The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education named Islamic Studies professor Akbar Ahmed the 2004 D.C. Professor of the Year on Thursday.
Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic Studies and professor of international relations at AU, is a leading authority on Islam and its global impact on the contemporary society, especially in the Western world.
He was one of 46 winners from across the United States who were selected "for their outstanding teaching, commitment to undergraduate students and influence on teaching," according to the awarding groups. He was chosen from faculty members who were nominated by universities nationwide.
"Dr. Ahmed is able to carry out his remarkable teaching inside and outside the classroom because his skill is based on a spectacular record of accomplishment," said Louis Goodman, dean of the School of International Service, in a press release.
Ahmed's work includes anthropology, writing and filmmaking, including appearances in a BBC news series called "Living Islam." As an author of several books, Ahmed's latest award-winning work is "Islam under Siege: Living Dangerously in a Post-Honor World." Other books, including "Resistance and Control in Pakistan" and "Postmodernism and Islam," were recently revised and republished.
A former high commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, Ahmed has addressed members of Congress and has been involved in a number of various interfaith dialogues, including those with Judea Pearl, father of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in Pakistan. The Archbishop of Canterbury also appointed him trustee of the World Faiths Development Dialogue.
"Thank you for the wisdom and generosity of spirit you are constantly showing through your spoken and written words," Dr. Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, recently wrote to Ahmed. "I cannot tell you how important your voice is right now. These are fateful times - and in you classic Islam has a spokesman and role model of supreme grace and dignity," he wrote. "May God/Allah be with you in all you do - and I thank you from the depth of my heart..."
Ahmed has accumulated many awards over the years. He is a recipient of the Star of Excellence in Pakistan and the Sir Percy Sykes Memorial Medal given by the Royal Society of Asian Affairs in London. He was also the recipient of the 2002 "Free Speech Award" given by the Muslim Public Affairs Council in D.C.
"As a Muslim educator I am honored to have been selected for this American award," Ahmed said in a press release. "It's my hope that through education and dialogue, we can work together to bridge the gaps that divide us."
Ahmed was unable to be reached for comment by press time.
While many students and colleagues have praised Ahmed, others are more critical.
"He has the potential of being a good professor on the topic," said Ashley Moss, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs. "But he shows us videos he's made, and the books he assigns for reading are frequently those he's written himself."
Moss also said that Ahmed brings a lot of guest speakers to class and in doing so, doesn't teach but lets others teach for him.
Another student disagreed.
"He's very intelligent and ... he can perfectly relate aspects of Islam with the world today," Kogod sophomore Shari May said. "He's made Islam as a peaceful and accepting religion, more than what the media portrays it to be"