar Ahmed and Bernard Lewis dialogue on “The Middle East and Islam”

World Affairs Council Presents:  Ambassador Akbar Ahmed & Dr. Bernard Lewis:  A Special Briefing on “The Middle East and Islam”

November 3, 2010 at 6:30pm—8:00pm at  Charles Sumner School

1201 17th Street, NW Washington, DC, 20036

To Register: Call: 202-293-1051 or email:  events@worldaffairsdc.org

Join the World Affairs Council—Washington, DC for “A Special Briefing on The Middle East and Islam,” featuring two of the world’s leading scholars of Islam, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed and Dr. Bernard Lewis. Addressing the political role of Islam in international relations, they will discuss their analysis on Islam, the Middle East, and the West. Known for their differing perspectives, Amb. Ahmed and Dr. Lewis will provide a holistic view of the issue and examine the future of the relationship between the Islamic world and the United States.

Guests will have the opportunity to ask questions following speaker remarks.



















Bloggingheads.tv episode “The Challenge of Islam”

Robert Wright and Akbar Ahmed speak about Islam in America, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, Sharia, Homegrown Terror and more.

Topics discussed with links to the chapter:

  1. Akbar’s new book, “Journey into America”
  2. Varieties of American Islam
  3. What radicalized Faisal Shahzad?
  4. Fighting fundamentalism with assimilation
  5. The absurdity of the threat of “creeping shariah”
  6. Islam and the founding fathers

Watch the entire episode here.


Daily Times editorial on “Journey into America”

From the Daily Times, Yasser Latif Hamdani writes about Journey into America and Akbar Ahmed.

[…] Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam should be prescribed reading for all Pakistanis travelling to the US, especially for an education. It gives a remarkable account of identity formation in America, its numerous waves of immigration and also within the American Muslim subset, which are the subsets of two distinct large sets. Dr Ahmed’s journey, where he was accompanied by a team of enthusiastic researchers, is in many ways more monumental than the 19th century French politician and author Alexis De Tocqueville’s journey and work on the US, which seems to have inspired Dr Ahmed. Tocqueville had come from France at a time when the US had already inspired one revolution and a republic there. There was no gap there to bridge unlike the festering fistula that now separates the Muslim world and the US. Akbar S Ahmed seems to have dedicated his entire life to the cause. Continue reading here.

Audio available from Rumi Forum event

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.

Wonderful review of Journey into America

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.”

Full review.

On Point with Tom Ashbrook interview “Inside American Islam” now Online

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?

-Tom Ashbrook


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.

Daniel Pipes tumbles, and trips

Dr. Daniel Pipes recently e-mailed Professor Ahmed about Journey into America in which he complained about three points—all concerning himself—in a book that runs 528 pages. He ignored the larger arguments about history, immigration, race and discussions about words that he is wont to use (like Islamist and Islamism) and chose to register his complaints about three minor points. We are assuming he read the book in its entirety before publicly commenting rather than simply searching for his name in the index.

He said that he was offering a chance to respond. We responded and he decided to publish his complaints without our reply. The right to reply is, of course, a matter of standard courtesy and therefore the reply is being published on our blog.

Below are Dr. Pipes complaints followed by a response:

Akbar Ahmed Stumbles

I respect Akbar Ahmed, currently a professor at American University, who stood by me during my nomination to the U.S. Institute of Peace board and whom I have listed as a moderate Muslim.

I was therefore dismayed by the sloppiness of his new book, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (Brookings Institution Press). The problem start with the very first sentence of the inside flap, which asserts that “Nearly seven million Muslims live in the United States today,” a figure well over twice the best current estimates.

But of greater personal concern is his small barrage of mistakes about me, akin to this made by the most vulgar Islamist or irresponsible left-wing blogger.

  • “We … read the work of those authors, like Steve Emerson and Daniel Pipes, whose combined corpus conveys the impression that Islam is inherently a violent religion (p. 16).” Nonsense: I state the Islamism is inherently violent.
  • “Debbie Schlussel, described by Najah as a ‘Zionist lawyer in Detroit who was part of Daniel Pipes’s network, which routinely attacks Muslims’ (p. 249).” Two problems here: First, Schlussel is not part of any network of mine; to the contrary, I distance myself from her shrill and distasteful work. Second, I myself and no network associated with me “routinely attacks Muslims.” We do routinely attack Islamists. Why is this distinction so hard to make?
  • The Islamic Circle of North America wants to show it “is not the terrorist organization depicted by Fox News and commentators like Steve Emerson and Daniel Pipes, who focus on lCNA’s links to the Jamaat-i-Islami, which supports Hamas (p. 273).” It happens that ICNA is the American branch of Jamaat-i-Islami but I have never before made this point; the closest was an article in which I referred to Joe Kaufman’s connecting ICNA with Hamas.

Professor Ahmed has an important voice, which makes it all the more regrettable that he made these gratuitous mistakes. Just a bit of research would have obviated this mess.

Daniel Pipes

And the response from Akbar Ahmed:

Dear Daniel,

I am delighted that you have always been so open to dialogue with me. We have a history as you mentioned dating back to when you were nominated to the board of USIP. I have always supported dialogue in any form and have sometimes paid the price for it. I was attacked by the Muslim media for my support of you.

When my team and I started this project, we were keenly aware that we would possibly offend many from the left, from the right and everywhere in between. And, I might add, we were equally critical of the Muslim community itself where necessary. But, we felt we had to be honest and uphold academic integrity in the name of scholarship.

I am thrilled that after reading the book, I can count you among the supporters of Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam if after reading the entire 500 pages, you only have three complaints.

To your points:

Throughout the book, we refer to the Muslim population as estimates, but normative perception in the community is that it is indeed 7 million, if not more.

In answer to your other points, may I quote you?

“Individual Islamists may appear law-abiding and reasonable, but they are part of a totalitarian movement, and as such, all must be considered potential killers.” http://www.danielpipes.org/79/fighting-militant-islam-without-bias

Saying that any Muslim, including your neighbor is potentially dangerous is exactly the point. My family has been Muslim for over a thousand years and I am a scholar of Islam. I have no idea what an Islamist is. I suspect most people also do not know what it is supposed to mean and simply read “Muslims” when you use Islamist, which of course is part of the problem. You would have noted my discussion of how to discuss Islam and the threats posed by terrorism, especially in chapters 5 and 9.

The sentence you mentioned on page 249 is a quote. These are not my words, and the book clearly shows that this is a quote from Najah Bazzy. This is Anthropology.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond. I have long expressed hope that scholars like you would act as bridge builders and heal the wounds that have divided the Muslim world and the west. I do request that you play that role and join me in dialogue.

I am thrilled that you so enjoyed the book.

Akbar Ahmed

His points, as we showed in our response, were sloppy. Twice, both in the case of Najah Bazzy on page 249 and in the case of ICNA on page 273, he attributed words to Professor Ahmed that were either quotes or paraphrased. A simple reading in context would have clarified these points.

What surprised us was that he dismisses a book we spent three years on as a “mess”. We are glad to report that this is not what other commentators on the book are saying.

“Akbar Ahmed is the 21st century Muslim Alexis de Tocqueville. If one wants to know why the world and not just America needs America to be America; if one wants stirring uplift and insight into the diversity and experience of being Muslim in America; if one wants to appreciate the genius of America’s founding fathers and the significance of their Bill of Rights; if one wants to absorb the experiences of different generations and different religions struggling together to understand the contemporary world; if one wants to understand how the constantly changing identity of the United States throughout the sweep of its history is relevant for today’s challenges; if one wants to appreciate how new useful knowledge can be created by what anthropologists call “participant observation research;” if one wants practical suggestions for building a better world at home and abroad together; then read Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam  by Akbar S. Ahmed and his intrepid team.” Dean Louis Goodman, American University, Washington DC

“My friend, Professor Ahmed, came to America in the great tradition of Alexis De Tocqueville: a perceptive foreigner affectionately looking at America and American identity. This important new book advances his heroic, even dangerous, ‘five minutes to midnight’ effort to save us from our foolish mutual animosities. Pray his efforts are not too late.” Tony Blankley, The Washington Times and The Heritage Foundation

“A timely and stimulating contribution to a critically important issue:  The West’s (and especially America’s) relationship to Islam.” Zbigniew Brzezinski, Former National Security Advisor

Politics and Prose event video now available

Here is the video of the event at Politics and Prose on July 10th. If you weren’t one of the people  in the packed bookshop that evening, you can now see it online.


Akbar Ahmed and his team of American assistants visited Muslim communities in 75 towns and cities in the U.S. to find out the views of people there on various topics including religion, terrorism, and American politics. He presents his findings in his latest book, Journey into America. This talk was hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.

To view the program, click here.

“Journey into America Highlights Muslim-American Diversity” from State Department website

Akbar Ahmed has spent a lifetime explaining the Muslim world to the West, and vice versa. In his latest book — his latest journey — he finds the two together in the United States and watches how they interact.

Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam is the story of Ahmed and five of his students as they traverse the country, as well as the stories they uncover in conversations with Muslim Americans at more than 100 mosques in 70 cities and towns. What they create is a varied portrait of America’s several-million-strong Muslim community.

Ahmed, a former Pakistani diplomat and the Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic studies at American University in Washington, has traveled previously to learn more about Islam’s place in the world: For Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization, he and a team of students travelled throughout the Muslim world. This time, the students become his native guides and helped their professor navigate the Muslim community that exists in America. Read the entire article here.

“How America Looks Through Muslim Eyes” from Voice of America

From writer Mohamed Elshinnawi at Voice of America on the “Journey into America” film:

An estimated seven million Muslims live in the United States today.

But for many Americans, Islam is associated with extremists like Osama bin Laden.

To shed light on this religious group and counter mutual distrust, American University Professor Akbar Ahmed and his team of young researchers traveled to more than 75 American cities.

Those journeys are  chronicled in a documentary called “Journey into America.”

Read the entire article here.