RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #3091 3571444
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 231444Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5765
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS MOSCOW 003091
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SOCI RS
SUBJECT: ENGAGING MUSLIM POPULATION ON "DEFAMATION OF
REF: A. A) STATE 128320
B. B) MOSCOW 2708
1. (SBU) In response to ref A request, Post has produced a
plan of action for engaging both the GOR and Russia's Muslim
population with the goal of ending support for the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)'s "defamation of
religion" resolutions in the United Nations. During our
October meeting with Natalia Zolotova of the MFA's Department
of Human Rights and Humanitarian Cooperation (ref B), we
pointed out that these resolutions provide a disturbingly
vague definition of the terms "defamation" and "religion,"
and expressed the concern that they could become a crude tool
in the hands of any government inclined to suppress freedom
of speech. Although she told us that the GOR did not intend
to change its position on the UNGA "defamation of religion"
resolution, Zolotova received our points with an open mind
and offered only a half-hearted defense of the resolution.
We believe that continued mutually respectful debate with the
MFA on this issue will be valuable.
2. (SBU) In addition to continuing our dialogue with the GOR,
we also plan to meet with Muslim leaders after the January
Russian New Year holiday, in order to promote greater
understanding of U.S. priorities defending respect both for
free expression and for religious sensitivities. We intend
to open a continuing dialogue with these leaders, and, via
this relationship, we plan to engage Muslim youth as well.
Working with our Public Affairs Section, we will expand
ongoing activities that engage Muslim students at the
American Centers and Corners, universities and high schools,
and informal meetings with youth groups, in which we will
exchange ideas with participants and offer the U.S.
perspective on religious tolerance and pluralism. Post will
continue its ongoing policy of maximizing regional travel,
and plans to capitalize on the Secretary's highly successful,
widely publicized trip to the Republic of Tatarstan in
October. Post will continue to participate in the Access
Microscholarship Program, a two-year after-school English
language teaching program for teenagers from low-income
families in regions with predominantly Muslim population. As
part of this program, in October 2009 (immediately following
the Secretary's visit), Post distributed throughout Russia a
book and CD-ROM with drawings and dramatizations entitled
"Lessons in Kindness: Accessing English through Students'
Stories." Written by Russian Access students, the teaching
materials promote tolerance and respect for different
cultures and nationalities.
3. (SBU) In the wake of the Tatarstan visit, on November 26
Post received a letter from the President of Tatarstan
suggesting broadened cooperation and exchanges between the
U.S. and Tatarstan. Post responded positively on December
22, and noted that USAID has funded a Community Connections
exchange program which will bring interfaith religious
leaders from Tatarstan (as well as several other regions) to
the U.S. for three to five-week homestay exchanges beginning
in March 2010. Two State Department International Visitor
Leadership Programs will also bring regional religious,
business, and education leaders from Tatarstan to the U.S.
The December 22 letter also suggests bringing several keynote
speakers (via the State Department's Speakers Program) to
participate in a conference on Islam and Tolerance organized
and hosted by the Government of Tatarstan, and increasing the
number of American educational exchange participants in
Tatarstan, where there are currently four Fulbright scholars,
one Senior English Language Fellow, and nine National
Strategic Language Initiative students.