Akbar Ahmed, renowned anthropologist and Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University's School of International Service, embarked on a new project in the summer of 2014 in order to study Muslims across Europe and the attitudes and perceptions of Europeans in regard to their Muslims peers.
In his documentary "Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Empire," which was released this year, Ahmed and his team interview some of Europe's most prominent figures — presidents and prime ministers, archbishops, chief rabbis, and grand muftis, heads of right-wing parties, and everyday Europeans from a variety of backgrounds in a study of unprecedented depth and scale.
The project thoroughly delves into the historical relationship between Europe and the Muslim world and the contemporary challenges posed by increased immigration from the Muslim world, complicated and controversial issues including Sharia, terrorism, and traditional female garb in Islam, as well as the new pressures of security, globalization, and multiculturalism.
"Ambassador Akbar's exploration and insight into issues affecting European Muslims is needed now more than ever. Extremism fosters in an environment of suspicion and suspicion is born from ignorance, therefore Professor Akbar's detailed analysis will undoubtedly help governments, policy makers and civic society to better tackle radicalization in Europe," said Humza Yousaf, Minister for Europe and International Development and member of the Scottish Parliament, according to the project's own website.
"Journey into Europe" is the last in the quartet of projects exploring ties between the world of Islam and the West. The first, "Journey into Islam," looks at the Muslim world and its diversity and how various Muslim groups view the West. The second, "Journey into America," had his team travel through 75 cities across the United States, while the third, "The Thistle and the Drone," focused on Islam in 40 tribal societies.
In March, Ahmed told the American Bazaar he hopes his work will "allow people to believe that we are all part of one humanity," which he thinks might not happen in his lifetime."
According to The Globalist, Ahmed first became interested in Muslim leadership and its impact on Muslim society in the 1980s, when he was Pakistani Commissioner in Baluchistan. The study of global Islam and its impact on contemporary society has been the onus of his work ever since.
From 1999 to 2000, Mr. Ahmed was the Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. He has also held many other senior positions in Pakistan, and has garnered a menagerie of honors that including the prestigious Purpose Prize for conducting a series of high-profile dialogues to promote better Jewish-Muslim understanding, the Gandhi Center of Washington, D.C.'s Peace Award, Medal of Excellence and the Star of Excellence in Pakistan.