Affinity’s first-ever Eid Dinner was held this year with SBS at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth and welcomed guests from both organisations. Also present at the inaugural dinner were guests from federal and state politics, public service, business, academia and various faith communities.

The MC for the evening was the familiar David Basheer from SBS’s “The World Game”. The program commenced with a welcome and acknowledgement of country by The Hon Linda Burney MP. Guests then listened to the recitation of a short passage from the Holy Qur’an.

Before dinner was served, the co-hosts Ahmet Keskin (Executive Director – Affinity) and Peter Khalil (Director of Corporate Affairs, Strategy and Communication – SBS) officially welcomed all the guests. Mr Keskin stressed that Affinity’s aim is to foster mutual respect, understanding and acceptance between the Muslim and non-Muslim members of our society and the Islamic Eid is one of the great opportunities to utilise for the realisation of this aim. Mr Khalil reiterated SBS’s commitment to champion multiculturalism and cotribute to social cohesion and inclusion through its unique broadcasting strategy. Mentioning that he was saved by a Muslim “auntie” when he was a kid, Mr Khalil emphasised the importance of uniting under the common denominator of humanity and seeing our differences as diversity rather than causes for division.

Following dinner was the thought-provoking keynote address by the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Professor Gillian Triggs. Titled “Freedom of speech and hate speech: can a balance be struck?”, the address explored some of the issues that arise when the fundamental right to freedom of speech collides with the fundamental right not to be subject to racial or religious abuse. Professor Triggs commented that the right to freedom of speech must be protected but the fact that we see it “all too often abused” in various public spaces is the reason for the significant public debates about possible limits to the fundamental right or the responsibilities that come with its exercise. She stressed that recognition of the usually non-absolute nature of freedoms and the need for balance when exercising them, popularly summarised as “one person’s freedom ends where another person’s right begins”, is not a new idea or a marginally-held view. The AHRC President concluded by emphasising that the solution to the complex issue is not as simple as producing new legislation and suggested the fundamental value of respect, the “simple and underestimated idea that we should respect all human beings”, as “the means by which apparently conflicting rights can be reconciled”.

Afterwards was some entertainment, first in the form of a live musical performance by Levent Artan, then a conversation/interview between David Basheer and former Socceroo Aytek Genc, which felt like watching live a snippet of “The World Game”.

The fruitful program concluded with Mr Keskin offering a vote of thanks to everyone involved in the program and wishing them an Eid Mubarak (a blessed Eid).