Journey into Europe by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed Wins Accolades
(Review of the documentary by Nisar Ali Shah, courtesy The News International, London)
Let us take leave from the monotonous reference to referendum and Brexit, and remain on the European continent in history.
Journey into Europe is a full length film, written, scripted, directed, and produced by the world-renowned Islamic scholar, anthropologist, and a former Pakistani High Commissioner in Britain.
No stranger to the film making business and despite his diplomatic and academic background, Dr Akbar Ahmad has already a film to his credit: that of the founder of Pakistan Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
He has done an enormous service to the Muslim world by painstakingly researching and visual-recording the golden era of the Muslim architecture, culture, and social structure in Europe, including the mighty Turkish Ottoman Empire.
The documentary is not only about the past. It shows graphically the state we are in today. It deals with, for instance, the problem of Islamophobia, colonialism, terrorism, violent extremism in all religions’ communities, widespread racism, immigration, and refugee crisis.
You will watch presidents, prime ministers, archbishops, chief rabbis, heads of right-wing parties, discussing and debating Islam’s place in Europe.
It may be interesting to see the Danish editor who published the cartoons of the Prophet Mu hammad being interviewed by Dr Akbar Ahmed, who explained to the publisher why the cartoons were deeply offensive to the Muslims around the globe and why similar work cannot be treated as “freedom of speech”.
Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was full of praise and commented: “It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this work”.
Many would come round to believe that this work which took two years to complete may help remove some, if not most, of the misunderstandings which are deliberately created by the subversive one-sided Western media manipulations.
The movie takes you all over Europe and Britain and explores Islam in European history and civilization which evolved over seven hundred years, its DNA is in the present-day Europe.
Professor Ahmed wrote many books, among them, the most recent were Journey into Islam and Journey into America, published by Brookings Institution Press. Not content with writing books alone Dr Ahmad has produced not entirely a blockbuster but a stronger educational tool that the likes of Donald Trump, the presidential hopeful who has declared that Muslims should not be allowed in the US, would be irked to learn (if he watches the film) the cultural, political and social changes Muslims have made for centuries in his ancestral home. I obtained a copy of the DVD from the professor. I have shown it to individuals as well as to some audiences. It needs to be shown to a wider world. The video is not available to the public at the moment; so, I asked the professor if it could be linked in on the internet. His answer was that as for putting it online his team was at the moment attempting to get it shown on television, and for it to be shown it can't have already been posted online. Online distribution will come after it is shown. YouTube is also a likely outlet, and producing thousands of copies may not be cost effective.
Another way of publicizing it is to be shown in schools, colleges and universities in the US and in the UK. It is important that 27 European Union countries have access to view this documentary. It may help lessen the fear of Muslim refugees, forced to leave their war-torn homes, who want to seek asylum in Europe.
The perennial problem of Jews and Arabs' conflict in the occupied Palestinian lands is not covered in the film and remains a constant source of hatred on both sides, thus causing unnecessary West versus Muslim hostility. If this problem could be tackled by world powers the world would be at peace with itself.
It took two years to make this movie during which time Dr Ahmed and his team travelled to almost all parts of Europe, particularly wherever the Muslim population had settled since the end of the Second World War.
The earliest part of the Muslim rule in Europe ended in 1492 after 700 years of peace, progress and security for human beings. It was an era when Jews, Christians and Muslims intermingled and lived peacefully side by side under the benign Muslim rule in Spain, which the Spanish recall as Convencia, meaning living together.
The second spell ended in 1924, six years after the first world war. After that European countries, mainly Britain, France, Belgium and Holland took control of the Muslim lands in Asia and Africa under distasteful Colonialism, and this relates to another chapter in the film.
Professor Akbar Ahmad now holds the chair of Ibn Khaldun at American University in Washington, DC. He was on a film-screening tour of Europe in May when the film was shown at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Among the attendees were the current High Commissioner of Pakistan in Britain H.E. Ibne Abbas, and surprisingly the former retired teacher of Akbar Ahmad. He told the audience that Akbar had already written a book while a student, long before his PhD thesis.