John Kiser

John Kiser

The Abd el-Kader Education Project, Inc. (AEP) is an initiative that provides opportunities to explore Islamic values and culture through the legacy of Emir Abd el-Kader. AEP, Inc. grew out of the interest in Emir Abd el-Kader generated by John Kiser’s 2010 book Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader. Born near Mascara (Algeria), the story of Emir Abd el-Kader, a 19th century Arab statesman, humanitarian, warrior, and religious scholar, provides models of moral courage and ethical leadership, under conditions of war, colonialism and ethnic strife. AEP is based in Elkader, Iowa, USA—an iconic American town named after Emir Abd el-Kader. AEP represents five years of research to determine interest in and need for a counter narrative to the stereotype of Islam as a violent religion and a cultural threat. “Islamophobia”—fear, anger, and violence toward Muslims—is fed by these stereotypes and, when manifested in the US and Europe, gives credence to the militant Islamists claim that the US/West is waging war on Islam. And so, for non-Muslims, the figure of Abd el-Kader can be a counter-narrative to the stereotype of Islam as an inherently violent religion and a cultural threat. For Muslims, this narrative can be an inoculation against radicalism. As a pious and deeply conservative Muslim, Abd el-Kader lived “true jihad”—a life of struggle for justice and honoring the prohibition against violence toward unarmed civilians. Today, AEP, Inc. is directed by Kathy Garms. Current initiatives of the Abd el-kader Education Project, Inc. (AEP) include:

  • Essay contests that challenge U.S. high school and college students to reflect upon Abd el-Kader’s life during war, peace and exile with relevance for today. Competitions most recently expanded to France.
  • AEP Forum, held in Elkader Iowa, annually hosts leaders from across the U.S., N. Africa, and Europe to celebrate with art and music Abd el-Kader’s legacy.
  • Interactive curriculum is slated for release in partnership with Islamic Networks Group in San Jose, California. Curricula will be intercultural and interfaith, and discuss the person and legacy of Abd el-Kader.
  • A fellowship at University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Studies in Culture. The first Abd el-Kader fellow is Jeffrey Guhin whose work is a comparative study of Catholic schools and Muslim madrassas.
  • Outreach ranging from high schools to law enforcement agencies; from university faculty to security personnel. Partners in this work include:
    • The Center for the Study of Jewish, Christian, Muslim Relations at Merrimack College, North Andover, MA
    • Islamic Networks Group (ING), San Jose, CA
    • International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, Washington, D.C.
    • Kinza Academy, San Ramon, CA
    • Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.
    • CLAP social work organization in Lyon, France
    • University of Oran, Algeria (for Arabic translation)


AEP, Inc. plans to continue building interest in the emir’s story by bringing educational materials, outreach, and ongoing discussion of his legacy to:

  • Theological schools, seminaries, and madrassas
  • High school, college and graduate education
  • Bureau of Prisons (U.S.)
  • Armed Services (U.S.)
  • Law enforcement/internal security
  • Bloggers and internet based education
  • Cultural bridge building programs

As a part of these efforts, John Kiser and AEP, Inc., in conjunction with Tamar Miller and Ellie Pierce, have developed a case study of Emir Abd el-Kader. This case study, Rumors in Damascus, will serve as a pilot for possible further development of historical cases.

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