Paul Smith on British Identity and Interfaith Relations

In this interview, Paul Smith, Director of British Council USA, discusses British identity and Islam. He starts by expressing his hopes and optimism about Britain standing for values such as democracy, tolerance, and human rights as a multifarious, multicultural, and multi-constituted nation, whose identity has always included diversity and has evolved as more and more people stretched its definition.

Smith believes that if relations between Muslim and non-Muslim leaders are to be improved, both sides have to “listen.” They have to try to fundamentally understand the position of the other side even when the other side seems positively demonic. Smith recalls his collaboration with Al-Azhar University in Cairo and talks about how the Great Imam of Al-Azhar was eager to facilitate the understanding of the non-Islamic world and various religions such as Judaism through establishing Ph.D programs.  Living half his life in Islamic communities, Smith claims that he has never met an intolerant Muslim person who has approved of any of the horrific events of the past decade. He believes that values such as tolerance, social equity, justice, and peace are shared between Muslim and non-Muslim communities; they are universal.

Paul Smith visited the USC Center on Public Diplomacy in 2013 and spoke about his experience as British Council Director in Afghanistan, paying particular attention to why cultural relations matter and how to achieve such relations in unstable countries and conflict zones. To read a summary of this CPD Conversation, click here.

Paul Smith, Director of British Council USA, on British Identity and Islam


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