The Abd el-Kader Education Project: From Kathy Garms

What began in Elkader with the October 2008 book launch of John Kiser’s historical biography Commander of the Faithful…The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader (A Story of True Jihad), now reaches from Iowa to Pakistan providing a much needed message of respect, civility and moral courage. Our goal is to encourage and provide opportunities for growth in cultural and interfaith knowledge for both Muslims and non-Muslims via a 19th century world hero. Emir Abd el-Kader was admired by Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX and countless Muslims for his moral courage, generosity, learning and self-restraint. He was a philosopher and seeker of wisdom, man of peace, warrior, statesman, puritan, humanitarian, scholar and was tolerant of all faiths. Upon his death in 1883, The New York Times hailed him as…”one of the few great men of the century.” See

History does repeat itself. Our troubled world today needs reminders and examples like Emir Abd el-Kader to move forward in building bridges of peace by finding common ground.

The 2010-2011 Abd el-Kader Essay Contest has expanded beyond Elkader to include all Iowa high school juniors and seniors and is based on the inspiring life of Emir Abd el-Kader. The essay contest encourages learning about our global society and building bridges of respect, tolerance and cross-cultural understanding. Students are asked to evaluate the significance of Abd el-Kader’s courageous life of struggle during peace, war, imprisonment, and exile as applied to current events in America and the world. Student essays are due March 30, 2011. Principal Financial Group is a supporting financial sponsor. article explains how the Abd el-Kader Education Project based in Elkader, Iowa has evolved. Editor Mary Liepold encouraged Kathy Garms to write about her experience with the project. The article has attracted positive project attention in comments on the website as well as through personal contacts.

Iowa Council for Social Studies Conference in Des Moines. On October 12-13, Barbara Petzen, John Kiser and Kathy Garms were welcomed to host a booth and introduce Abd el-Kader to Iowa educators. The Abd el-Kader Education Project curriculum entitled “Connecting across Cultures: How a Muslim Hero Won the Hearts and Minds of the World” was created by Barbara Petzen and introduced through Google Earth “Who Was Abd el-Kader” and DBQs “Embodying the Nation: George Washington, Abd el-Kader, and Gandhi”. These optional 6-12th grade curriculum materials align with Iowa and national core standards and are available free to all schools.

University of Iowa International Programs (Middle East & World Muslim Studies and African Studies). Professor James Giblin, Co-Director of the African Studies Program, invited John Kiser and Kathy Garms to speak in October to professors and students on “Why is Abd el-Kader Relevant Today?” as part of the “Images of Islam” series at the university. Interest was expressed in having further discussions.

Ousseimi Foundation Tolerance Award honored Abd el-Kader posthumously on November 4. John Kiser was among the many guests at the Palais des Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland. Established three years ago, this Swiss-based, Lebanese private foundation, in conjunction with the United Nations, honored the emir’s spirit of openness by awarding a $60,000 grant shared by French-Algerian researcher Genevieve Simon-Khedis and Tom Woerner-Powell of Great Britain’s Society for Algerian Studies. The money will be dedicated to having these researchers make a complete inventory of archives throughout the world containing material about the life of the emir.

US Center for Citizen Diplomacy Summit in Washington DC on November 16-19. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, speakers included US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Endowment for the Humanities Chair Jim Leach as well as many other speakers with significant Iowa connections. The event was attended by AEP partners Barbara Petzen and Sarah Sayeed with the goal to learn first-hand from others and to inform major players in the Diplomacy arena of the Abd el-Kader Education Project as an important representation of a cross-cultural Muslim hero whose stature and behavior personified justice, peace, true statesmanship and the quest for knowledge.

The Islamic Resource Group in Minneapolis invited Kathy Garms to introduce The Abd el-Kader Education Project at their annual banquet in November. Keynote speaker was Daniel Tutt of Unity Productions Foundation and 20,000 Dialogs. The Islamic Resource Group (IRG) is a Minnesota-based non-profit organization that offers the community opportunities to learn about Islam and Muslim culture. IRG provides qualified speakers for schools and other venues in the Twin Cities area.

Humanities Iowa in Iowa City has awarded a $6,500 grant to the Middle East Policy Council, an AEP partner organization, for public talks and teacher workshops titled "Understanding the Middle East and Islam: Perspectives, Strategies and Tools for Teaching". Free two-day seminars for Iowa educators will be conducted by Barbara Petzen during spring 2011.

Cannes Film Festival award winning movie “Of Men and Gods” based on The Monks of Tibhirine to U.S. in February 2011. Producer Xavier Beauvois called John Kiser’s previous book The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria (St Martin’s Press, 2003) the “bible” for its monastic detail and understanding of the political context. Monks is a heart-warming story of brotherly love between Muslims and Christians amidst great violence in Algeria during the 1990s. See Planned for a February 2011 U.S. launch, Sony Classics will be distributing the film (English subtitles) which has been entered by the French as their Oscar nominee for “best foreign film”. Humanities Iowa is planning a 2011 author/film tour of Iowa.

Abd el-Kader Education Project website & Facebook page will be up by February 2011.

We welcome all comments and suggestions…

The Abd el-Kader Education Project Team
Kathy Garms, Barbara Petzen, Sarah Sayeed, John Boyer, John Kiser

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Posted on Dec 11, 10 | 8:04 am