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Researchers from the University of East London (UEL) have teamed up with internationally renowned scholar and diplomat Professor Akbar S. Ahmed, to assist with the British leg of his European tour examining the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The collaboration aims to shed new light on the actual state of relations between Muslims and the West and takes place during a period of increased suspicion and mutual misunderstanding.
Professor Akbar S. Ahmed is from the American University in Washington, D.C and has been described by the BBC as “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam”. He is the author of over a dozen award-winning books, including Discovering Islam, which was the basis of a six-part BBC TV series called Living Islam.
Over the last few decades Professor Ahmed has committed himself to understanding and explaining the complex relationship between the West and the Muslim world, working on major projects throughout America. His latest project, titled ‘Journey into Europe’ will focus on Muslim communities throughout Europe.
The team will be assisted by UEL researchers from the UK Research Council ‘Muslims Trust and Cultural Dialogue’ project, who will travel around Britain conducting interviews with selected individuals and groups.
“Complicated and controversial issues including Sharia, jihad, terrorism, Muslim female dress, in addition to the fear of being overwhelmed by migrants, especially from Muslim lands that were dominated by Western imperialists not that long ago, haunt Europeans,” writes Professor Ahmed.
“Given the seriousness of the situation, with news stories about intercultural mistrust appearing almost every day, Journey into Europe is a vital exercise. The lessons of a society in which different religions and cultures can live together, create art together, and worship freely while respecting each other, is a desperately needed model to guide us today. The Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue project shares our goals of understanding and exploring what makes for intercultural and interfaith understanding.”
Professor Peter Morey who is leading the Muslims Trust and Cultural Dialogue project at UEL said: “A distinguished academic and former diplomat, Professor Ahmed is one of the world’s leading figures promoting interfaith dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. We are very pleased to be working with him as he begins this continent-wide study.”
The results from the study will be published in a book titled ‘Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Empire’ by the Brookings Institution Press and will be the fourth part of a quartet of books by Professor Ahmed [including Journey into Islam (2007), Journey into America (2010), and The Thistle and the Drone (2013)]. It will also result in a documentary film based upon the fieldwork, as was done previously for the Journey into America project, and provisional findings will be shared via the Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue website.
Image: Professor Akbar S. Ahmed