A look at the life of The Emir Abd el-Kader, for whom the town of Elkader, Iowa, was named in 1846.

A three-day symposium held Sept. 21–23 will reflect on the life of the Emir Abd el-Kader (1808–83). Described as an exemplary Muslim, the celebrated military hero of Algeria opposed French colonization and was an international peacemaker who saved 12,000 Christians in Damascus.

He was hailed at his death in 1883 as “one of the few great men of the century” by The New York Times.

Jan Gross, Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages (Department of French and Arabic), organized the symposium. She says the Emir Abd el-Kader is the perfect subject for the Center for Humanities’ yearlong symposium on war because his life highlights the relationship between war and peace and the positive role that religion can play in promoting peace and dialogue.

“In the face of anti-Muslim sentiment and religious intolerance, this program seeks to counter stereotypes about Islam as a religion of violence and the Muslim as terrorist and enemy of the West,” says Gross. “The Emir’s life offers a perfect way to understand how religions can help to build bridges and preserve humanity even in wartime.”

Gross, who wrote “Celebrating a Muslim Hero, in Iowa,” says most people don’t connect Elkader, Iowa with Abd el-Kader.  

Working with John Kiser, author of Commander of the FaithfulThe Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader, Kathy Garms serves as executive director of the Abdelkader Education Project in Elkader, Iowa. The project sponsors an annual Abdelkader Global Leadership essay contest for high school and college students. The town has enjoyed a sister partnership with Mascara, Algeria, where Abd el-Kader was born.

“The spirit of Emir Abd el-Kader and his legacy can be seen throughout the community,” Garms says.


Sunday, Sept. 21

Free film showing Of Gods and Men, 2 p.m., Strand Theatre Introduction by John Kiser; Q&A following the film

Monday, Sept. 22

Joint talk with author John Kiser and Professor Jan Gross “From Abdelkader to Elkader: Stories of Connection to Iowa, Islam, and Algeria” at 7:30 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 101 

Tuesday, Sept. 23

Discussion “Creating Educational Outreach: The Abdelkader Education Project, Elkader, Iowa,” 10 a.m., Drake Community Library 

Panel discussion “Interreligious Dialogue in Action: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives” with Harold Kasimow, Gisela Webb, Katie Chowdhury ’05Rashed Chowdhury ’03 and John Kiser at 4:15 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 101.

Symposium Participants

  • John Kaiser, author of Commander of the Faithful: the Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader
  • Harold Kasimow, George A. Drake Professor of Religious Studies, emeritus;
  • Alumni Scholars Rashed Chowdhury ’03 and Katie Kiskaddon Chowdhury ’05;
  • Gisela Webb, professor of religious studies, Seton Hall University, Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations (faculty fellow);
  • Kathy Garms, executive director, Abdelkader Education Project; and 
  • Jan Gross, Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages (Department of French and Arabic)

The program is sponsored by the Center for the Humanities; the Center for International Studies; the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; the Peace and Conflict Studies Program; the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice; the Office for Community Enhancement and Engagement; the Center for Prairie Studies; the Religious Studies Department; the Department of French and Arabic; the Alumni Scholars Program; and the Strand Theatre.

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