2020 Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize

Welcome to our virtual stage to showcase the winners of the 2020 Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize. We wish we could gather in-person as a supportive community but instead we offer their acceptance speeches below that reflect the compassion and care so needed in our communities today. Until next year when we can be together face-to-face, please stay healthy and be inspired to follow Emir Abdelkader’s humanitarian lead.

Through my reading of John Kiser’s “Commander of the Faithful,” I have gained a deep appreciation for Emir Abdelkader’s life and legacy. The Emir always valued freedom over fortune and held an unwavering devotion to piety, humanity, and honor in victory and defeat. His wide-ranging intellect and generosity of spirit, even towards his enemies, made him a feared warrior and an admired unifier in the eyes of the Arabs and the French. Above all, I have come to admire the Emir for his sincere dedication to his values, even in his deepest suffering. It is easy to embrace tolerance and justice in success, but it is a much more difficult task to embrace them in defeat. I have gained so much from exploring and learning about the life of Abdelkader. I believe our world would be a better place if we all strove to understand and embody the timeless teachings of Emir Abdelkader.

Emir Abdelkader lifted the voices of the unheard and fought for their right to live peacefully. He did not hesitate to respond when his community and the most vulnerable needed him most. Despite tribal and religious differences, Abdelkader sacrificed his own well-being for that of others. His legacy has inspired me to continue to fight for the under-served and the oppressed. As an Algerian American and a Muslim, the life and history of Emir Abdelkader is very much intertwined with my own. However, it is not necessary to share any identity with the Emir, other than that of humanity, to relate and gain inspiration from him. As students navigating the world of education and grade point averages, it is easy to forget why we’re attaining schooling to begin with. Ultimately, we all strive to make the world a better place for ourselves and others. Studying the life of Emir Abdelkader allows us to reflect and reaffirm these goals.

My experience learning about the story of Emir Abd el Kader has challenged me to always seek the truth in every story and not just to accept every narrative, however dominant it may be. His story also has had a tremendous impact in my life, especially giving my background in interreligious conflict prone regions.  I have learnt from his story that one must seek to understand in all situations and to find what unifies us as humanity rather than what divides us. As Aristotle once remarked, “it is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” This is a quote that bears many similarities with the life of the Emir Abd el Kader. His educated mind allowed him to entertain several thoughts and ideas about other religions, yet he was still comfortable in his own religion without getting threatened by people of other religion. I am mostly fascinated by how the Emir exhibited courage in the face of superior forces, and how he demonstrated self-restraint when faced with weaker foes. These two virtues are very rare in today’s world, and thus, I seek to emulate them in my own daily living.

Abdelkader’s story holds a unique place in global history. Although he may not be well-known within history textbooks, his resilience, character, and moral intelligence drew the admiration of even his most staunch enemies at the time. He was at once a resilient fighter, religious leader, and peaceful humanitarian. Abdelkader’s fundamental beliefs were far ahead of his time: regardless of race, religion, or nationality, he believed that at our core, we share more than what divides us. Upon reflecting on Abdelkader’s fundamental beliefs, I learned that he embodied the concept of empathy throughout his life. When we educate ourselves on these lessons on empathy, we can begin to gain a better understanding of our world and strive for better cultural connections and global solutions. This experience has changed the way I view my own heritage and my place as an Algerian-American, and I hope to carry Abdelkader’s legacy in striving to connect people despite the divisions that grow in our society. I would recommend this essay contest to all students who are looking for an intellectual journey that will challenge their initial perceptions and guide them to a better moral and global understanding.

I believe that Emir Abdelkader’s behavior is a crucial model of religious tolerance because every human should follow his example. In our modern and globalized world, his level of religious tolerance will remedy many problems and push us one step further to world peace.

I am so pleased and humbled to receive such a prestigious award. Not only did I have a pleasure writing the essay, it allowed me to dive deeper into my heritage as an Algerian-American to learn more about my culture and connect deeper with my roots. As I learned about him, I found his most amazing quality was his value of human life regardless of the differences in faith. This is most clearly exemplified when he (as a devout Sufi) shielded Christians from an attack in his home of Damascus. Another remarkable trait of the Emir was to always put action into your faith. The Emir’s actions, whether it be his military commands or his personal relationships, were guided by his faith. As a person of faith, I should always care for my neighbors and put action into what I believe is important. I would 100% recommend this scholarship to my peers as a great opportunity to learn about a figure that has unfortunately been erased from history textbooks. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to learn about someone so important in my culture.

July 16, 2020 | 11:00AM CDT


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ABDELKADER EDUCATION PROJECT (AEP) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that promotes cultural literacy, civility, and respectful engagement between all people through education and outreach drawing on Emir Abdelkader’s life story and values – courage, integrity, intellect, humility and compassion – that transcend culture and faith traditions.

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