Each day, newspapers and digital media carry news of religiously motivated violence in Europe and the Middle East. Though these stories break far from American shores, the question of American intervention hits close to home.
Akbar Ahmed will grapple with that question at 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy in a lecture titled, “Islam, ISIS and Violence in Europe: What Should America be Doing?”
“The United States seems to have ignored the famous definition of insanity, which is to make the same mistake again and again and hope for a different result,” Ahmed wrote in Politico Magazine. “America has within the last few years gone into countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen to fight against Muslim tribal groups. In each case, these societies are currently in chaos, and the groups that were the target of the Americans continue to play havoc and spread violence. … [ISIS] is yet another example of a tribal group now involved in a direct military confrontation with the United States and its allies.”
Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies in the School of International Service at American University.
He has also served in the Civil Service of Pakistan as Pakistan high commissioner (ambassador) to the United Kingdom and Ireland and was the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy. He has also been a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Ahmed has said the understanding of tribal groups is essential to any future U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
“It is in the interest of the United States to understand, in all the tribal societies with which it is engaged, the people, their leadership, history, culture, their relationship with the center, their social structures, and the role Islam plays in their lives,” he wrote in his book, The Thistle and The Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam. “Without this understanding, the war on terror will not end in any kind of recognizable victory as current military actions and policies are only exacerbating the conflict.”
In total, Ahmed is the author of 22 other books. His most recent research has resulted in the documentary “Journey Into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Empire.”
The cultural understanding that Ahmed has called for toward the rest of the world is also necessary within American borders, he said.
“These are times when everyone is feeling under siege, whites and non-whites, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said in an online open forum hosted by The Washington Post. “The economy is faltering, interminable wars, immigration issues are consuming the nations … and many Americans are suspicious of the first non-white president, and 20 percent of Americans think he is Muslim. These times call for patience and understanding, not hatred and misunderstanding.”