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Awards honor those who have helped bridge the gap in understanding between the Muslim world and the West

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Awards honor those who have helped bridge the gap in understanding between the Muslim world and the West

Voting has commenced for the inaugural Al Arabiya News (English) ‘Cross-Cultural Communication Award’, which honors those who have done the most to bridge the gap in understanding between the Muslim world and the West.

Visitors to, the English-language service of the Al Arabiya News Channel, have the opportunity to select the individuals who have fostered ties or highlighted vital issues at a particularly divisive time for the Arab world.

Voting – via Twitter Polls – spans four categories: The award for highlighting the plight of refugees; for efforts combating violent extremism; for fighting Islamophobia; and for portraying a positive image of Arab society.

Four consecutive daily polls, in which voters will select one of three candidates in each of the categories, began at 4pm on Friday 11 December.

The three nominees in the first category – the award for highlighting the plight of refugees – are all individuals who have helped shed light on the struggles of those fleeing war and conflict.

They include Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned while fleeing war-torn Syria with his family. The picture of his body washed up on a Turkish beach shocked the world – and dramatically changed Western perceptions about the refugee crisis.

The other nominees are: Fethullah Üzümcüoğlu and Esra Polat, the Turkish bride and groom who spent their wedding banquet money to feed 4,000 Syrian refugees; and Abdul Halim al-Attar, who was pictured selling pens on a Beirut street, attracting thousands in donations from across the world, which he used to set up a restaurant employing fellow refugees.

Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Al Arabiya News (English), says each of the nominees had had a great impact, in different ways, in highlighting the chronic problems faced by refugees and displaced people from Syria and elsewhere.

“The Cross-Cultural Communication Award honors those from outside the realm of politics who have helped Western audiences get a better insight into the often-misunderstood Arab world,” he says.

“The inclusion of Aylan Kurdi as part of these honors helps us remember his tragic tale – and also the very real impact his harrowing picture had in shaping Europe’s reaction to the refugee crisis,” adds Abbas.

Readers can vote for the nominees using Twitter’s new polling feature, which was universally launched in October.

“Twitter has always been a platform for open communication in real time, which is why partnering with Al Arabiya News on this exclusive initiative makes perfect sense for us,” says Kinda Ibrahim, director of media partnerships for Twitter MENA.

“Through Twitter Polls users will be able to vote for the individuals who have achieved the biggest impact in bridging the gap between the Muslim world and the West,” she adds.

The four nominees receiving the largest number of votes – one from each category – will be further shortlisted by a panel of regional diplomats, political analysts, leading academics and writers. The overall Cross-Cultural Communication Award will be announced on Thursday 16 Dec, the culmination of the second Al Arabiya News Global Discussions Forum.

This invite-only forum includes four ‘Global Discussions’ on topics ranging from the War on Terror to how ISIS is portrayed in the media. There will also be Q&A sessions and special panels.

“The two-day Al Arabiya News Global Discussions Forum will expand on the key issue highlighted by the awards: how the Arab world is perceived in the West. And the forum will look at the problems that remain, and how understanding can be enhanced,” says Abbas.

Full coverage of both the Cross-Cultural Communication Award and Al Arabiya News Global Discussions Forum will be available at


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