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.