Riz Ahmed, Jameela Jamil Pull Out of Gates Foundation Event Awarding Modi

Ahmed, the first Emmy-winning actor of Asian descent, has been a key voice in speaking out against Islamophobia and discrimination, while Jamil is an outspoken advocate for stamping out body shaming.

New Delhi: Joining a chorus of voices that have out forth strong opposition against news that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to be awarded by the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan later this month are Hollywood actors Riz Ahmed and Jameela Jamil.

The Gates Foundation has confirmed that the two actors have pulled out of the fourth annual GoalKeepers Award ceremony where Modi is scheduled to receive the the ‘Global Goalkeeper Award’. Though no reason has been supplied, it is being speculated that the decision was taken in response to the ongoing situation in Jammu and Kashmir where an indefinite unofficial curfew and communication clampdown has cut Kashmiris off from the rest of the world for well over a month.

Ahmed and Jamil’s decision was initially tweeted by journalist Azad Essa on Monday.

Academics and activists have been trying to convince Gates Foundation to withdraw Modi’s award. There is  speculation that New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may have also pulled out of the event.

So far, 90 million toilets have been built to eliminate open defecation by October 2, 2019 and currently 98% of India’s villages have rural sanitation coverage instead of 38% four years ago.

Ahmed has been a key voice in speaking out against Islamophobia and discrimination, and recently took to Twitter to highlight an instance of “everyday racism” his brother encountered while on a trip to Australia. The first Emmy-winning actor of Asian descent, he is known for his role as Nasir Khan in the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries The Night Of. He also played Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and starred alongside Tom Hardy in Marvel blockbuster Venom last year.

Jamil is an outspoken advocate for stamping out impossible beauty standards and body shaming. She stars as philanthropist-socialite Tahani Al-Jamil on the hit NBC series The Good Place, Michael Schur’s hilarious existential comedy about the afterlife. She’s also

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The award ceremony, which is scheduled for September 25-26, is to go on as planned at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. The annual awards, in five categories, are presented to leaders and individuals for their efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The categories are Progress, Changemaker, Campaign, Goalkeepers Voice and the Global Goalkeeper.

“These awards tell the extraordinary stories of remarkable individuals taking action to bring the Global Goals to life and help achieve them by 2030,” the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said, adding that this year, Goalkeepers will focus on the challenge of fighting global inequality.

In previous years, speakers at the Goalkeepers event have included former US president Barack Obama, French President Emmanuel Macron, Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Nobel Peace Prize winners like Malala Yousafzai and Nadia Murad.

This year, speakers at the event include the Foundation co-chairs, Bill and Melinda Gates, Mohammed and UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore.

Modi will be attending the high-level UNGA session that begins later this month at the world body’s headquarters. He will address the world leaders at the 193-member UNGA’s general debate on September 27.

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The prime minister will also be the keynote speaker at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum on September 25. During his visit to New York, Modi will also inaugurate the ‘Gandhi Peace Garden’, an innovative initiative to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150 birth anniversary.

Before arriving in New York for the UNGA session, Modi will visit Houston where he will address the Indian-American community on September 22.

‘Howdy, Modi!’, the Indian-American community mega-event, will be hosted by the Texas India Forum, Houston-based non-profit. The event is expected to be attended by tens of thousands of people as well as influential American lawmakers and political leaders.

(With inputs from PTI)