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UK sees more mature understanding of Islamic World: UK minister

posted on 06/12/2006: 577 views

The sheer scale of all the infrastructure projects (in the UAE) is breathtaking, said UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Olympics Minister Rt. Hon. Tessa Jowell.

In an interview with WAM, the British minister who made her stop in the UAE on her way to the current 15th Asian Games in Doha said she really wanted to see for herself some of the new sporting and cultural highlights of the UAE.

Jowell who had a career in social policy and public sector management before her election to Parliament in 1992 said she was "hugely impressed by the many ambitious projects - both underway and planned - throughout the UAE." The labour minister and MP for Dulwich and West Norwood (since 1992) who returned to the cabinet after the 2005 UK General Election said she "came to the UAE to meet my counterparts in the cultural and tourism fields and to see some of these projects for myself.”

She said the "UAE as an old friend of the UK and a home to over 120,000 British citizens and a holiday destination for many more." Expressing interest in exploring the cultural scene in the UAE, Jowell said she will be "visiting the Sharjah World Book Fair to see just a part of the considerable contribution Sharjah makes to the cultural life of the Emirates through museums, heritage centre and events."

"I am pleased to see so much cooperation between Emirati and British organisations in these fields, including the participation of over 40 British publishers in (the current) Sharjah Book Fair", remarked Jowell who was educated at St. Margaret's School in Aberdeen and the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Goldsmith's, London and is currently a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford.

Jowell said she was "particularly looking forward to hearing more about the ambitious Saadiyat island project and the plans for museums and galleries as a part of it, as well as the many exciting developments in Dubai and the other Emirates.”

The UK minister added she doubted she would have enough time "to see a tiny fraction of what the UAE has to offer." Jowell added that as the UK Minister for the London 2012 Olympics, she also wanted "to update UAE officials on our progress on getting ready for the Games." "It's because I am involved in this work that I so admire the ambition of the UAE to build an economy and environment to last", Jowell remarked.

The Right Honourable Tessa Jowell stressed the importance of culture in a nation's life citing many reasons. "First the personal. Music, poetry, theatre and art are wells of enormous beauty in a modern life so often focused on work. They can challenge, explain and soothe all at the same time." "They are so much part of our lives that too often we take them for granted.

But all you have to do is imagine a life without these things to realize how much we must cherish them", she remarked. "Culture is also a part of the economic life of many cities across the world. It creates wealth and encourages tourism," added Jowell whose main concern as Culture Secretary has been the future of television broadcasting in the UK.

"Several cities across the UK, Jowell said, "decided to invest in cultural infrastructure and then reap rewards in civic pride, tourism and quality of life." "Culture can help us understand the history and way of life of other peoples and do so far better than any other mode of expression", stressed Jowell whose previous Ministerial appointments were Minister of State for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities at the Department for Education and Employment and Minister of State for Public Health at the Department of Health.

She cited the Victoria and Albert museum in London which tries, with its recently- opened 400-object Islamic art gallery, "to tell the story of the Islamic world from Al Andalus to Afghanistan." "It contains objects of staggering beauty - most famously the Ardabil carpet, the world's oldest. And it has been packed with visitors from the start, each one awed by the richness of the Islamic worlds." "Last year, the Royal Academy hosted an exhibition about the history of the Ottoman Empire with hundreds of objects never before seen outside Turkey,” she noted.

"Those exhibitions were visited by hundreds of thousands of people who came away with a more mature understanding of and interest in the Islamic world than before" Jowell noted, adding that she strongly believes that only culture in the widest sense can do this task which she said "has grown more urgent" following the turmoil across the world in the wake of Sept 11th.

"In the UK, although we are a fully multiracial and multicultural society, some communities are facing misunderstanding and mistrust on a daily basis ?(and) it is too often caused by a lack of understanding of, even curiosity in, the lives of the people we share a nation with", Jowell concluded. (Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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