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Akbar Ahmed Professor School of International Service

Contact
Send email to Akbar Ahmed
(202) 885-1641
SIS-School of Intl Service
SIS - 200G
Please contact Elisa Frost at 202-885-1641 or efrost@american.edu for office hours, to request recommendations, or to set up an interview or meeting.
Additional Positions at AU
Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies
Degrees
PhD, University of London
MA/Diploma in Education, Cambridge University
BSS (Honors), Birmingham University

Languages Spoken
Urdu, French, English
Favorite Spot on Campus
Mary Graydon Center
Book Currently Reading
A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster
Bio
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. Ahmed’s career has included distinguished posts in both academia and public service. Highlights from the past four decades of Ahmed’s academic career include appointments such as: Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD; the Iqbal Fellow (Chair of Pakistan Studies) and Fellow of Selwyn College at the University of Cambridge; and teaching positions at Harvard and Princeton Universities. Ahmed dedicated more than three decades to the Civil Service of Pakistan, the senior-most cadre of the Central Superior Services of Pakistan, where his posts included Commissioner in Balochistan, Political Agent in the Tribal Areas, including Waziristan, and Pakistan High Commissioner to the UK and Ireland.

Ahmed’s expertise has earned high praise around the world. The BBC called him, “The world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam,” and the Saudi Gazette lauded him as, “Perhaps the most influential living authority on contemporary Muslim societies.”

Ahmed’s critically acclaimed projects include academic books, documentaries, plays, poetry, a feature film, and a comic book. Ahmed’s most recent book, Journey into Europe (2018), is the fourth book in a quartet of studies published by Brookings Press examining relations between the West and Islamic world. The book has been featured in multiple summer reading lists and received positive reviews in popular publications, including, The New York Times and the San Francisco Review of Books. The first three books in the quartet, Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2007), Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010), and The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (2013) also received notable media attention. Journey into America and Journey into Europe were accompanied by documentaries of the same name (2009 and 2015).

Prior to the Brookings quartet of studies, Ahmed’s most celebrated projects included the Jinnah Quartet and Living Islam. The Jinnah Quartet was comprised of a feature film Jinnah (1998), with Christopher Lee in the title role; a documentary, Mr. Jinnah: The Making of Pakistan (1997); a graphic novel, The Quaid: Jinnah and the Story of Pakistan (1997); and a biographical study, Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin (1997). Ahmed presented and narrated the six-part BBC TV series Living Islam (1993) and authored the accompanying book of the same name.

In addition to his academic works, Ahmed has produced noteworthy poetry and plays. Ahmed’s poems were broadcast from the Library of Congress in “The Poet and the Poem” podcast series. His plays Noor and The Trial of Dara Shikoh have been staged around the world. He writes a weekly column for the Daily Times, one of Pakistan’s leading newspapers.

Ahmed has remained committed to service throughout his career. His roles include: Trustee, World Faiths Development Dialogue, chaired by Lord George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury; Charter Member, The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques; Member, International Advisory Board for The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at The Queen’s University of Belfast; and Member, Washington Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council.

Ahmed’s esteemed career has earned him a number of awards, including: the Government of Pakistan’s Star of Excellence (Sitara-i-Imtiaz) for academic distinction and Medal of Excellence (Tamgha-i-Imtiaz); the first-ever Purpose Prize alongside Judea Pearl; the inaugural Gandhi Memorial Center Peace Award; the inaugural Award of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington; Professor of the Year Award for Washington, D.C. by Carnegie Foundation in 2004 ; consistently featured in The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims; being named a 2015 Global Thought Leader by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and The Huffington Post’s WorldPost; acknowledgement as a “Notable Alumnus” of SOAS, University of London, and Birmingham University, UK; the 2017 Sir Syed Day Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in Poetry, Literature, Arts or the Sciences by the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of New Jersey and Pennsylvania; and named the 2017 Scholar/Teacher of the Year of the American University School of International Service, one of the top-ten international relations programs in the US. The National Cathedral in 2005 dedicated an Evensong Service in honor of Ahmed in an unprecedented event led by the Bishop of Washington, D.C., and Senior Rabbi of the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

In the summer of 2018, Ahmed undertook a world tour to introduce his new book starting with Harvard University. He spoke at the Woolf Institute, Cambridge, Chatham House, London, SOAS, London, and The Bradford Literary Festival. He also spoke at Muzaffarabad and Mirpur Universities as a guest of the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He delivered a special lecture at the Council of Islamic Ideology, Islamabad, and called on leading figures including the Chief of Army Staff, GHQ, to present his new book.

Ahmed’s expertise has earned high praise around the world. The BBC called him, “The world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam,” and the Saudi Gazette lauded him as, “Perhaps the most influential living authority on contemporary Muslim societies.” Ahmed’s critically acclaimed projects include academic books, documentaries, plays, poetry, a feature film, and a comic book. Ahmed’s most recent book, Journey into Europe (2018), is the fourth book in a quartet of studies published by Brookings Press examining relations between the West and Islamic world. The book has been featured in multiple summer reading lists and received positive reviews in popular publications, including, The New York Times and the San Francisco Review of Books. The first three books in the quartet, Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2007), Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010), and The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (2013) also received notable media attention. Journey into America and Journey into Europe were accompanied by documentaries of the same name (2009 and 2015). Prior to the Brookings quartet of studies, Ahmed’s most celebrated projects included the Jinnah Quartet and Living Islam. The Jinnah Quartet was comprised of a feature film Jinnah (1998), with Christopher Lee in the title role; a documentary, Mr. Jinnah: The Making of Pakistan (1997); a graphic novel, The Quaid: Jinnah and the Story of Pakistan (1997); and a biographical study, Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin (1997). Ahmed presented and narrated the six-part BBC TV series Living Islam (1993) and authored the accompanying book of the same name. In addition to his academic works, Ahmed has produced noteworthy poetry and plays. Ahmed’s poems were broadcast from the Library of Congress in “The Poet and the Poem” podcast series. His plays Noor and The Trial of Dara Shikoh have been staged around the world. He writes a weekly column for the Daily Times, one of Pakistan’s leading newspapers. Ahmed has remained committed to service throughout his career. His roles include: Trustee, World Faiths Development Dialogue, chaired by Lord George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury; Charter Member, The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques; Member, International Advisory Board for The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at The Queen’s University of Belfast; and Member, Washington Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council. Ahmed’s esteemed career has earned him a number of awards, including: the Government of Pakistan’s Star of Excellence (Sitara-i-Imtiaz) for academic distinction and Medal of Excellence (Tamgha-i-Imtiaz); the first-ever Purpose Prize alongside Judea Pearl; the inaugural Gandhi Memorial Center Peace Award; the inaugural Award of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington; Professor of the Year Award for Washington, D.C. by Carnegie Foundation in 2004 ; consistently featured in The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims; being named a 2015 Global Thought Leader by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and The Huffington Post’s WorldPost; acknowledgement as a “Notable Alumnus” of SOAS, University of London, and Birmingham University, UK; the 2017 Sir Syed Day Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in Poetry, Literature, Arts or the Sciences by the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of New Jersey and Pennsylvania; and named the 2017 Scholar/Teacher of the Year of the American University School of International Service, one of the top-ten international relations programs in the US. The National Cathedral in 2005 dedicated an Evensong Service in honor of Ahmed in an unprecedented event led by the Bishop of Washington, D.C., and Senior Rabbi of the Washington Hebrew Congregation. In the summer of 2018, Ahmed undertook a world tour to introduce his new book starting with Harvard University. He spoke at the Woolf Institute, Cambridge, Chatham House, London, SOAS, London, and The Bradford Literary Festival. He also spoke at Muzaffarabad and Mirpur Universities as a guest of the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He delivered a special lecture at the Council of Islamic Ideology, Islamabad, and called on leading figures including the Chief of Army Staff, GHQ, to present his new book.
See Also
Journey Into Europe
Journey into America
Instagram
Twitter
Facebook
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Partnerships & Affiliations

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

Multimedia

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

Films/Documentaries

  • "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

Selected Publications

  • Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity (Brookings Institution Press 2018)
  • The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (Brookings Institution Press 2013)
  • Journey into America: Islam, Immigration, and Identity (Brookings Institution Press 2010)
  • Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (Brookings Institution Press 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

Recordings

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

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:

Congressional Testimony

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

AU Experts

Area of Expertise

Islam in Europe, Islam in America, Mosques, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Asia, anthropology, comparative and regional studies, terrorism, ISIL, ISIS, drones, tribal culture

Additional Information

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is a diplomat, anthropologist, writer, and filmmaker. Ahmed has held important posts in Pakistan—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, and has been called "the world's leading authority on contemporary Islam" by the BBC. Ahmed is the author of more than a dozen award-winning books on contemporary Islam, including a quartet of studies published by Brookings Press examining relations between the West and the World of Islam after 9/11. The four studies include: Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (2007), which 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; Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam (2010), in which Ahmed traveled with his team of young Americans across the U.S. to more than 75 cities and 100 mosques to understand the largely unknown American Muslim community; The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam (2013), which draws on forty case studies to evaluate the relationship between central governments and largely rural Muslim tribal societies living on the periphery of Muslim and non-Muslim nations; and Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity (2018), in which Ahmed and his team traveled the length and breadth of Europe to gain an inside look at Islam in Europe and European civilization. Ahmed’s documentary, Journey into Europe, based on his European fieldwork, was released in 2015 and has been shown at film festivals and universities across the U.S. and throughout the world. Ahmed also produced the documentary film Journey into America (2009) based on his fieldwork spanning the U.S. Ahmed served as the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy and was a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. In the 2000s, he embarked on a speaker series with Judea Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Ahmed is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Government of Pakistan’s Star of Excellence (Sitara-i-Imtiaz) for academic distinction and Medal of Excellence (Tamgha-i-Imtiaz), and the first-ever Purpose Prize alongside Judea Pearl. Ahmed has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show with John Stewart, CNN, NBC Nightly News, and the BBC, and has been interviewed by numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post. Ahmed consistently writes for a number of popular news publications around the globe, including a weekly column in the Daily Times, a leading English-language Pakistani newspaper.

For the Media

To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

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