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Cablegate: Iftar Diplomacy

VZCZCXRO6805
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHRL #1841/01 2771519
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 041519Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9417
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNFRG/FRG COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BERLIN 001841

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: GM KIRF KISL PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: IFTAR DIPLOMACY


1. (U) Summary: For the third year, Ambassador and Mrs.
Timken led senior Mission Germany staff in hosting Iftar
dinners and events, a major element in the Mission's Muslim
Engagement activities. This year, the venues were Berlin,
Cologne, Frankfurt, and Munich. Muslim guests uniformly
praised the Ambassador for undertaking this outreach and
suggested that the Ambassador's example, in part, has
encouraged some senior German officials to take similar
steps. Iftar dinners have become an important way for
Mission Germany to reinforce relationships with key Muslim
community leaders as well as set a positive example to German
officials and Muslim Germans -- of celebration of common
values and respect for cultural differences -- as they work
towards integration. End summary.

Ambassador Hosts Iftars
-----------------------

2. (U) On September 19, the Ambassador welcomed over 60
representatives of the Muslim communities, as well as other
German political and community leaders involved in
integration efforts, to his Berlin residence for a program on
cultural exchange, including a traditional Iftar reception.
Dr. Richard Wilke from the Washington-based Pew Research
Center began the evening by presenting recent reports from
the Pew Global Attitudes Project on attitudes towards Muslims
in the U.S. and Europe. Following his lecture, three Muslim
Germans recounted their overwhelmingly positive impressions
of the U.S. from their recent exchange programs, including
the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

3. (U) Five nights later, the Ambassador hosted a sit-down
Iftar dinner at his residence which allowed for frank and
open discussion on issues of concern to Germany's
multi-faceted Muslim communities. Muslim guests included
Afghanistan's Ambassador to Germany Maliha Zulfacar, federal
parliamentarian Hakki Keskin, Berlin parliamentarian Ozcan
Mutlu, noted women's rights advocate Seyran Ates, and
community activist Badr Mohammed. Also in attendance were
Berlin's Integration Commissioner Guenther Piening and the
Federal Interior Ministry's Islam Advisor Ali Aslan, himself
a Muslim. Echoing the sentiments of the Muslim guests,
Mohammed noted that the Ambassador's Iftar invitation was the
first that he has ever received in Germany from a non-Muslim
organization, including the Turkish government. This point
was clearly intended as a signal to German government
officials -- specifically, that they should also engage in
this type of engagement with the Muslim communities.

If Mohammed Can't Come to the Mountain,...
------------------------------------------

4. (U) The Ambassador also traveled to our consular
districts to host large Iftar dinners. On September 25 in
Cologne, the Ambassador and Duesseldorf Consul General Boyse
hosted a broad group of 35 leaders from each of the five
major Muslim religious organizations (Ayyub Axel Koehler of
the Coordinating Council of Muslims and the Central Council
of Muslims, Sadi Arslan of DITIB, Ali Kizilkaya of the Islam
Council, and Mehmet Yilmaz of the Association of Islamic
Cultural Center), women's groups, Kurdish and Alevite
organizations, as well as parliamentarians, state and local
politicians, activists in interfaith dialogue, and
journalists. The Ambassador selected Cologne because of its
significance as the unofficial "Capital of German Islam." In
Munich, the Ambassador and Consul General Nelson hosted an
Iftar dinner for 50 guests, including the Bavarian Minister
of Justice and IVLP alumna Dr. Beate Merk and Munich Lord
Mayor Christian Ude. Although guests noted that they would
be honored by an Ambassadorial invitation even in Berlin,
they were particularly impressed by the Ambassador's
thoughtfulness in hosting events in their local regions,
which precluded the necessity of travel during Ramadan.

5. (U) Both the Cologne and Munich events drew favorable
attention in both German and Turkish electronic and print
media. For example, the Muenchner Merkur, with a circulation
of 230,000, ran an in-depth article on "Muslim-American
Understanding on Munich Soil." Prominent media outlet and
ARD affiliate B5 radio aired a 3 minute, 40 second report on
CG Munich's Iftar activities. Articles on the dinner in
Cologne appeared in the Koelner Stadt-Amzeiger/Koelnische
Rundshau as well as Turkish-based outlets Huerriyet, Turkyie,
Milliyet, Zaman, and Sabah. Radio Koeln carried a 2 minute
interview with the Ambassador.

6. (U) In addition to the Ambassador's events, Frankfurt
Consul General Powell hosted an Iftar dinner in Frankfurt on
September 25 and attended an Iftar dinner in Wiesbaden with
Hesse Minister-President Roland Koch on September 27. Munich

BERLIN 00001841 002 OF 002


CG Nelson joined IVLP alumnus Imam Benjamin Idriz in hosting
an Iftar at the latter's mosque on September 25. Mission
staff at all levels also accepted invitations to Iftars
hosted by Muslim contacts in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt,
Hamburg, and Munich.

German Government to Follow Ambassador's Example
--------------------------------------------- ---

7. (SBU) As in past years, many guests opined that
high-ranking German officials such as the Chancellery's
Integration Commissioner Maria Boehmer and Interior Minister
Wolfgang Schaeuble should host Iftar dinners as well. The
Ambassador interjected that Boehmer will indeed host an Iftar
this year, while Interior Ministry official Aslan noted that
Schaeuble is planning one this October as well. Several
guests expressed the opinion that these government-hosted
Iftars, brand-new in Germany, are a direct result of the U.S.
Mission's extremely active and increasingly visible Muslim
engagement activities.

Comment
-------

8. (U) Mission Germany is increasingly using Iftar events as
opportunities to engage with a broader spectrum of contacts
from NGOs, government agencies, politicians, and others, in
addition to religious and secular Muslim contacts. Feedback
has thus far been very positive; this is a direction we
intend to continue with future years' Iftars.

9. (U) This report includes input from ConGens Duesseldorf,
Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.
TIMKEN JR

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