As events in the Middle East dominate the attention of U.S. policymakers, many Americans view Islam with a great deal of suspicion. Indeed, it may be safe to argue that Islam is among the most misunderstood and controversial religions in the world.
On January 17, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy hosted a screening and discussion of noted Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed's documentary film Glories of Islamic Art. To explain Islam's rich history, customs, and beliefs, Ahmed, a Brookings non-resident senior fellow, traveled throughout the Middle East with United Kingdom channel 5 film crew. The result of Ahmed's travels is a striking film that uses art and architecture to portray the depth and beauty of Islam. Panelists included His Excellency Mahmud Ali Durrani, Ambassador from Pakistan to the United States. Akbar Ahmed, non-resident senior fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, provided introductory remarks and moderated the panel discussion.
Using the historic cities of Istanbul, Damascus, and Cairo as visual chapters, Ahmed's film connects religious, historic, and artistic themes of Islam. The film examines the achievements of the first Islamic dynasty, delves into Islam's respect for knowledge, and explores Sufism's balance of meditation and passion. The film has received acclaim throughout the United Kingdom with The News (London) writing "Channel 5 should be congratulated for giving us something refreshingly different. The series moves at a fast pace whetting ones appetite to pack up at once and head for Muslim lands."