In February, 2023, Asghar Ali arrived in Madison from his home in the Punjab in Pakistan as a visiting Ph.D. student, hosted by Professor Ian Baird in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was his first time outside of Pakistan. Asghar is particularly interested in how Muslim religious leaders in the Punjab are able to influence their followers to plant trees for spiritual and environmental reasons, and he has already done considerable research on the topic in Pakistan over the last few years.
Recently, Asghar was able to expand on his research by engaging in a discussion with a Theravada Buddhist monk from Thailand named Phra Ajarn Praseut, who has lived part-time at the Lao-Thai Buddhist temple in Madison for over a decade (he also frequently returns to Thailand). Ian Baird translated between English and Lao. Both discussed how religious leaders, whether Muslim or Buddhist, use the spiritual influence that they have with their followers to promote tree planting for environmental purposes, and that the potential for such grassroots efforts have not been sufficiently promoted, whether in Pakistan, Thailand or the United States.
Asghar will be staying in Madison until he returns to Pakistan in mid-August, and would be happy to meet anyone in the department interested in discussing his research, or related research. Asghar is also interested in meeting people with other religious beliefs during his time in Madison.