John W. Kiser III
John Kiser is one of AEP’s founders. He is an author, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He serves on the board of the William and Mary Greve Foundation from which position he has been spearheading, for the past twenty-five years, projects to address America’s dangerous ignorance of the Muslim faith. It is an ignorance, he has learned, that also infects Muslim communities.
His engagement with the Muslim world began in 1994, after winding down Kiser Research, Inc. in Washington D.C., a business that challenged the conventional wisdom about Russian secretiveness and won national attention by documenting and implementing opportunities for acquiring advanced technologies and intellectual property rights from Russia. His innovative thinking was recognized by both congressional intelligence committees and the Russian Academy of Science in 1993.
In the early 90’s John took his family to France for a sabbatical. His goal was to improve his French, read the Bible, and expose his children to other cultures. Ten years later, two books emerged: “The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love and Terror in Algeria”, and “Commander of the Faithful: A Story of True Jihad”. In 2012, John’s book about French Benedictine monks was the basis for the Cannes Festival’s award-winning film “Of Gods and Men”.
In 2008, the launch of the book “Commander of the Faithful” in Elkader, Iowa, led to the creation of the Abdelkader Education Project. AEP is now developing strategies for the globalization of Abdelkader as a teacher for the world. Today, audiences for the Emir’s demonstrated values and universalist thinking include educators, civic leaders, diplomats, religious communities and the military.
Kathy Garms is co-founder and executive director of the Abdelkader Education Project (AEP) based in the town named after Emir Abdelkader in 1846. A native of Elkader (Iowa USA), Kathy is proud of her hometown’s unique history and believes Emir Abdelkader’s legacy has important lessons for today. She is passionate about building community by promoting cultural understanding to inspire future leaders and compassionate global citizens. Her international curiosity and interest in citizen diplomacy and civic engagement began while hosting Russians and Ukrainians in Elkader and later as a USAID volunteer in Kyrgyzstan.
Kathy revived the Elkader sister city program with Mascara City (Algeria) strengthening friendships and building relationships between the U.S. and Algeria. She also organized the Elkader launch of John Kiser’s biography Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader that inspired the Abdelkader Education Project. She directs AEP activities as it continues to expand its network at home and abroad.
As a guest in France, Algeria, and Indonesia, Kathy participated in events focused on Emir Abdelkader’s impact as a model humanitarian with lessons for today. She values education, diversity, and collaboration as she continues to share the Abdelkader Story with hope of a more civil world for all people.
Ms. Khan is the Chairperson of AEP. She is also the Executive Director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality (WISE), a women-led organization committed to peacebuilding, equality, and justice for Muslims around the world.
Ms. Khan is a frequent media commentator on topics such as Muslim women’s rights, Islam in America, Islamophobia, and violent extremism. In 2017, Khan published “WISE Up: Knowledge Ends Extremism”, a report intended to prevent the rise of hate and extremism and develop narratives of peace. Her memoir, “Born with Wings”, was published by Random House in April 2018. Khan has consistently been recognized for her work. She was listed among Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” the Huffington Post included her in their “Top Ten Women Faith Leaders,” and More Magazine has described her as “a link between moderate Islam and the West.”
Mr. Raiter currently serves as treasurer and financial advisor to AEP. Prior to his retirement in 2005, Mr. Raiter was a Managing Director with Standard & Poor’s and head of the Mortgage Backed Security Ratings Group. From March 1990 to March 1994 he was the Assistant Director, Office of Securities Transactions, of the Resolution Trust Corporation where he was involved in the structuring and sale of residential and commercial mortgage backed securities. Mr. Raiter earned a B.A. in Economics with honors from North Carolina State University and an MBA in Finance from the University of North Carolina. He was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps.
By her seventh birthday Mounira Keghida had already lived on three continents, as her Algerian father and American mother crossed many borders in forging a loving and supportive family and modeling global citizenship. Currently completing a doctoral dissertation at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Mounira holds several degrees and looks back on more than a decade of professional experience working at not-for-profit organizations in New York. Her thesis focuses on the life, times and intellectual origins of the French nineteenth-century anti-colonialist parliamentarian and author Amédeé Desjobert, who supported the Emir Abdel Kader and the Algerian people in their struggle for self-determination during the conquest of Algeria. Her most recent article, published in the online academic journal Age of Revolutions, is titled “Revolution in Search of a Father: The Return of the Emir Abd el-Kader.”
Del Christensen joined the AEP Board in 2022. He is Executive Director of Iowa Resource for International Service (IRIS), a nonprofit organization based in Iowa that promotes international peace and understanding. Since 1993, IRIS has coordinated internships, educational, and outreach programs for nearly 3,000 participants from 58 different countries. Del also serves on the Board of the Japan America Society of Iowa and has been involved with various committees of Iowa Sister States, most recently the Yamanashi Sister State Committee. He helped to establish the first State-department sponsored high school exchange program in Sub-Saharan Africa, coordinate the first American college football game on the continent of Africa, coordinate the first pan-African community health education training in Senegal, coordinate several health-related projects in Nigeria through Rotary International and has made more than 75 trips to countries around the world coordinating humanitarian programs.
URL for IRIS www.iris-center.org
Daud Shad grew up in northern New Jersey and currently studies city planning at MIT. His primary interests are in sustainable urban development and human rights. As an undergraduate student, Daud was an active member of Dwight Hall, Yale’s center for public service and social justice. He learned about Emir Abdelkader while participating in AEP’s 2016 high school essay contest. Daud continues to be inspired by the Emir’s courageous commitment to serving others.
Kelsey Hudson is the Curriculum Lead for Secondary Social Studies in the West Des Moines School District in Iowa. She also teaches AP World History: Modern and the “Teacher Academy” classes at Valley High School, where she has been a teacher since 2007. She teaches Western Civilization as an adjunct at Des Moines Area Community College and has taught World Civilization, Western Civilization, and AP European History at Valley in the past. She has presented at both the Iowa Council for the Social Studies conference and the National Council for the Social Studies Conference. She also developed curriculum and co-led a workshop for teachers new to AP World History: Modern with Heimler’s History. She was elected membership chair for the Iowa Council for the Social Studies Board and was a member of the West Des Moines Historical Society. Kelsey also frequently participates in domestic and international professional development programs to improve her knowledge and pedagogy. Kelsey enjoys developing curriculum, participating in professional development opportunities (particularly those that involve travel!) and advocating for global understanding.