Cablegate: Muslim Outreach: Us Embassy Prague Hosts First

Published: Wed 2 Nov 2005 02:14 PM
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
1. Summary. On October 25, Ambassador William Cabaniss hosted
an Iftar dinner at his residence, the first-ever held by the
Embassy. Nearly fifty Muslim diplomats and business leaders
attended, including Ambassadors from Algeria, Morocco,
Tunisia, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Noticeably absent from the Iftar were members of the Islamic
Foundations in Prague and Brno, who had sent a letter
explaining that they would not attend because of their
dissatisfaction with US policy toward Muslim countries.
While it would have been preferable that representatives of
the Islamic Foundation attended, the invitation - and
response - did open the possibility for future dialogue. End
2. Egyptian Shaykh Karem El-Badawy, the head Imam in the
Czech Republic, assisted in the preparations for the Iftar,
even meeting with Ambassador Cabaniss prior to the event and
providing prayer rugs and dates for the dinner itself.
El-Badawy was not able to attend the actual event and lead
the prayer, most likely due to pressure from the Islamic
Foundation Committee. Instead, the Ambassador of Afghanistan
offered the prayer to break the fast at sundown. Many in
attendance were moved that the program included not only a
taped recitation of the Koran, but also one-minute "Call to
Prayer," which was provided by Shaykh El-Badawy. Many
diplomats said that they looked forward to next year's Iftar
as well.
3. During his remarks, Ambassador Cabaniss expressed his
Ramadan greeting and his hope that the iftar would be a
beginning step toward better communication and understanding.
The Ambassador of Afghanistan then gave his own impromptu
remarks on the importance of dialogue, as well as the
positive changes that are occurring in the Islamic world,
including the rights of women in his own country. He
expressed appreciation to the Ambassador for our effort to
improve understanding of important Muslim traditions.
4. Comment. We have already seen an increased openness in our
relations with the Muslim community here as a result of our
Iftar dinner. The Ambassador has commented that Muslim
Ambassadors with whom he had a more formal relationship now
approach him at receptions and other events, and some of out
attendees, such as representatives from Radio Free Europe
Arabic and Afghan services have expressed interest in
partnering with the Embassy on other Muslim outreach events.
Even the organized Islamic community has thawed a bit;
following the Iftar, Shaykh El-Badawy expressed his interest
in inviting Ambassador Cabaniss to the Islamic Foundation in
Prague Mosque for a tour and meeting with members of the
mosque committee. It should be noted that El-Badawy works for
the Egyptian Ministry of Awkaf and has been in the Czech
Republic for the past two years, as the only trained Imam in
the country. (Note: El-Badawy estimated that there are
approximately 10,000 Muslims in the Czech Republic, but only
about 500 regularly attend mosque services. He said that many
Arabs moved to the Czech Republic in the 1970s and 1980s,
particularly when the communist-government sponsored
Palestinian rejectionist groups. However, he lamented that
the majority of Arabs who have been living in the Czech
Republic for a number of years, and who have married Czechs,
are secular and don't have a connection with the mosque.) In
addition to taking Shaykh El-Badawy up on his invitation, and
arranging a meeting to discuss the Islamic Foundation's
concerns, Embassy Prague plans on holding another Iftar next
year, as well as other cultural events in order to improve
communication between the embassy and Czech Muslim community.
End Comment.
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