Britain still admired by Arab and Muslim people after 9/11 Shows British Council Survey

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Press statement originally on the British council website at:

Britain still admired by Arab and Muslim people after 9/11 Shows British Council Survey Press Release (11 June 2002)

The UK remains highly popular among young people in the Arab & Muslim world according to Connecting Futures research, undertaken by the British Council five months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre.

A key finding of the Connecting Futures Research among young people in nine countries with substantial Muslim populations (Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) shows 63% continue to place the UK high on their list of favourite nations. Only 19% view Britain with less approval than before, while 18% actually look at us more favourably.

The perceived strength of a nation's economy appeared to be the issue of most importance for the majority of respondents, with the USA being seen as the most admired country. Despite strong criticism of US policy towards the region, America was more than twice as popular as the number two choice of Japan. Britain is seen as the fourth most highly thought of country, despite some serious reservations about our political stance, just behind Japan and Egypt and twice as popular as France.

Four of the five most popular countries are among the world's five most powerful economies, with Egypt at number three, partly reflecting great enthusiasm for the country in the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia. The inclusion of Australia, Germany, Canada and Italy in the top twelve completes a list dominated by the wealthiest and most advanced Western nations.

A high regard for British education and admiration for the consistently strong British economic performance were the two positive messages cited most often by respondents, which were seen as more important than negative factors.

British education is generally seen as being among the best in the world, although it has an international image of being serious and solid rather than exciting and innovative. Whereas respondents considered the USA, Japan and, in some cases, Germany, as being more advanced technologically, UK education was seen to compete on level terms.

Politics aside, other aspects of British society such as heritage, the monarchy, a stable political system and, on the whole, a successful multi-cultural society, were all seen as positive. However, these points also had a negative side, with perceptions of class division, racial intolerance and the aloof, unfriendly attitude of British people all being highlighted.

The results largely mirror those obtained from the Through Other Eyes, the British Council survey conducted in 1999/2000 in 30 countries, including seven of the nine nations surveyed under Connecting Futures. However, they contrast strongly with the Gallup poll of Dec 2001/January 2002, in which the percentage of those favourable to the UK was only 18%, with the USA doing only a little better at 22%. The Gallup poll, however, covered a cross section of the populations as a whole rather than the focus of Connecting Futures research on young, relatively well -educated urban people.

Following detailed analysis and intensive study, Connecting Futures research will provide an invaluable guide to further action in the Connecting Futures initiative to engage in a constructive dialogue with young people from different cultural backgrounds over the five-year programme. It will also contribute to the planning process for the delivery of all British Council initiatives in the nine countries covered by the CF programme.