British Council Shifts Focus to Muslims

The British Council, the state-funded body that promotes British culture overseas, is shifting the focus to Muslim countries in an effort to bridge the widening gap between the West and the Muslim world.

British Council Shifts Focus to Muslims

"We are trying to bridge a gap that has probably always been there," Martin Davidson, Director-General designate of the British Council, told The Times.

"We are just identifying it more clearly than probably we have done before," he added.

"We started a year ago to ask the question: given the gap in trust that is becoming increasingly well-documented between Britain and the Muslim world, what are we going to do to react to that," said Davidson.

The Council, founded in 1934 to promote national culture, education, science and technology, will divert £7.5 million — nearly a third of the public money it spends in Europe — to Muslim countries stretching east from Saudi Arabia to Kazakhstan.

Iraq and Afghanistan are two of the fifteen countries that will receive a 50 percent increase in funding.

The Reconnect program includes joint projects, to the tune of £20 million, with religious schools in Pakistan "aimed at young people susceptible to extremism."

"Many aspects of our society are very attractive to people in the Islamic world, but there is a widening gap of trust," said Davidson.

The changes will come into effect this year.

A gap of trust has been widening between the Muslim world and the West since the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

A recent poll has showed that both Muslims and Westerners shared a negative view of each others.

No Europe

Under the new course, the council will close half of its European offices in favor of stretching its activities in the Muslim world, including in Finland, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Slovakia and all three Baltic states.

It will also scrap traditional arts activities on the continent, such as orchestral tours and artistic commissions.

British Council libraries will be closed unless they can raise revenue by running their own education courses.

Davidson, who succeeds Sir David Green as Director-General on April 2, said Europeans who wanted to learn about Britain were mostly doing so over the Internet.

He said European projects would now be multilateral rather than bilateral.

The initiative is prompted by changes in policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which gives the council £186 million of taxpayers' money each year.

"This is the most significant shift certainly since the fall of the Berlin Wall and probably longer," Davidson said.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16