During the course of his talk,
Dr Ahmed made a spirited exhortation to the gathering to initiate
a dialogue with members of other communities and faiths in
the United States. It was a pressing necessity to dispel misperceptions
about Islam and to counter the theory of ‘clash of civilizations
propounded by Professor Samuel Huntington which has already
served to mislead various strata of American and European
“Eighty percent Americans
don’t know much about Islam. Muslims are mistaken for
‘idol worshippers’ and ‘Satan worshippers’,”
Professor Ahmed informed. There is ignorance and hostility
about Islam in America and ignorance and hostility about America
in the Muslim world. The misperceptions that divide the two
worlds warrant an urgent dialogue to avoid a clash of civilizations,
Dr Ahmed explained.
He mentioned the oft-quoted
introductory lines from Dicken’s classic ‘A Tale
of Two Cities:’ “It was the best of times, it
was the worst of times…” to describe the plight
of Muslims today. They face the ‘worst of times’
because of the tragic fallout of the 9/11 tragedy and could
well experience the ‘best of times’ if they rose
to the occasion and ook advantage of the interest in Islam
generated among mainstream Americans following the attacks
on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in September 2001. “Your
role today is crucial. Americans are watching you with puzzlement,
you have to reach out and explain to them what you are.”
The need for a dialogue is paramount today.
and Safi Qureshey
He mentioned his own efforts
in this regard. He had several rounds of well-meaning discussions
with eminent Rabbis and Reverends in different forums of the
US and Europe to convince them and the attendees present in
the interfaith meetings that Islam, Christianity and Judaism
have a lot in common. That the three Abrahamic religions are
on a coalition rather than a collision course. Thanks to Professor
Akbar Ahmed’s sustained strivings, Dr Jonathan Sacks,
Chief Rabbi of the UK, recently wrote to him: “First
of all - my most sincere thanks for your wonderful contribution
to the television program: it made a huge impact here, and
your words brought healing to a very troubled world.
“Second- thanks also for
your many communications: do forgive me for being so slow
in replying, but these are busiest times of the Jewish year.
“But third and most important:
thank you for the wisdom and generosity of spirit you are
constantly showing through your spoken and written words.
I cannot tell you how important your voice is right now. These
are fateful times - and in you classic Islam has a spokesman
and role model of supreme grace and dignity. May God/Allah
be with you in all you do - and I thank you from the depth
of my heart…” To be called a spokesman of “classic
Islam” by the Chief Rabbi of the UK is indeed a well-deserved
accolade, one e that Dr Akbar Ahmed richly deserves for his
earnest and sustained strivings to promote his dialogue of
civilizations for better interfaith harmony.
Two groups of the audience at Dr.Akbar
Ahmed ’s lecture
He cited the shining example
of Muslim saints who had engaged in dialogue with adherents
of other faiths and reminded the audience of the tolerance
shown by Muslim rulers during their 1000-year rule in India.
They had set the traditions for tolerance and dialogue and
could pride on the genius of Ghalib and the architectural
beauty of the Taj Mahal.
He profusely thanked COPAA President
Hamid Malik “who has been with me through thick and
In his brief remarks on the
occasion, Mr Javed Jabbar lauded COPAA’s role in “nourishing
Pakistanis.” He also paid glowing tributes to Dr Akbar
Ahmed and described him as a distinguished “civil servant
who was not checked by the fetters of civil service”
in his professional and academic pursuits. “Today there
is a great need to articulate the essence of Islam and we
need people like Dr Akbar,” he said.
In his remarks, Mr. Hamid Malik
accorded a hearty welcome to Dr Ahmed and the guests. “If
I were to cover all the contributions of our distinguished
guest tonight, it will become an ‘Evening with Hamid
Malik’ and I will still not get done. So, I will be
very brief, as Dr. Ahmed needs no introduction…”
He went on to delineate the distinguished career of Prof Ahmed.
“My special thanks are for Javeeda and my children who
have worked very hard to make this evening possible for us.
And for those who still believe in fairy tales, I did all
the cooking tonight,” he claimed on a lighter note.