Cablegate: Engaging Islam in Southern Nigeria.

Published: Thu 20 Nov 2003 07:54 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Engaging Islam in Southern Nigeria.
Ref: Abuja 001949.
1. Summary: Working closely with PAS, post engaged the
southern Muslim community on the "Shared Meaning of Ramadan
and Thanksgiving" and hosted an Iftaar dinner for Muslim
community leaders.
2. The Media Message: During Ramadan, ConGen Lagos
reached out to southern Nigeria's Muslim community through
both live and taped radio talk shows, distribution of post-
produced publications, roundtable discussions with print
media and interviews for broadcast news. Post targeted
local language media outlets and Muslim-focused broadcast
shows, in addition to a nationally syndicated television
talk show. To improve its outreach, post utilized high-
ranking post staff like the Consul General as well as a
Muslim spouse who has lived in America and an officer who
used Yoruba to multiply the message.
3. Post has already seen media coverage of one-half of
these engagements and expects the balance to appear by
November 28. By that time, post's message will have reached
millions of Nigerians, including the large Hausa Muslim
community in Lagos, the middle-class Yoruba Muslim community
of Lagos and the Yoruba Muslim community in Ibadan that is
often seen as the leadership of the southwestern Nigerian
4. Post's message focused on the shared meaning of Ramadan
and Thanksgiving. Beyond the coincidence of timing this
year, Post highlighted the values of charity, reflection,
family and -- ultimately -- celebration that characterize
the two holidays. Using this positive message as a
springboard, Post staff discussed the practice of Islam in
America, particularly the enshrined freedoms of a
multicultural group to practice its faith as it wishes.
Staff discussed the formal laws that protect freedom of
religion in America, as well as the increasing realization
that there is a need to better understand Islam through
informal channels like President Bush's Iftaar dinners.
5. Moving to foreign policy, staff stressed that the war
on terrorism is not a war on Islam and highlighted President
Bush's own statements from September 17, 2001 on the need to
disassociate the two ideas. This being Nigeria, inevitably
discussions also turned to visas. Staff had the opportunity
to clarify many misconceptions about US visa policy. They
addressed the fact that visa policies have become stricter
across the board since September 11, regardless of religion,
but that Muslim applicants are not singled out or refused
NIVs based on name, religion, or the number of wives they
have. Lastly, staff highlighted the cooperation between
Nigeria and the USG to fight terrorism and support an open
6. Iftaar Dinner: In addition to the public outreach, the
CG hosted the third annual Itaar dinner on November 12. The
Secretary General of the Nigerian Supreme Consul for Islamic
Affairs observed that each dinner has been better and more
relaxed than the last. (Comment: Indeed, the first CG
hosted dinners were a bit stilted with invitees wondering
about the sincerity of the invitation. However, ongoing
contacts with the Islamic community throughout the year has
engendered a genuine spirit of shared interests. End
7. Comment Continued: After all of the media and Iftaar
events, participants expressed a genuine desire for more
outreach and more information about one another's policies
and practices. Post intends to host many more encounters
with southern Nigeria's Islamic community throughout the
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