Professor Akbar Ahmed Inaugurates Annual Lecture Series at New York University

On May 23 rd, Professor Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC, and former Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom gave the Inaugural Annual Lecture to the American Friends of the School of Oriental and African Studies at New York University in New York City.

Speaking to a capacity crowd in the Grand Hall of the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual Life, Ambassador Ahmed presented his new book The Thistle and the Drone. The Freedom Tower, the building constructed on the site of the World Trade Center, stood tall in the backdrop and could be seen clearly, adding a somber note to the occasion.

Prominent members of the engaged and interested audience included Imam Khalid Latif, the Chaplain of the New York Police Department, who joined Ambassador Ahmed onstage after his lecture for a dialogue; Imam Shamsi Ali, the imam of the largest mosque in New York City and a leader in interfaith dialogue; Mr. Shahid Hussein, Senior Adviser to the United Nations Development Program; Mr. Saleem Rizvi and Mr. Fasih Udin, two prominent Pakistani lawyers in New York City; in addition to a number of leading professors and rabbis. The lecture was presided over by Ms. Brooke Beardslee, the President of the American Friends of SOAS.

Earlier, His Excellency Ufuk Gokcen, the Permanent Representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations, hosted a lunch in honor of Professor Ahmed and to discuss his latest book. The guests included His Excellency Masood Khan, the Pakistani Ambassador to the UN; Ambassador Shaukat Fareed of the United Nations; Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan; Mr. Shahid Hussein, Imam Shamsi Ali, Ms, Zeba Salman of SOAS, and Ms. Brooke Beardslee.

Professor Ahmed was accompanied on his trip to New York by his chief of staff, Harrison Akins. At the lunch, Ambassador Gokcen described Professor Ahmed as a “leading voice in the world” and called the book a “major contribution” to understanding the complexities of the conflicts facing many nations today. Ambassador Khan, likewise, praised the book.

Ambassador Ahmed’s new book is The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam, published by Brookings Press. It is the third part of a trilogy in which he examines relations between the West and the Muslim world after 9/11. In his latest study, in addition to his detailed discussion of the Tribal Areas and Baluchistan in Pakistan, Professor Ahmed uses 40 case studies of tribal societies across the Muslim world to provide a new paradigm to understanding the war on terror based in the conflict between central governments and tribal peripheries.

Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, called this study “compulsory reading for Western governments.” It will be published in Pakistan by Mr Najam Sethi, recently the caretaker Chief Minister of the Punjab.

 


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