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Akbar Ahmed

Professor School of International Service

Additional Positions at AU

  • Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C and the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland. He has served as a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and was the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the U.S Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. Previously, Ahmed belonged to the senior civil service cadre of Pakistan and has served as Commissioner in Baluchistan and Political Agent in the Tribal Areas. He was the Iqbal Fellow (Chair of Pakistan Studies) and Fellow of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge. He has also taught at Harvard and Princeton Universities. He conceived and completed the Jinnah Quartet which includes the feature film Jinnah and a documentary. He is the author of over a dozen award-winning books including a quartet of studies published by Brookings Press examining relations between the West and the World of Islam after 9/11: Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2007), Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010), The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (2013), and Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity (forthcoming). He has just completed the documentary Journey into Europe. He has been called "the world's leading authority on contemporary Islam" by the BBC.


PhD, University of London; MA/Diploma in Education, Cambridge University; BSS (Honors), Birmingham University

Favorite Spot on Campus
Mary Graydon Center
Book Currently Reading
A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster
Languages Spoken
Urdu, French, English

Download CV (PDF)

SIS-School of Intl Service
SIS - 200G
Please contact Patrick Burnett at 202-885-1641 or for office hours, to request recommendations, or to set up an interview or meeting.
Contact Info
(202) 885-1641

Send email to Akbar Ahmed

For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.
See Also
Journey Into Europe
Journey into America

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

Media Appearances

Dr. Ahmed is often interviewed on CNN, CBC, the BBC, Al-Jazeera, NPR, and has appeared several times on “Oprah” and “Nightline.” He presented and narrated "Living Islam," the six-part BBC television series, in 1993 and "The Glories of Islamic Art," the three-part television series for Channel 5, UK, broadcast in 2006.

View/Hear recent interviews:


  • "Jinnah," (executive producer, co-writer)
  • "Noor," (playwright)
  • "The Trial of Dara Shikoh" (playwright)
  • "Waziristan to Washington", (writer, performer)

Congressional Testimony

  • Congressional hearing to discuss U.S. policy towards Iran (December 2007)

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • The Heschel-King Award for Interfaith Activism from the Park Avenue Christian Church  and the Temple of Universal Judaism in New York City   
  • Centennial Honorary Chair of the Washington National Cathedral Centennial Celebration (along with Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor)  
  • Inaugural Purpose Prize winner, with Judea Pearl. The Purpose Prize is a major new initiative to invest in Americans over 60 who are leading a new age of social innovation   
  • Star of Excellence, one of Pakistan’s highest honors   
  • First Annual Bridge Builders Award from the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington   
  • Humanitarian Award, the highest honor of the Chapel of Four Chaplains
  • Professor of the Year Award, 2004 for Washington DC by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education  
  • Gandhi Center Fellowship of Peace Award  
  • Appointed Senior Distinguished Fellow for the Hassan Family Foundation


  • "Journey Into Europe" [producer, narrator, script-writer, director], 2015
  • "Journey Into America" [producer, narrator, script-writer], 2010
  • "The Glories of Islamic Art" [narrator, Channel 5 (UK)], 2006
  • "Living Islam" [narrator] BBC, 1993


  • “Encountering Islam” (lecturer, NowYouKnow Media), 2006

AU Expert

Area of Expertise: Islam, Islam in America, Mosques, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asia, anthropology, comparative and regional studies

Additional Information: Akbar Ahmed  is a diplomat, anthropologist, writer, and filmmaker. Ahmed has held important posts in Pakistan and Bangladesh—including Pakistan's high commissioner (ambassador) to the United Kingdom; commissioner, Quetta; political agent, South Waziristan Agency; and founder-director general of the National Center for Rural Development, Islamabad. He has been involved in interfaith dialogue and the study of global Islam and its impact on contemporary society. Ahmed is the author or coeditor of books on contemporary Islam, including  Islam under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World; Discovering Islam: Making Sense of Muslim History and Society; Postmodernism and Islam: Predicament and Promise; Islam Today: A Short Introduction to the Muslim World; and After Terror: Promoting the Dialogue of Civilizations. Journey Into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization chronicles Ahmed's experiences leading a team of young  Americans on a tour of the Muslim world to seek understanding between Western and Islamic cultures. He recently took a similar journey with young Americans across the United States called Journey Into America. During this unprecedented project, the team travelled to more than 75 cities and 100 mosques to understand the largely unknown Muslim community. The project produced a film which has been shown at campuses and film festivals throughout the world and a book, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam.

Ahmed was appointed the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He embarked on a speaker series with Judea Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Ahmed has made numerous television appearances, including on The Oprah Winfrey Show,The Daily Show with John Stewart, CNN, NBC Nightly News, and the BBC. He has been interviewed by numerous newspapers and magazines and writes regularly for
journals, magazines, Web sites, and newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post,and CNN. 

Media Relations
To request an interview please call AU Media Relations at 202-885-5950 or submit an interview request form.