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Cablegate: Embassy Freetown Organizes Successful Community Iftaar

VZCZCXRO6957
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0613 2841418
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111418Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1443
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000613

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KISL KPAO SL
SUBJECT: EMBASSY FREETOWN ORGANIZES SUCCESSFUL COMMUNITY IFTAAR


1. On October 9 Embassy Freetown organized a successful Iftaar
program at a new community Islamic and vocational school, the Umar
Bin Alkhatab Institute for Vocational and Technical Training and
Arabic Islamic Studies. The Ambassador and embassy staff attended
the Iftaar and shared take-home meals with which the students could
break their Ramadan fast at home. Copies of "Muslim Life in
America," were also distributed to the nearly 200 students and staff
who attended the event. Sheikh Abu Bakr Conteh, City Imam of the
Freetown Municipality spoke at the ceremony to represent the school
and the Sierra Leonean Muslim community.

2. After a recitation of a passage from the Qur'an by a student of
the institute, Sheikh Conteh warmly welcomed the Ambassador and the
Embassy delegation, noting with pride that the Ambassador had chosen
to have her first public event at the Institute since presenting her
credentials to President Koroma. In her address to the students,
Ambassador Perry spoke about the importance of religious diversity
and freedom, and praised Sierra Leone's own well known respect for
religious tolerance. The students responded with appreciative
surprise when she observed that Islam was the fastest growing
religion in the U.S. In his subsequent comments, Sheikh Conteh
emphasized the good relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in
both countries. In his view, the Embassy's efforts to meet the
students and share the Iftaar meal helped contradict negative images
of U.S. -Muslim relations. He added that this day would long be
remembered as "American Fasting Day" in the school and the broader
community.

3. Following the ceremony, Ambassador Perry gave the first meal to
one of the growing number of female students of the institute and
Embassy staff distributed the food and books. The students eagerly
read the books as they lined up to receive their meal, and some took
additional copies home to their family and friends.

4. The Umar Bin Alkhatab Institute for Vocational and Technical
Training and Arabic Islamic Studies is located in one of the poorest
sections of Freetown. It offers Islamic studies, computer literacy
programs, tailoring, and some technical training to students aged 18
years and above. The proprietor of the school, Sheikh Sulaiman
Kamara, studied in Saudi Arabia, as did the speaker and
representative of the Muslim community, Sheikh Conteh. Sheikh
Conteh is the City Imam of the Freetown Municipality, Vice President
of the Sierra Leone Muslim Missionary Union, First Vice President of
the Inter-Religious Council and Chief Imam of the Hamdallah Mosque.

PERRY

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