Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize

Quotes From Students and Educators

“The Abdelkader Education Project offers much more than an essay contest. It offers students a chance to engage with a narrative of history not often discussed in Western classrooms, and one that is crucial to develop a comprehension of the many variegated ways that the “West” intersects with the “East” and vice-versa. Especially today – in a time where mistrust, ignorance, and violence abound – Abdelkader’s legacy provides a useful model for how global relationships might be rethought and restructured to better suit us all.” Brandon Jennings, Iowa City



Ben Bernatz, Northwestern University – “In Emir Abdelkader, I found a counter-example to many of the beliefs about Islam that are a part of the political and social discourse of our nation. Abdelkader was undeniably Muslim. However, his Islam was one where people were dedicated to their communities. It was one where people were charitable, hospitable, humble, and wise. For Abdelkader, jihad was a struggle to improve himself, and to improve, even perfect, his own character and his own faith. The Emir constantly put others, be it his family, his friends, or complete strangers, before himself.”

Bob Spielbauer, Elkader – “Abdelkader: Reforming the Muslim Image”
This essay advanced to Iowa’s 2012 National History Day competition. Bob stated, “The theme was “Revolution, Reaction, and Reform in History” so it worked quite well for Abdelkader. …Abdelkader is just such a good topic because it’s both local and national, and it’s both close to my heart and relevant worldwide.”



Brandon Jennings, University of Iowa – “Practicing Politics According to Abdelkader”
“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 Abdelkader, can we hope to move towards a happier, more prosperous future.”

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.”

Cole Crawford, Dubuque – “Assalamu ‘Alaikum (Peace be Upon You)”
“Even though he lost battles – indeed, even lost the war for freedom from French occupation – Abdelkader won a greater and more timeless war. He fought a struggle to capture the world’s hearts and minds, and emerged decisively victorious.”

Madi Johansen, Decorah – “Abdelkader: True Jihad”
“The Emir’s actions throughout his life showed the true religion of Islam; following the dictates of his faith made him a hero… Abdelkader’s life embodied the words of the Qur’an 5:7, “Let not your hatred of other men turn you away from Justice. Be just…that is closer to piety.”

Ben Bernatz, Decorah – “From Algeria to Iowa”
“I began to view his application of Islamic law in Algeria as a vehicle for establishing order and justice in his country. Abdelkader’s tolerance, understanding, patience, wisdom, and dedication to living a godly life are all attributes that I can emulate in my own life.”

Bob Spielbauer, Elkader – “Abdelkader: A Gift from the Desert”
“Abdelkader had the character of a leader and the morals of a saint. The strong moral guidance of his parents… taught him to be culturally tolerant very early in life. His character, especially strong humanitarian morals, has had the most effect on my life. Reading about his life has helped me come to see his people in a whole new light.”



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

“Reading Commander of the Faithful and writing the essay for the Abdelkader Essay Contest provided a unique opportunity for students in my AP Human Geography class to connect multiple continents, centuries, and cultures with course curriculum as well as a relevant local connection to the origin of a town’s name in Iowa.”
Mark Rhodes, Social Studies Teacher, Decorah High School, Iowa

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

“Embodying Abraham Lincoln’s precepts of “malice toward none…charity for all; firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” Abdelkader’s life as depicted in John W. Kiser’s book is a continuous striving “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace” with all faiths and all nations.”
Professor Ahmed Achrati, Academic Director for the School of Continuing Studies
Georgetown University, Washington DC