Tag Archives: Muslim

“Professor Ahmed Big Ups Muslim Youth” from Elan

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.


Thursday Night: A Conversation with Akbar Ahmed

A Conversation with Akbar Ahmed: Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam

September 9, 2010 | 06:00PM

Bunn Intercultural Center (ICC) Auditorium, Georgetown University

»rsvp required

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.

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

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.

Akbar Ahmed on The Daily Show Tonight

Don’t miss The Daily Show with John Stewart  tonight, as John Stewart interviews Ambassador Akbar Ahmed about Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam. Ahmed and the Journey into America team visited over 100 mosques in over 75 cities, from small towns like Arab, Alabama, to cities with large Muslim populations such as Detroit, Michigan. There is a lot to talk about so make your Tivo’s and DVR’s are set. It will air on Thursday August 5 at 11:00 pm (ET).

You can also watch Ahmed’s appearance last month at Politics and Prose Bookstore. It was recorded and will be broadcast on C-SPAN 2’s Book TV on Saturday, August 7 at 11pm (ET) and Sunday, August 8 at 6pm (ET).

Both hardcover and Kindle editions are available from Amazon or at your favorite local bookstore.

“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.