June 2012 News Bulletin

What’s New? Who Won? Heads-up for Fall!

Elkader, IA (photo: Claire Wright)

Highlights of the 4th annual AEP Forum in Elkader were student awards (listed below), exemplary speakers, and a performance by French-Algerian singer Nassima Chaabane. People from around the nation attended the May event to celebrate the character, accomplishments, and modern-day relevance of the admired 19th century humanitarian and leader, Emir Abdelkader, for whom the Iowa town was named in 1846.

Nassima Chaabane

An international roster of speakers delivered brief personal reflections on the value of Abdelkader’s life story. John Kiser, pioneering international technology broker and author of Commander of the Faithful and The Monks of Tibhirine, traveled from Virginia; Jerene Mortenson, Alaska, is a humanitarian and mother of Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea; Sarah Sayeed is president of oneblue.org in Washington DC; Kathy Vaillancourt is project coordinator of the Center for Experiential Learning, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA; Bill Witt is an Elkader native, former state legislator, and currently photojournalist in Iowa; Bonnie Bickel James, Maryland, is a former independent school administrator and teacher who is currently an international education consultant consulting for Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero and coaching for WIDE, their online professional development platform; Jim Moody,Washington DC, is a former Wisconsin Congressman and head of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development; and Salem Brahimi is a French- Algerian documentary film maker from France. Algerian Ambassador Abdallah Baali sent a message of support along with a generous donation from the Algerian Embassy to the AEP. Unable to attend, Iowa State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad sent the following message: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3jzfl-HfNY.

The Mustard Seed Grows…Iowa and Beyond

Abdelkader Essay Contest

High school and college students are invited each year to write essays to reflect on the contemporary meaning of the life of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883). The biography Commander of the Faithful…The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader by John W. Kiser reveals that Abdelkader was admired by President Lincoln, Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX and countless Muslims and non-Muslims.

Commander of the Faithful, as “Added Value for Educators,” offers more than a good story about Algeria’s “George Washington.” It is a book with rich multi- disciplinary pathways that could be used in many areas of study within the humanities—history, the social sciences, geography, political science, philosophy, religion, linguistics, and more.”

Bonnie Bickel James, International Education Consultant, Maryland

Bonnie Bickel James

2012 Abdelkader Essay Contest Awards

Iowa High School Winners

1st Place – Carolina Streese, Decorah – “Acceptance Despite Adversity” – “Abdelkader was knowledgeable enough to see the differences between himself and people of other ethnicities, nationalities, and religions, but was also wise enough to look past those differences and see the similarities.” (Teacher/Mentor for 1st and 3rd place winners – Mark Rhodes, Social Studies)

2nd Place – Alaa Mohamedali, Iowa City – “The Path of the Divine” (Teacher/Mentor – Tom Lindsey, English)

3rd Place – Paul Sullivan, Decorah – “A Virtuous Man Remembered: Emir Abdelkader and his Relevance Today”

Special Award – Bob Spielbauer, Elkader (Iowa) Central High School – “Abdelkader: Reforming the Muslim Image” (Teacher/Mentor – Jarod Bormann, English)

Bob’s essay won its way to Iowa’s State History Day. He also created a multi-genre project for English based on Abdelkader that includes a handmade book on tiles creatively revealing the emir’s life story.

2012 Abdelkader Essay Contest – Expands

NEW – Iowa College/University Essay Contest Winners

1st Place – Brandon Jennings, U of Iowa – “Practicing Politics According to Abd el-Kader” – “Now more than ever, it is necessary that we curtail the violent, essentialist, and exclusionary rhetoric promulgated towards peoples of different faiths and backgrounds. Globalization and advance in technology have shrunk the world; cultural and religious differences are inescapable and ubiquitous. If we cannot reform our jingoistic attitudes towards ourselves and others, if we cannot articulate a new politics that recognizes and celebrates difference, we are certain to make the same mistakes our fathers and fore-fathers have made before us. Only by learning lessons from our shared history, from men like Abd el-Kader, can we hope to move towards a happier, more prosperous future.”

2nd Place – Erin Saiof, Luther College – “Emir Abdelkader: The Figure of a True Mujahid”

NEW – Massachusetts High School Essay Contest Winners

Facilitator Kathy Vaillancourt is Project Coordinator at the Center for Experiential Learning, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA.

1st Place – Katherine Lavery – “A New Perspective”

2nd Place – Rachel Levantovsky – “The Abdelkader Essay” (Teacher/Mentor for 1st and 2nd place winners – Mary Gregiore, English)

3rd Place- Yelena Ravvina – “A Memorable Leader” (Teacher/Mentor – Rick Dellechiaie, English)

NEW – Washington, DC Metro Area Essay Contest

Kathy Garms along with Sarah Sayeed, president of oneblue, have developed the Abdelkader Essay Contest as a summer program opportunity. Essay winners will be announced in September. A school year essay contest will be offered this fall.

“As a judge for the high school Abdelkader Essay Contest, I know first-hand that this contest really has the desired effect of engaging students in the process of interfaith and intercultural conversation. What could be more relevant in the contemporary world?”

Dr. Robert Shedinger, Associate Professor of Religion, Luther College, Decorah, IA

Coming Soon ~ Essay Contest Launch

The 2012-13 Abdelkader Global Leadership Essay Contests for the academic year will be introduced in August/September. Separate essay contests will be offered at the high school and college/university levels.

New Eligibility ~ High school students in grades 9-12 are welcome to enter the essay contests.

Emir’s Story Gets More Exposure

Harvard’s Pluralism Project is expected to craft a case study on ethical, religious, and military leadership based on Emir Abdelkader’s legacy.

Abdelkader Fellowship at University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies and Culture is being offered to Ph.D. researchers who can demonstrate how their chosen subject relates to the life of Emir Abdelkader as a model of leadership, learning, statesmanship, openness to all faiths, and honor on the battlefield.

Fetzer Foundation in Kalamazoo, Michigan has invited John Kiser to write a “white paper” on the relevance of Abdelkader’s life to matters of governance—focusing on themes of empathy and forgiveness.

Kinza Academy (Muslim Home Schooling Association) in San Ramon, CA, has commissioned John Kiser to downsize Commander of the Faithful for young adults, ages 8-12 years, and will market the book throughout the world. “What a gift for young children to learn of this great hero and champion of the best human virtues,” says Kinza associate Aisha Subhani.

John Kiser noted in his AEP Forum presentation, “French cardinal Etienne Duval, reflecting on his long service in Algeria, said as he lay on his death bed in 1996, “Algeria will one day surprise the world.” Kiser continued, “I have concluded that perhaps that surprise is in the form of a gift to the world: the example of Algeria’s own ‘George Washington,’ Emir Abdelkader. Abdelkader offers to all humanity a model of empathy, wisdom, courage and self-restraint as he underwent the trials of war, imprisonment, and exile. He was a unifier, not a divider. He sought Oneness amidst the diversity of all God’s creation.”

Please visit our website www.abdelkaderproject.org.

Thank you for following our project and let us know if you would like more information. We welcome all questions and comments. Contact: abdelkaderproject@gmail.com

Abdelkader Education Project Team…

Kathy Garms, Barbara Petzen, John Kiser, Sarah Sayeed