On Wednesday, November 10, 2010, Dr. Akbar Ahmed gave a lecture based on his documentary film and book, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam
, at Widener Law School’s Harrisburg campus. Sponsored by The World Affairs Council of Harrisburg, the lecture kicked off the organization’s “Ambassador Series.”
Harrisburg campus Vice Dean Robyn Meadows
opened the event with a general welcome before turning the podium over to adjunct professor Harry L. Witte
. Witte introduced Joyce M. Davis, the president of The World Affairs Council of Harrisburg.
Before introducing Dr. Ahmed, Ms. Davis accredited him as a “leading authority on contemporary Islam.” She also mentioned that he was the former Pakistani Ambassador to Great Britain, taught at Harvard and Princeton, and has been interviewed by CNN, Fox News, and Oprah Winfrey.
Dr. Ahmed described the foundation and purpose of his documentary as an effort to close the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims. After 9/11, he set out on a mission to build bridges. Four students accompanied him as he traveled to 75 cities.
During the trip, the crew visited 100 mosques and collected over 1,000 completed questionnaires. Dr. Ahmed said that he looked for participation from all kinds of Americans – everyone from performers in Las Vegas to members of the KKK – because looking at different kinds of people is the only way to understand a society.
The talk also featured clips from his film that showed the Muslim Day parade in New York City as well as several interviews he conducted during his travels.
Dr. Ahmed discussed Muslim sentiment towards America, reminding the audience that there was a time when Muslims took a much more positive few of the United States. He explained that Americans should not forget that, and emphasized that feelings towards Americans in the Muslim world can be turned.
He concluded by suggesting that the American society needs to keep an eye on the big picture. Americans need to become aware of the world they are living in and one way to do that is to seek knowledge of other cultures. Reading about Muslim societies can help with that knowledge, and he stated that he hopes that his book can help people learn more about Muslims.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Dr. Ahmed took questions from the audience and autographed copies of Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam
. Following the conclusion of the lecture and signing, participants enjoyed a reception.