A Journey Into America

February 27, 2009

Author: Barbara Karkabi

Source: The Houston Chronicle


At 65, Akbar Ahmed could be sitting comfortably, looking back on his long career as a diplomat, author and professor of Islamic studies.

Instead, Ahmed is on the road with a team of twenty-somethings, leading what he calls a “journey into America.”

Their goal, he said during a visit to Houston last weekend, is to research Muslim identity in the United States, as well as the attitude of non-Muslim Americans toward their Muslim neighbors.

“This is a very ambitious project, because I’m not only looking at the Muslim community, I’m looking at the way we have to live in the 21st century,” said Ahmed, a Muslim who grew up in Pakistan. “Are we going to live in a world where we are able to think of the global problems that are mutual, like global warming, poverty, violence between religions and the population explosion? Or are we going to be living in a world where we look at our neighbors with suspicion and point fingers at each other? We are all suffering from this.”

Ahmed and his team, including several former students from American University in Washington, D.C., have visited more than 60 cities and handed out hundreds of questionnaires. They’ve been to mosques, synagogues and churches; they’ve spent time with a black Muslim rapper in Buffalo, Latino Muslims in Miami and the Dawoodi Bohra Indian Muslim community in Houston. While here, he also spoke to students at the University of St. Thomas.