Akbar Ahmed receives humanitarian award
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Dr Akbar S Ahmed received on Tuesday from a faith-related organisation an award for his humanitarian work.
The award was conferred on him at the American University, where he teaches comparative religion and international relations, by the Key Spiritual Life Centre. Some time earlier, the Pakistani academic and former civil servant was given the Professor of the Year award by the District of Columbia.
Dr Ahmed was praised by a number of speakers, who included both a rabbi and a pastor for the “space of compassion and understanding for all religions and faiths” he has helped create through his efforts emphasising fellowship among the three great Abrahamic religions of the world: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Rabbi Kenneth Cohen said Muslims, Jews and Christians were three sisters who belonged to the same family and though they sometimes quarrelled, they shared a deep, unbreakable relationship. He emphasised the need for love and understanding, pointing out that religion should make men kinder, not angry. Rev, Mark Schaffer said Dr Ahmed has “made us see things in a new light.” He said Dr Ahmed had made an admirable contribution to the starting up of what had come to be known as a “dialogue of civilisations,” as opposed to a “clash.” He quoted the Pakistani academic as having once said that a dialogue without friendship was just conversation. Dr Ahmed, he added, had also compared the world’s great religions and cultures to a great mosaic
In his acceptance speech, Dr Ahmed, a former high commissioner to the United Kingdom, said he realised after 9/11 what stunning ignorance their existed about Islam in the West and the United States in particular and he decided to do what he could to build bridges of understanding and to tell people that Islam is a religion of peace, universal brotherhood and goodwill for all. “I have been on a mission of peace from that time on and I can tell you that there has not been a day of rest for me since that day,” he told the audience, which included a number of diplomats, that Islam was not a religion that advocated or sanctioned violence. He said the God of Islam was in essence a compassionate and merciful God. The challenge facing Muslims today was to present their religion as it truly was, and not as it had been of late projected. He said the message of religion was universal and it was to be noted that today, the most popular poet in America was the Persian poet Rumi, who wrote in the Islamic tradition and advocated the oneness of God’s creatures.