x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sorbonne chief criticises America

The Arab world would be less hostile to the West if it were exposed to more than Anglo-Saxon culture, the president of the Paris-Sorbonne University says.

Georges Molinié, the president of Paris-Sorbonne University.
Georges Molinié, the president of Paris-Sorbonne University.

ABU DHABI // The Arab world would be less hostile to the West if it were exposed to more than Anglo-Saxon culture, the president of the Paris-Sorbonne University says. "People have this aggressive attitude toward western civilisation because globalisation is dominated at the moment by the Anglo-Saxon view," Prof Georges Molinié said through an interpreter. "The dominance of the US in the western world has not been a factor for peace, but a factor for tension and even for war. What we want to do is to make globalisation diversified." Prof Molinié said opening the Abu Dhabi branch of the Paris-Sorbonne in 2006 was "a clever way" to react to the hostility some people in the region held toward the West. "It's not the fact that French culture is superior. It's the idea that in modernity, to protect and defend the western world, it's important to show that the western world is made of several cultures and several models, and the Anglo-Saxon way is not the only way." "It's in western interests to show that when you express the human rights doctrine, it's not to be confused with the dominance of only one power in the world." Prof Molinié was visiting Abu Dhabi for the international conference on the Arab world policies of Charles de Gaulle. Prof Molinié, 64, began a four-year term as Paris-Sorbonne's president in March this year. He also held the post from 1998 to 2003. The Abu Dhabi branch has about 235 students taking bachelor's courses, several dozen pursuing master's degrees and more than 100 in a French-language programme. It is based in a temporary campus and is due to move to its permanent base on Reem Island next year. The Abu Dhabi campus intended to give elite students from the Emirates, and the wider Arab world, the political and cultural understanding needed to take leadership positions, Prof Molinié said. "They want us to enable them to have the means of transforming their elite and, eventually, that might also be a way to increase their own influence with the Arab world and the international scene," he said. "You see in the US some very famous universities, such as Berkeley, rely on ancient Greek or philosophy or humanities for the formation of their elite, who can then do economic management or political management. It's exactly the same in this culture. The French culture university will give the students a depth of views and thought, which would enable the country to express its willingness to participate in the modern world. "It is about having a culture rooted in the French tradition of radicalism, critical mind and freedom of spirit all over the Arab world." Prof Molinié said that while recruiting students had been difficult, there was no need for the Abu Dhabi branch to have a huge enrolment. "It's better to recruit students to form an elite for the country and to offer them a sort of cultural depth which would enable them to face the modern world's problems, more than to have a mass university," he said. "The number of students is therefore not that relevant. One thousand students would be a very good result." dbardsley@thenational.ae