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American University Professor's Documentary Film Explores Islam in America

By Jon Hussey

Photo: Professor Akbar Ahmed and his

Professor Akbar Ahmed and his "Journey into America" team.

Journey Into America, a new documentary film by former Pakistan ambassador and American University professor Akbar Ahmed—which is being shown at film festivals and schools and colleges around the world—explores the role of the growing Muslim population in the United States and American identity.

Ahmed, a renowned anthropologist and Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University’s School of International Service, will screen the documentary at AU’s Greenberg Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Monday, November 9, at 6 p.m. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Ahmed and his research team of current and former students.

Journey Into America brought Ahmed and his team to more than 75 U.S. cities and towns and more than 100 mosques to analyze the Muslim community’s relationship with America in a post-9/11 world. On September 1, 2008, Ahmed and his team embarked on a seven-month trip across the United States to explore Muslim communities throughout the country, as a companion study to his earlier work, Journey Into Islam.

“I set out to learn about Islam in America,” Ahmed says at the opening of the movie. “But I found I could not do so without understanding American identity.”

During the trip, the team documented its findings through essays and videos on its blog, Team members conducted interviews with Muslim Americans, their neighbors, and political, religious, and intellectual leaders, including Jesse Jackson, Noam Chomsky, and U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).  

From a revealing trip to Arab, Alabama, to the conflict at the 2008 Muslim Day Parade in New York City, the documentary explores what it means to be Muslim in the United States today and what can be done to increase understanding between communities. Through film screenings, that message is reaching a worldwide audience, young and old, Muslim and non-Muslim.

“I cannot find words to express our gratitude and admiration for this brilliant and challenging undertaking,” said Fauzia Kasuri, head of the Beaconhouse School System in Pakistan. “I intend to personally arrange showings at all major schools and colleges in Islamabad, including the Beaconhouse School System.”