In a whirl of glitz and glamour, Quilliam International’s Winter Gala brought together hundreds of people with the same interest at heart: promoting solidarity between communities.
The guests were greeted in the Ladies’ Smoking Room in the Renaissance Hotel, where they were able to see a number of items for sale at auction, and to socialise before heading to the main hall where they were seated for dinner.
Each guest was given a pin with #SOLIDARITY in English, Arabic and Hebrew, and the event included both Muslim and Jewish speakers throughout the evening. The theme of the gala was made all the more poignant by the murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh, United States, by a white supremacist last week. The evening was hosted by the ever glamorous women, Saira Khan, TV presenter and Sunday Mirror columnist, and Laura Pradelska, who has appeared in Game of Thrones.
Over the course of the evening, the guests were shown a number of videos, illustrating the organisation’s wide variety of work, such as helping with the de-radicalisation of people such as Mohammed Khalid, the youngest person to be convicted of terrorism charges in the U.S. Another exhibited Quilliam’s latest co-hosted exhibition, The Unmarked Body, curated by Rachel Maggart, exploring Arab identity in Israel, which may currently be seen in Jerusalem.
Survivors of extremist violence, Mindu Hornick, 90, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, and Ahmed Nawaz, 17, who survived a shooting in his school in Pakistan, and who tour the country together, drew a standing ovation. Simone Rodan-Benzaqu, directress of the French branch of the American Jewish Committee, reminded the guests of the rising tide of anti-semitism in the world while director of the U.S. branch of Quilliam International, Mohammed Fraser-Rahim, Founder, Maajid Nawaz, and President, Noman Benotman, highlighted in their speeches the reasons why an organisation such as Quilliam is vital to combat extremism.
The evening closed with a performance by Mira Awad, an Arab Israeli singer from the Galilee. She performed a number of songs, including one poem by Mahmoud Darwish which she put to music.
The Gala showcased the number of people that are willing to put ideology and preconceived notions of identity and belonging behind them and come together in solidarity. Yet it also showed the amount of work that is needed still in order to combat extremism and make the world a more peaceful place.