AFTAB AHMAD MALIK is the former Executive Director of the Zaytuna Institute, (Berkeley, California) the West’s foremost Muslim theological college. He is a former Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Ethnicity and Culture at the University of Birmingham and currently, a designated “Global Expert” on Muslim affairs for the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations.
He has been called a “first rate scholar” by John L. Esposito, “a rising intellectual star” by The Muslim World Book Review, an “expert [on] British Islam” by World Defense Review columnist Abigail Esman and as someone “at the cutting edge of research on Islam and at the heart of a group of young, emerging Muslim scholars, as well as established Muslim scholars,” by Professor Philip Lewis at the department of Peace Studies (University of Bradford).
Aftab’s academic and scholarly research has led him to become much sought after for his advice on contemporary events and working on strategies to tackle Muslim radicalisation. He has worked with a number of British local authorities and governmental departments, including the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Office of Security and Counter-terrorism (OSCT) and media outlets such as the BBC, Panorama, National Geographic and the Voice of America.
Since 2002, Aftab has been an adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) the Friends of Islam. The APPG is a dedicated cross-party group of parliamentarians (140) who are committed to building a greater understanding between lawmakers and the Islamic World directly. In 2006, Aftab was identified for his academic rigour and selected as one among fifteen individuals across Europe by the C-100 group (Council of 100 Leaders) to discuss the State of Islam-West Dialogue at the World Economic Forum. In 2007, at the request of HE Jorge Sampaio, former president of Portugal, Aftab became a designated permanent “global expert” on Muslim affairs for the United Nations’ Alliance of Civilizations, in recognition of his work and expertise in the area of Muslim theology.
In July and November 2008, Aftab travelled to Egypt and Turkey with five other British-Muslims as part of the Foreign Commonwealth Office’s “Projecting British-Islam” delegation, an initiative which provides a platform for British Muslim leaders to challenge misconceptions overseas about the reality of life in Britain.
In the same year, Aftab was selected to accompany then Foreign Secretary, David Milliband to Pakistan, where they engaged with students, press, scholars and academics, debating British foreign policy. In 2008, the Home office selected Aftab along with five other British-Muslim leaders to meet six prominent American-Muslims in an attempt to establish a peer to peer network to encourage the exchange of knowledge/best practice to assist and strengthen their respective sectors and address the concerns of the Pakistani British community. This was part of the “Transatlantic Dialogue.”
In June 2009, Aftab was formally invited by the British Ambassador to Syria to engage with 300 prominent Muslim leaders and scholars from Syria, the United Kingdom and the wider Islamic world to share understandings of Islamic theology. Later the same year, he was also invited by the British Ambassador to Berlin to partake in a high-profile Expert Seminar on “Countering Islamist Extremism,” in Berlin, along with then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, Germany’s Interior Minister and the Dutch Interior Minister. In 2010, Aftab was invited to address Her Majesty’s Government’s Public Affairs officers who are posted throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia to discuss the impact of the escalating Gaza crises on Muslims in Britain.
Aftab is currently an advisory board member for the British Consulate’s “Our Shared Future” project based in Washington DC, which aims to improve the public conversation about Muslims and intercultural relations in the US and Europe. The Advisory Board is responsible for providing advice and guidance regarding the project’s strategic direction, scope, outreach and future development. The Board’s recommendations focus on expanding and mobilizing the Opinion Leaders network as well as on ensuring the long-term viability of the project. Other board members include Eboo Patel, Professor Richard Bulliet, Professor John L. Esposito and Ambassador Cythnthia Schneider.
Aftab established Canopus Consulting in 2009 and currently serves as its Executive Director. It is a specialist research and consultancy organization in matters pertaining to Muslims living in Britain specifically, and in the West generally. Its areas of expertise include theology, interfaith engagement, Islamic law and Muslim media. Through its extensive networks of national and international authorities, Canopus Consulting convenes forums that bring together experts to address, discuss and deliberate upon critical issues that pose significant challenges to Muslims in the contemporary world.
Aftab established Amal Press (www.amalpress.com) in the summer of 2001. It is an independent publishing house that specialises in the revival and retrieval of classical Islamic literature pertaining to theology, law, jurisprudence and Sufism. It has published on average, two titles per year and continues to draw critical acclaim from academics from around the world. As its Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief, Aftab selects and commissions publications that facilitate a better understand of normative Islam in the modern world, while at the same time, better enable Muslims to navigate the turbulent tides of modernity. Its publications have been used regularly in university graduate courses on the Muslim world and politics, and Aftab’s own writings have proven to be popular with many young adults.
Aftab’s articles and op-eds have appeared in a number of newspapers, on-line journals and magazines and have been translated into several languages including Arabic, Urdu, French, Turkish and Indonesian. Professor John L. Esposito, one of the world’s pre-eminent scholars on the Muslim world has called him a “first rate scholar.” Reza Aslan, author of the LA Times, Best Book of the Year, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, regards Aftab as “more than a mere expert on British Islam. He is a shining example of the peace, pluralism, and tolerance at the heart of Islam.” As an editor of several anthologies tackling war, theology and terrorism, Aftab has earned accolades from The Moscow Times, to the BBC, from Tel Aviv University to Berkeley University. Aftab holds an MA (with distinction) in International Studies from the University of Birmingham, where he served as a Visiting Fellow at The Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture between 2006 and 2009.
Zaytuna Institute (www.zaytunacollege.org) is recognized throughout the world and in the United States as a fully-fledged Islamic theological seminary. Among its academic board of advisors are some of the most prominent scholars in the Muslim world, including Dr. Ali Jum’a, current Mufti of Egypt, and Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, the Muslim world’s leading authority on Islamic jurisprudence, as well as several professors of Islamic Studies at universities such as Temple University, University of California-Berkeley and Duke University. The core teachings provide valid Islamic instruction that is compatible with citizenry in the United States (and the West in general) and enables Muslims to better understand their religion and its flexibilities as well as their native or adopted land and its highly valued principles without suffering from any dissonance in regards to allegiance and loyalty. As the CEO, Aftab was in charge of its seven-figure annual operating budget, ten staff members, and its five full time scholars-in-residence.
Aftab also served as a convener of leaders and organizations around issues and opportunities of common interest. A critical component of this role was to be a strategic thinker and inspiring communicator, especially as related to fundraising and developing comprehensive partnerships with donors, service organizations and recruitment partners.