Our Podcast

This isn’t your typical PR podcast. In an increasingly polarised world, these are the stories that need to be told.

Hosted by Muddassar Ahmed, our Managing Partner, PR Unmasked goes beyond news headlines to deliver a fresh perspective on current affairs. Insightful analysis is delivered to you bi-weekly from Unitas’ large network of journalists, academics, politicians, celebrities, activists and more.

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Season 2

Episode 11: Human Rights and Foreign Policy – Lessons from the Uighur and Rohingya Struggles

This is the fourth part of our four-episode series where we take a look at America’s policy challenges for the next decade. In this episode, hosted by the Concordia Forum at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington D.C., Muddassar Ahmed is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the disparity between national and international agendas and the ways in which human rights abuses should be dealt with by global actors, all through the lens of the Uighur and Rohingya struggles.

Our panellists include Arsalan Suleman (Counsel, Foley Hoag LLP), Rushan Abbas (Founder & Executive Director of Campaign for Uighurs), Yasmin Ullah (Rohingya Social Justice Activist), and Rayhan Asat (Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center & Middle East Programs, Atlantic Council), with opening remarks by Uzra Zeya (Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy & Human Rights, US State Department).

This panel is led by Arif Hyder Ali, who is the Co-chair of International Arbitration Practice at Dechert LLP. He has served as lead trial counsel in international investment and commercial arbitrations under all of the major international arbitral regimes, the governing laws of over 50 civil and common law jurisdictions and international law.

The episode was done in partnership with the Atlantic Council, international affairs think tank galvanizing U.S. leadership and engagement in the world.

Season 2 previous episodes

Episode 10: All Eyes on Afghanistan – Foreign Policy Challenges After the U.S. Withdrawal

This is the third part of our four-episode series where we take a look at America’s policy challenges for the next decade. In this episode, hosted by the Concordia Forum at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington D.C., Muddassar Ahmed is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of American troops and what foreign actors, such as the U.S., the OIC and neighbouring Pakistan, can do to support the Afghan people under the Taliban rule.

Our panellists include Haris Tarin (Senior Policy Advisor at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), Hassan Abedin (Former Senior Advisor to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation), and Hassan Abbas (Author & Distinguished Professor of International Relations at the Near East South Asia Strategic Studies Centre).

This panel is led by Kamran Bokhari, a national security and foreign-policy specialist at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute, who previously served as the coordinator for Central Asia studies at the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. The episode was done in partnership with the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank galvanizing U.S. leadership and engagement in the world.

Episode 9: Being a Western Muslim – How to Build a New Political Landscape Inclusive for All

This is the second part of our four-episode series where we take a look at America’s policy challenges for the next decade. In this episode, hosted by the Concordia Forum at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington D.C., Muddassar Ahmed is joined by a panel of experts to discuss what it means to be a Western Muslim in today’s political climate, how to make young Muslims feel seen and heard, and how to empower Muslims within Western society.

Our panellists include Farah Pandith (Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations), Salam al-Marayati (President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council), Sayyid Mohammad Baqir Kashmiri (Vice President and Religious Affairs Director at I.M.A.M.), and Debbie Almontaser (Founder of the Khalil Gibran International Academy).

This panel is led by Arshia Wajid, Founder of American Muslim Health Professionals, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Muslim health professionals to improve the quality and delivery of health services to all Americans. The episode was done in partnership with the Atlantic Council, international affairs think tank galvanizing U.S. leadership and engagement in the world.

Episode 8: Tackling Hate Online – How Policies Can Limit the Spread of Disinformation

This is the first part of our four-episode series where we take a look at America’s policy challenges for the next decade. In this episode, hosted by the Concordia Forum at the Atlantic Council headquarters in Washington D.C., Muddassar Ahmed is joined by a panel of experts to explore online censorship, hate speech, and the challenges to freedom of expression.

Our panellists include Alex Johnson (the Deputy Director of U.S. Foreign Policy and Programs at the Open Society Foundations), Graham Brookie (the Senior Director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council), Keith Ellison (the current 30th Attorney General of Minnesota and the first Muslim ever elected to the U.S. Congress), as well as George Selim (the Senior Vice President for National Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League).

This discussion is led by Katherine Brown, President and CEO of Global Ties U.S., the largest and oldest citizen diplomacy network in the United States. The episode was done in partnership with the Atlantic Council, international affairs think tank galvanizing U.S. leadership and engagement in the world.

Episode 7: Countering Far-Right Extremism – Challenging Islamophobia in Norway

Recent elections in Norway ushered in the most ethnically-diverse parliament in the nation’s history, signalling the shift in its core demographic. Islam, in particular, has been on the rise, making it the second-largest religion in the Scandinavian country after Christianity.

In this episode hosted by the Concordia Forum in the Nobel Peace Center, Muddassar Ahmed, joined by a panel of experts, explores the contributions and impact of Muslims on this new and ever-changing Norwegian society. Our panelists include Naz Shah (Member of the UK Parliament for Bradford West), Shazia Majid (Senior Investigative Journalist at VG, a leading Norwegian newspaper), Mohammad Usman Rana (Norwegian Columnist, Commentator, and Doctor).

This discussion is moderated by Zahed Amanullah (Chair of the Concordia Forum). The Concordia Forum is a Global Network of Muslim leaders, activists, artists and thinkers, focused on strengthening Muslim communities’ role in the West. Each year the forum focuses on a particular country to go beyond the headlines and explore the depth of Muslim successes and achievements in the region.

Episode 6: Founding Imam Connect – The Journey of an Entrepreneur During a Global Crisis

In this episode of PR Unmasked, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with Abby El-Asmar, an entrepreneur and the founder of Ummahpreneur, to discuss Imam Connect and his unexpected entrepreneur journey during a global crisis.

Muddassar founded Imam Connect during the pandemic to answer the growing need for religious services while mosques across Britain were shut. Since then, Imam Connect has grown into a global network of religious service providers that has changed the lives of countless individuals who didn’t have or otherwise wouldn’t have access to a mosque.

Every single day Imam Connect attracts new users looking for a particular service, ranging from marriage and career counseling to Quran lessons and Nikkah – and much more. Since its inception, the platform now has over hundred service providers offering their expertise from around the globe.

This episode was produced in partnership with Ummahpreneur, a community of over 1800 Muslim business owners with a weekly podcast mentoring fellow entrepreneurs to succeed in their business ventures and to become leaders in their respective fields.

Episode 5: Beyond the Headlines – Rewriting the Story of Huma Abedin

In this PR Unmasked exclusive, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with Huma Abedin, the Chief of Staff for Hillary Clinton, to discuss her personal journey on the frontline of American politics.

Abedin has been Clinton’s right-hand woman for over two decades. Initially, she began her career as an intern in the White House, later serving as a personal advisor to Clinton during her successful campaign to become the New York Senator.

She also worked for both of Clinton’s presidential campaigns: in 2008 when Clinton lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, and in 2016 when she won the nomination – the first woman to do so – later losing to Donald Trump.

After being behind the scenes for many years, Abedin is finally telling her side of the story with her memoir, “Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds”. In this episode we are also joined by politicians and campaigners from Unitas’ network.

Episode 4: Capturing Concordia – How a Global Network of Muslim Leaders came to be

Over a decade ago, the Concordia Forum was born out of an idea to create a place where Muslim change makers could come together to address the issues they are facing in their respective communities.

Since then, the Concordia Forum has become the world’s largest retreat of global cross-sector leaders from Muslim backgrounds. Each year, hundreds of Concordians are meeting at exclusive retreats across Europe and North America to promote social justice and improve social mobility.

In this episode, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with some of the individuals who have been instrumental for the forum to discuss the profound impact of Concordia on transforming lives. We are joined by:

  • Shiraz Ahmad (Co-Founder of the Concordia Forum & Managing Partner at Unitas Communications)
  • Zahed Amanullah (Chair of the Concordia Forum, Director at Unitas Communications & Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue)
  • Salma Hasan Ali (Vice-Chair of the Concordia Forum, Storyteller & Author of ‘30 Days: Stories of Gratitude, Traditions, and Wisdom’)

Episode 3: The Fall of Afghanistan – How Pakistan should Navigate the Shift in Geopolitics

In August the Taliban forces seized Kabul, taking control of Afghanistan nearly two decades after they were driven out of the capital city by US troops – a takeover that triggered geo-political uncertainty and a major humanitarian crisis.

With an escalation of violence in Afghanistan, the region is faced with new realities and challenges, Pakistan being on the front line of the unfolding chaos with Afghans seeking refuge across the border.

In this PR Unmasked exclusive, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with, Moeed Yusuf, the National Security advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, to discuss the political future of the region, by exploring Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and how the West should respond to the new reality of Taliban rule.

The conversation is also joined by several key individuals from Unitas’ network including members of the UK Parliament and key foreign policy and security experts.

Episode 2: Britain After Brexit – How to Move on from the Break-Up
Five years after the British public voted to leave the European Union, the UK is still shaking off the Brexit turmoil. But are we closer to knowing what life outside the EU means for everyday lives inside the UK? 
 
In this episode of PR Unmasked, moderated by Penny Richards (Managing Director of the Aspen Initiative UK), Muddassar Ahmed discusses the aftermath of the Brexit referendum and how to navigate the tumultuous political arena marked by social and cultural divisions. We are joined by an expert panel including:
 
  • Peter Ricketts (Former British Diplomat, Member of the House of Lords & Author of ‘Hard Choices: What Britain Does Next’)
  • Ella Whelan (Freelance Journalist, Columnist for spiked & Author of ‘What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism’)
This discussion was organised by the Bradford Literature Festival, an annual celebration of the written and spoken word to promote literature, arts, and culture.
 

Episode 1: Germany Post-Pandemic – How to Navigate the End of the Merkel Era

Next week federal elections will take place in Germany, ending the era of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The elections come at a crucial time as this summer severe floods have devastated the country, making climate politics a central question in the upcoming elections.

In this PR Unmasked exclusive, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with Omid Nouripour, Member of German Federal Parliament and the Greens’ spokesperson on Foreign Policy, to discuss the climate crisis and the future of German political landscape after Merkel.

The conversation is also joined by several key individuals from Unitas’ network including researchers and academics.

Season 1

Episode 13: Battle Against Racial Injustice – How George Floyd’s Murder Shifted America

On April 20th, 2021 the Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court found Derek Chauvin, the police officer who killed George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, guilty on three charges. Leading the team that prosecuted Chauvin was the Attorney General of Minnesota and former Congressman Keith Ellison.

Keith was the first Muslim to be elected to Congress and to serve as an Attorney General as well as the first African-American representative from Minnesota. In this PR Unmasked exclusive Muddassar Ahmed sits down with Keith to discuss his battle against racial injustice in the US, the successful prosecution of the Derek Chauvin case, and the importance of building durable transatlantic partnerships on the issue of racial justice.

In this episode, Keith offers us insights from the prosecution and the public outcry to end police brutality sparked by the murder of George Floyd. The opening remarks are delivered by Lisa Nandy, the UK’s Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The conversation is also joined by several key individuals from Unitas’ network including politicians, campaigners, policy makers and many more.

Episode 12: Searching for Justice – How the Case of Soleiman Faqiri Became a Fight for Mental Health

In December 2016, Soleiman Faqiri suffered fatal injuries in Ontario jail whilst waiting for a mental health assessment. No guards were charged for his death.

Soleiman’s case serves as an example of a man who lost his life in an institution that was supposed to take care of him. Now years later his family is still searching for justice.

This episode of PR Unmasked brings together activists, journalists, and human rights advocates from Canada and United States to discuss accountability in the criminal justice system and the treatment of people suffering with mental illness. Our panellists include:

  • Yusuf Faqiri (Soleiman’s brother & founder of the Justice for Soli movement)
  • Michelle Shephard (investigative journalist & story editor of the ‘Unascertained: The case of Soleiman Faqiri podcast’)
  • Rabia Chaudry (author of a New York Times bestseller ‘Adnan’s Story’ & host of the ‘Undisclosed’ podcast)
  • Yusuf Zine (film director, actor & host of the ‘Unascertained: The case of Soleiman Faqiri’ podcast)
  • Evan Solomon (political journalist & the host of Canada’s most-watched political show ‘Question Period’)

Episode 11: The Making of Modern Malaysia – How One Man Dominated Malaysia’s Political Scene

In this episode Muddassar Ahmed sits down with Mahathir Mohamad – The man who dominated Malaysia’s political scene for over two decades.

Mahathir served as Malaysia’s Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003 and returned to power in 2018 until his shock resignation in February 2020, making him the most notable political figure Malaysia has seen since its independence from Britain in 1957.

In this PR Unmasked exclusive, Mahathir discusses his life at the centre of Malaysian politics and how his legacy as the longest-serving head of state shaped modern Malaysia among many other topics.

Episode 10: Focus on Human Rights – How an Investigation Reveals an Incendiary Picture in Israel and Palestine

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch released a report, “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”, examining the treatment of Palestinians under Israeli rule.

The report is based on in-depth research and analysis that has spanned over two years and includes case studies from across the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel.

This episode of PR Unmasked brings together both Israeli and Palestinian politicians, activists and human rights advocates to discuss the report findings. Our panellists include:

  • Kenneth Roth (Executive Director of Human Rights Watch)
  • Rashida Tlaib (US Congresswoman for Michigan)
  • Hagai El-Ad (Executive Director of Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem)
  • Farah Nabulsi (Director of the BAFTA-winning short film The Present)
  • Alon Liel (Former Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry)

Episode 9: The Present – How the Quest for an Anniversary Gift Captures the Harsh Reality of Occupation

The Present, a directorial debut by Farah Nabulsi, is a cinematic take on the harsh reality of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. The short film follows a Palestinian man named Yusef, who, along with his daughter Yasmine, travels through the West Bank to buy a wedding anniversary gift for his wife.

The film explores the politics of movement and the injustice faced by Palestinians in their day-to-day lives. It captures the struggle of completing a simple task like buying a present, whilst encountering checkpoints and soldiers as a part of life under occupation.

In this episode, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with the cast and crew of The Present along with two special guests:

  • Farah Nabulsi (Director and co-writer)
  • Mohannad Malas (Executive Producer)
  • Saleh Bakri (who portrays Yusef in the film)
  • Yusef Salaam (The Innocence Project and Exonerated Five)
  • Maryum Ali (public speaker and activist).

The Present was nominated for an Academy Award and won the BAFTA for ‘Best Short Film’ at this year’s awards.

Episode 8: The Mauritanian – How the Adaptation of Guantánamo Diary Captures an Innocent Man’s Fight for Freedom

We are back with another exclusive episode with the cast and crew of The Mauritanian, a Hollywood adaptation of the New York Times best-selling memoir “Guantánamo Diary”.

Based on the true story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the film captures an innocent man’s fight for freedom and justice after being detained and imprisoned without trial in Guantánamo Bay for 14 years.

At the Golden Globes this year, Tahar Rahim (who plays Mohamedou) was nominated for Best Actor and Jodie Foster (who plays his defence attorney) won Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for five BAFTAs.

In this episode of PR Unmasked, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with the people who brought the story to the big screen:

  • Mohamedou Ould Slahi (the film’s real-life protagonist)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays the prosecutor Stuart Couch)
  • Kevin Macdonald (Academy Award-winning director)
  • Nancy Hollander (Mohamedou’s defence attorney)

The conversation is joined by several key individuals from Unitas’ network including MPs, scholars, activists and many more.

Episode 7: Food Poverty in London – How the Covid-19 Pandemic has Devastated Food Security

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, food poverty has drastically increased across the UK, with the number of people relying on food banks skyrocketing.

Despite the end of lockdown approaching, the question of how to end food insecurity continues to linger.

In this episode of PR Unmasked, Muddassar Ahmed discusses these issues and highlights the devastating effects of Covid-19 on food security with local activists and politicians in East London including:

  • Rushanara Ali (Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow)
  • Mariam Dawood (Councillor in the London Borough of Newham)
  • Hibo Wardere (anti-FGM Campaigner and Activist)
  • Jon May (Professor at Queen Mary University and Founding Trustee of Bow Food Bank).

This discussion was organised in coordination with the Bow Food Bank, one of London’s largest independent food banks. The food bank has stayed open even during national lockdowns feeding vulnerable members of the local community.

Episode 6: How Spies Think – Ten Lessons in Intelligence

Ever wondering how spies think? In this episode, Muddassar Ahmed sits down with Sir David Omand, former Director of GCHQ, Sir David Omand, who is now sharing lessons that he learned during his extraordinary career.

Omand discusses his new book, “How Spies Think: Ten Lessons in Intelligence”,and expands on its goal to empower people to make better decisions by learning how intelligence analysts think.

Listen this podcast to learn about the future of the British Intelligence, understand how to discern the truth in an age of disinformation, and see where our priorities should lie in helping the next generation think critically!

Episode 5: Focus on Foreign Policy – How Malaysia is Balancing Between the US-China Rivalry

As governments across the globe come to terms with the economic crisis induced by COVID-19, countries are drawing up new roadmaps for foreign policy using lessons from the pandemic.

In this episode of PR Unmasked, Muddassar Ahmed looks at Malaysia and explores the country’s response to the global crisis as well as its strategic position in-between the US-China rivalry.

The conversation also looks at Malaysia’s future, including the relationship with ASEAN, China’s posturing in the South China Sea and the Uyghur humanitarian crisis among other topics with a panel of experts including:

  • Tricia Yeoh (CEO of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs)
  • Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Albar (Former Cabinet Minister of Malaysia for Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Justice)
  • Dato’ Mohamad Abu Bakar (Professor at the Department of International and Strategic Studies at the University of Malaya).

This discussion was co-organised by the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC-IIUM).

Episode 4: The Mauritanian – How the Story of Guantánamo Diary was Brought to the Big Screen

Imprisoned in Guantánamo Bay camp without charge for 14 years based on a confession obtained through torture, a new movie, The Mauritanian, tells Mouhamedou Ould Salahi’s story.

With hundreds of voices from Guantánamo still silenced, Salahi groundbreaking story gives insight into the injustices and psychological toll that prisoners have endured.

In a PR Unmasked exclusive, co-hosted by Rabia Chaudry (New York Times bestseller Adnan’s Story & Undisclosed podcast), Muddassar Ahmed speaks with the cast of The Mauritanian, including:

  • Golden Globe winner Jodie Foster,
  • Academy Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald,
  • Golden Globe nominee Tahar Rahim,
  • The real Mohamedou Ould Salahi
  • Mohamedou’s Defence Attorney, Nancy Hollander

Check out what the cast and the crew of The Mauritanian had to say about their experiences of making the film and what the future holds for the ongoing fight for justice!

Episode 3: Beyond Protest – How to Create a Transatlantic Plan for Racial Justice and Equity

The brutal killing of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, transcended national borders and sparked protests across the world.

Given the shared history of slavery, racism, institutional prejudice and systemic inequity across the Atlantic, seizing this moment to forge transatlantic agreements to address the legacy of racism and social injustice, is a must.

In this episode, Muddassar Ahmed explores these themes and more with leading American policy experts including:

  • Alex Johnson (Chief of Staff, U.S. Helsinki Commission),
  • Youshea Berry (Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Legislation & Policy, USAID)
  • Mischa Thompson (Director of Global Partnerships, Policy & Innovation, U.S. Helsinki Commission)

Episode 2: Islam in France - How Muslim Identity Became Politicised in the Republic's Quest for Secularism

France has lauded itself for guarding the Republic’s principle of Laïcité (secularism) fiercely. However, this has come to the detriment of French Muslims who argue that their identity is becoming hyper-politicised.

Further, the question of Islam’s compatibility with “French” values has re-entered the public discourse. Yet, Muslims themselves are often left out of these critical conversations.

In this episode of PR Unmasked, moderated by Salam Al-Marayati (President of the Muslim Public Affairs Council), Muddassar Ahmed discusses the French Muslim community’s future, the correct response in a climate of increased stigmatisation, and France’s hyper-politicised battle against radical Islam with expert panellists including:

  • Myriam Francois (Journalist & Research Associate at the Centre of Islamic Studies, SOAS University of London)
  • Melyssa Haffaf (Program Director of the Gender + Justice Initiative at Georgetown University)
  • Yasser Louati (human rights and civil liberties activist with a focus on Islamophobia).


Episode 1: The Road to 270 - How Muslim Americans Helped Secure Biden's Victory

From the enactment of the Muslim Ban in 2017, to the continues attacks and vilification of American Muslims in the Media, there is no doubt that the previous US Administration’s actions mobilised Muslims to act!

In the debut episode of PR Unmasked, Muddassar Ahmed discusses the impact of the record-breaking Muslim voter turnout in the US 2020 Election with five Muslim change-makers including”

  • Farooq Mitha (Biden Election Campaign)
  • Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh (Campus Vote Project)
  • Wa’el Alzayat (Emgage Foundation)
  • Salam Al-Marayati (Muslim Public Affairs Council)
  • Salima Susswell (Biden For President campaign)

Listen to the podcast now to learn more about the vital role that American Muslims played in helped defeat populism!