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Lights, Camera, Action!

Harrison Akins, a PhD student in our department, served as the associate producer and director of cinematography for the documentary film, Journey into Europe, which he presented to the Southeast Regional Middle East and Islamic Studies Seminar Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy April 16, 2016.

Although he just completed his first year in our PhD program, Harrison Akins is already having a significant impact on a very timely issue: Muslim communities of Europe.
Graduate Student spotlight: Harrison Akins (right) with Ambassador Ahmed (left) and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (center) in Cambridge during fieldwork in the UK.

The film, which has also been screened worldwide, is part of a larger project by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and former Pakistan Ambassador to the UK and Ireland, examining the history and contemporary challenges of the Muslim communities of Europe. Relying on fieldwork in ten European countries over a two-year period, Ambassador Ahmed and his research team, including Akins, who served as the Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow prior to beginning his PhD, examined controversial issues surrounding the European Muslim communities including Sharia law, terrorism, the building of mosques, female dress, and the pressures of immigration and multiculturalism. The Stiftung Mercator Foundation of Germany, the British Council USA, and American University’s School of International Service provided support and funding for the project.

It has already received high praise from prominent religious leaders, scholars, and politicians. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, PhD, said, “It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this work.” Professor Noam Chomsky wrote “[Journey into Europe] is sure to be yet another influential contribution; one greatly needed in a world riven by conflicts and misunderstanding.” Haris Silajdzic, PhD, former President and Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stated “Ambassador Ahmed’s latest project on Muslims in Europe is yet another illustration of his vision by offering us understanding of, commitment to, and hope and compassion for humanity.”

In addition to his work on this documentary, Akins was one of four UT students awarded a US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) for summer 2016 to study Urdu in Lucknow, India. Click here to learn more about this prestigious award.


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