Ambassador Akbar Ahmed: Bio

Tel: 202 885 1961/202 885 1641




Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington DC, was the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain. He has advised Prince Charles and met with President George W. Bush on Islam. His numerous books, films and documentaries have won awards. His books have been translated into many languages including Chinese and Indonesian. Ahmed is “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” according to the BBC.



Ahmed has been Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and has taught at Princeton, Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Ahmed was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Liverpool, received his PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, MA and Diploma in Education from Cambridge University, and Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honors) from Birmingham University.


Recent Publications:

Ahmed’s book Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization is published by the Brookings Institution Press (“Book of the Week,” “The Colors of Allah,” review by Edward Mortimer June 23, Guardian; “Washington policy-makers and journalists should read this book,” review by Tony Blankley, The Washington Times, June 20; “a fascinating read,” Tavis Smiley on the Tavis Smiley Show; “utterly readable book and really quite gripping ... why are there not more Akbar Ahmeds?” Milt Rosenberg on the Milt Rosenberg Show; “a deeply moral work ... which confirms Ahmed’s position as preeminent Muslim public intellectual”, review by Professor Tamara Sonn, Emel magazine, September). It was the No. 1 Book of the Year for The Globalist. The Interfaith Conference of Richmond has published a six-week course as a Guide to understanding Islam based on Journey into Islam. His book with Amineh Hoti, Knowledge: Why Civilizations Rise and Fall, is with Polity Press, Cambridge.

“Islam in Today’s World: A Conversation with Akbar Ahmed” was featured in Anthropology Today, Vol. 23, No. 1, in February 2007. Ahmed’s article “Talking Can Stop Hate” was featured as the “Big Idea!” in AARP the Magazine, in the March/April 2007 issue and “Bush Still Doesn’t Get It” featured in the Outlook section of the Washington Post (July 22, 2007).

Ahmed’s play,  Noor,  was part of the summer Festival at Theater J in Washington, DC in 2007 (“Akbar Ahmed’s ‘Noor,’ A Paean to Religious Tolerance,” by Ted Merwin, Washington Post, July 26).  Noor was performed at the Katzen Arts Center in November 2007   to full houses and was  seen again at the Washington Hebrew Congregation in April 2008. His The Trial of Dara Shikoh (published by The Buxton Initiative, Washington DC, and Pakistan Link, 2008) has been performed on several stages  (“I thought both the play itself and the performance made for one of the most stunning, enriching theater performances that I have seen here in my three decades in Washington.  It was a true case of time travel and mind travel, executed exceedingly well, including the costumes which made the audience travel to a far-away place. I know it can be hard to break through with a play -- but the entire cast and you yourself should be extremely proud of what you have created ensemble”. Stephan Richter, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Globalist.). He is working on From Waziristan to Washington: Travels of a Muslim to be performed at the Newseum, Washington DC, Fall, 2008. He is also working on Gandhi and Jinnah Return Home and Babar the Tiger.




Ahmed is regularly interviewed on CNN, CBC, the BBC, ARY TV and has appeared several times on the Oprah Winfrey Show and Night Line. Ahmed appeared on the Sir David Frost Show (along with Lord Owen) on Al Jazeera and also Newsnight for the Annual Review 2007.

He presented and narrated “Living Islam”, the six-part BBC television series, in 1993 and “The Glories of Islamic Art”, the three-part television series for Channel 5, UK, broadcast in 2006. He initiated, developed and completed “The Jinnah Quartet” – a feature film, a documentary and two books on M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Ahmed is Consultant and interviewed for “Rumi Returning”, a major television film on the mystic poet. He is an expert panelist with the new online feature, “On Faith,” for the Washington Post and Newsweek. He has recorded 12 lectures for an audio CD series, “Encountering Islam”, for NowYouKnow Media, Washington DC and is Senior Advisor to an innovative on-line project for an Islamic syllabus for Jones Knowledge Inc. He is on the Advisory Board of The Globalist and is on the Board of Directors for Interfaith Voices, a public radio show.


Distinctions/ Distinguished Lectures:

Ahmed was awarded the Star of Excellence, one of Pakistan’s highest honors and the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal by the Royal Society for Asian Affairs in London. In 2005 the National Cathedral held a special Evensong Service to honor Ahmed, he was given the First Annual Bridge Builder’s Award from the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and he received the “Humanitarian Award”, the highest honor of the Chapel of Four Chaplains. In 2004 he was given the Professor of the Year Award for Washington DC by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the first Gandhi Center Fellowship of Peace Award and invited to join the World Wisdom Council. He delivered the Keynote Address at the Annual Conference of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions at Monterrey, Mexico,e





 September 23, 2007. In early 2008 Ahmed joined the Global Advisory Council of PlayPumps International.

Ahmed is Centennial Honorary Chair of the Washington National Cathedral Centennial Celebration (along with Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor). He has been a Trustee since 2001 of the World Faiths Development Dialogue set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the President of the World Bank and is a Trustee on the Board of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. He was founding member of the First Abrahamic Summit, Washington DC, and continues to be a member of the Abrahamic Roundtable, organized by the National Cathedral.

Ahmed is a member, Abrahamic Program Advisory Committee, Chautauqua Institution. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Hasan Family Foundation and was a Senior Fellow of The Case Foundation. He spoke at the Chairman’s Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series at the Pentagon and gave the inaugural lectures for the first Chair in Jewish-Muslim Studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Along with Ambassador Doug Holladay he founded the Buxton Initiative for Dialogue. He lectured at a World Affairs Council event along with Dick Cheney, Dr. Henry Kissinger and Bernard Lewis. He was Member Host Committee for Internews’ 25th anniversary celebration in May 2007. He was the first Muslim to lecture at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and was Principal Investigator for “Islam in the Age of Globalization”, a project supported by The Brookings Institution, American University and The Pew Research Center, and Visiting Fellow at Brookings in addition to his appointment at American University. In November, he and Dr. Judea Pearl delivered the Keynote Address at the Greater Kansas City Festival of Faiths in The Village Church.

Ahmed delivered the Keynote Address at a Conference on “The Way Forward” at the Centre for Muslim-Jewish Relations, Cambridge, the Keynote Address at the 60th Anniversary of the Independence of India and Pakistan, hosted by the University of Southampton, gave a special lecture at the London School of Economics and was invited as an “expert” to address the All-Parties Committee on Terrorism at the House of Commons in the summer of 2007. He has been invited to present the Keynote at the Drury University, Convention Series, 2007-08 and the McMurrrin Lecture in Religion and Culture, University of Utah, Tanner Humanities Center, 2008-09. He will give the President’s Distinguished Lecture at the University of Vermont in 2008. Ahmed is listed in the Recommended Speakers Book of the World Affairs Council of America. He is one of the 138 Muslim leaders who wrote recently to the Pope and other Christian leaders suggesting dialogue. Ahmed was one of the original signatories of the Muslim letter to Jewish leaders circulated in 2008.

Ahmed led a Muslim delegation to the Holocaust Museum in December 2006, attended President Ford’s funeral ceremony at the National Cathedral where he was part of the “Procession Order” as “Representative of Faith” escorting the casket, and delivered the invocation at the Mayor’s Inaugural Prayer Service in Washington DC. Ahmed is presently Non-Resident Senior Fellow at Brookings. He was given the “Key” to the city of Houston and Portland, Maine, by the respective Mayors. He is a member of the “Incident Management Team” for the Department of Homeland Security and was mentioned in “Congressional Record – Proceedings and Debates of the 109th Congress, Second Session, Washington, Friday, September 29, 2006, House of Representatives: “Tribute to Dr. Judea Pearl and Dr. Akbar Ahmed”. Along with Dr. Judea Pearl, Ahmed was finalist in the “Most Inspiring Person of the Year 2005” poll conducted by BeliefNet and was awarded the first ever “Purpose Prize Award” in 2006. Ahmed was invited in 2008 to take first Chair of Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, in addition to the Ibn Khaldun Chair at American University.

Ahmed and his family will be honored at the National Cathedral in the Fall: “We are delighted to be honoring you and your family at the 29th InterFaith Concert at the Washington National Cathedral on Tuesday, November 18, 2008… The Concert is a great celebration of the sacred in song, dance and chant of 9 world religions… this is the first time we have ever honored a family!  What better choice could we have made?!  Our Board of Directors clearly answered that question!” Rev. Clark Lobenstine, Executive Director, InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.


June, 2008