Once an international diplomat, this scholar now seeks to build bridges between American Muslims and their neighbors.
Akbar Ahmed has written a book of poetry and traveled the world as an anthropologist, but perhaps his most fitting title is ambassador. The former Pakistani ambassador to England, Ahmed has lived his life between cultures.
Growing up in Pakistan, he had great respect for the Catholic priests who educated him. As a young administrator in Waziristan, Pakistan, however, Ahmed also witnessed the ascent of literalist Islam.
When he came to the United States in 2000, Ahmed recognized that Americans knew nothing of that world. He landed at American University in Washington in August 2001—“divine providence,” the interfaith leaders he works with tell him.
“From 9/11 on—and I am not exaggerating—I haven’t had one 24-hour period when I’ve not been on TV, radio, talking to students, in the White House or the Pentagon, trying to close the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims,” he says.