Beginning 2015 with Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan
Islamic Relief kicked off 2015 with a stimulating event in distinguished company – a dinner and debate about political and humanitarian challenges in the Middle East, featuring Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan and Sir Alan Duncan as keynote speakers.
The event was co-hosted by Islamic Relief and the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) at Church House in Westminster, with our friend Mehdi Hasan – then Political Director of the Huffington Post UK and now with Al Jazeera in the United States – as an accomplished and good-humoured chair.
The challenges of the Middle East are formidable, with a record 29 million people in the region requiring humanitarian assistance in the region last year. There is no end in sight either to the bloody conflicts in Syria and Iraq or to the political stand-off between Israel and the Palestinians.
Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan provided a vastly experienced take on the situation from the region itself, while former Minister of State for International Development Sir Alan Duncan spoke from the perspective of a friend of the region both inside and outside government in the UK. There were also speeches from Islamic Relief’s CEO, Dr Mohammed Ashmawey, and Chris Doyle, Director of Caabu.
After the speeches Mehdi Hasan chaired a lively question-and answer session, enabling an enthusiastic audience of academics, community leaders, diplomats and activists to join the debate.
His Royal Highness referred to London as the ‘de facto intellectual capital of the Middle East’, sending a ripple of laughter through the audience, but reminded us of the scale of the challenges the region faces and the importance of the topic under discussion. He spoke passionately about the situation in the Middle East, with a particular emphasis on the region’s often neglected human, intellectual and creative capital.
Sir Alan Duncan spoke of the significant contribution that Muslims play in British society, and challenged all politicians to engage with the Muslim community more seriously. He spoke of his personal regret that the UK Government had not supported Palestinian statehood in the recent UN vote, and called for a change of heart.
Our CEO, Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, spoke passionately about how “much more needs to be done to improve humanitarian access, to protect civilians.” We also heard from Chris Doyle from Caabu, who highlighted the human cost of conflict and urged political progress to address humanitarian concerns.
It was an engaging and uplifting evening, with valuable contributions from all speakers and guests. As Mehdi Hasan said in his concluding remarks, the speakers “left us all wanting more”.
Take a look at our video to catch the highlights of the night: