By Ilyas Choudry, MMNS Houston Correspondent
Dr. Akbar Ahmed spoke about his American Journey at the Turquoise Center
Many people ask him, if it is possible that Muslims can fit in a democratic society: He tells them that for this, they need to study the struggle to achieve independence of Pakistan from the colonial British rule during the 1930s and 1940s (only 60 years ago) and people will find that the whole struggle under the dynamic leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was based on following a democratic and legal statutes (while many other countries needed bloody struggle against colonial powers to achieve independence, starting 1700s all the way to 1900s).
These were sentiments of Dr. Akbar Ahmed, as he explained his â€œJourney into America: The Muslim Communityâ€ travel project, at the Interfaith Dialogue Center (called the Turquoise Center) and arranged by the Gulen Institute of Social Work Program at the University of Houston. As he was making this presentation at the beautiful Turquoise Center, some of his Internsâ€™ were at the nearby Masjid AL-Mauminoun (basically frequented by the Nigerian Community) to get feedback and more information on this very significant research work., that will define various parameters of the Muslims living in the American society, especially after 9/11.
Talking to our representative, Dr. Ahmed said: â€œInter-Faith Dialogue is very important and has to continue, but then it is quite restrictive and does not reach to many people at one-time. Mass Media is the way forward and just in your community Choudry Sahab, there is APPNA, an organization of Pakistani Doctors: There are about 12,000 Pakistani Doctors, most resourceful and very influential in their own right: But do they have any collective say and place in the policy making of this country: They are the people, if they endeavor and carve a long-term vision working together with other people of experience, can create the kind of Mass-Media outlets, which would encourage Inter-Faith Dialogue, which will reach to many at one-time and it will have a real impact. Convince them: They have the best chance to do it.â€
â€œWhat does it mean to be Muslim in America today?â€ In order to find out, Professor Akbar Ahmed of American University said he took sabbatical leave and has set off to travel the country and till February 22, 2009, had been to more than 100 Masajids in 70 cities and had interviewed thousands of Muslims (Sunni, Shia, Bohra and others) and Non-Muslims (Christians, Jews, Hindus and others).
â€œA journalist in Honolulu told me that there are no Muslimsâ€™ here: I told him there are 4,000 with a nice mosque in Honolulu and he was surprised: This is the extent of Muslims outreach to the society around them,â€ said Dr. Akbar Ahmed.
Dr. Ahmed said that after interviewing hundreds of Muslims and Non-Muslims, he feels that God Forbidding in another terrorist attack happens in USA and some Muslims are considered involved in that, his interviews suggest that not the majority, but quite a few of the Non-Muslims do not trust Muslims and they can be severe repercussions faced by the Muslim Community: Much work needs to be done by Muslims and since they are in minority, they need to help themselves by bridging the gaps within the society while staying within the bounds of Islam and that is possible to do.
Dr. Akbar Ahmed has been on a one-year sabbatical; has been on the journey for more than 6 months and for another two to three months, he will continue crossing the US with a team of graduate students, interviewing Muslim-Americans and their non-Muslim neighbors. This ethnographic study has a research component, of course â€” Dr. Ahmed intends to put together a book of their findings â€” but also produce a TV Documentary for visual appreciation of his work.
Idea is to give voice to a minority community Muslims (which is the main focus of the American Society (that according to Dr. Akbar, President Obama mentioned the Muslims and the Muslim World in his inaugural address); find its voice in the American dissonance. No one else should define Muslims: Study will give the definition of Muslims of USA in the voice of Muslims themselves.
When Dr. Akber Ahmed and his team were planning the trip; they thought it would be ideal for TV Stations to take-up. But none of the major networks have taken shown interest and PBS was not forthcoming. To see a glimpse of his work up till now, one can go to http://www.youtube.com/user/journeyintoamerica
Dr. Akbar Ahmed (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at the American University. According to BBC, he is considered â€œthe worldâ€™s leading authority on contemporary Islam.â€ He is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, and has advised Prince Charles and met with President George W. Bush to talk about Islam. His numerous books, films (including Jinnah) and documentaries have won prestigious awards and his books have been translated into several languages including Chinese and Indonesian. Ahmed is regularly interviewed on CNN, CBC, the BBC, ARY TV and has appeared several times on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Night Line. Ahmedâ€™s most recent book, â€œJourney into Islam: The Crisis of Globalizationâ€, is published by the Brookings Institution Press. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution in addition to his tenure appointment at American University. He was nominated as the â€œMost Inspiring Person of the Year 2005â€.
For more information, one can call 202-885-1961 or visit www.journeyintoamerica.wordpress.com