- POSTED: 30 Sep 2013 17:02
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Winner of Arab Idol talent competition, Mohammed Assaf, brought his thumping Palestinian beats to the Netherlands in his European debut that had his audience dancing in the ailses and waving national flags.
NETHERLANDS - When the winner of Arab Idol talent competition, Mohammed Assaf, brought his thumping Palestinian beats to the Netherlands in his European debut, refugees and diplomats alike were dancing in the aisles and waving the flag of Palestine and many other Arab nations.
Mohammed Assaf, 24, became a national hero and a rare symbol of Palestinian unity when he won the pan-Arab contest in June after transfixing millions of television viewers with his soaring renditions of Arab love ballads and patriotic Palestinian songs.
"He is an example for Arab youth, he managed to make his dream reality despite the difficulties," said Ahmed, a 17-year-old Palestinian living in The Netherlands.
"What's amazing is that a Palestinian can be talked about in a positive way. That doesn't happen often," he said.
"Thank you Netherlands for welcoming the Arab Idol," said Palestinian ambassador Nabil Abuznaid as he introduced Assaf at the Hague town hall, hailing his "message of peace".
In August, Israel took the exceptional step of allowing Assaf to move from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank as a "humanitarian gesture".
"I am happy, this is an opportunity to be in front of a non-Arab audience, and that's a good thing," Assaf told AFP in an interview before the concert.
"Maybe there are different audiences, or the techniques are different in the Middle East and in Europe or America but what I know is music is something that when people first hear, they love."
Born to Palestinian parents in Misrata, Libya, Assaf grew up in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in southern Gaza before winning the 2013 edition of Arab Idol in Beirut in June.
The contest in Beirut transfixed viewers with Assaf's story which saw him sneaking out of Gaza, nearly missing his initial audition in Cairo and then only making it through after a fellow Gazan pulled out.
His victory sparked scenes of jubilation across the Palestinian territories. The week after he won, Assaf performed in front of 40,000 fans in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Assaf will meet members of Netherlands' Palestinian community before heading to Italy for another European concert.