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Cablegate: Brunei Receptive to Special Envoy Cumber's Message

VZCZCXRO8549
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBD #0230/01 2390718
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 260718Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4320
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 0001
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 0002
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0080
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 000230

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL OIC PGOV PHUM BU

SUBJECT: BRUNEI RECEPTIVE TO SPECIAL ENVOY CUMBER'S MESSAGE

BANDAR SER 00000230 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: Presidential Special Envoy to the Organization
of Islamic Conference (OIC) Sada Cumber was warmly received during
his recent visit to Brunei. S/E Cumber steady message emphasized the
U.S. commitment to increased participation in OIC, combating Islamic
extremism, intrafaith dialogue, recognition of Kosovo's
independence, and the increasing the role of women in Islamic
societies. While only a one day trip, meetings were held with a
wide spectrum of interlocutors ranging from Prince Mohamed, Brunei's
Foreign Minister, Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University (UNISSA)
officials, and the local media. Media coverage focused primarily on
recognition of Kosovo's independence and Brunei's role as a
progressive Muslim state. End Summary.

RECOGNIZE KOSOVO
-----------------

2. (SBU) S/E Cumber emphasized that Brunei and all OIC member states
should recognize Kosovo's independence as soon as possible. In his
meetings with the Prince Mohamed, Brunei's Foreign Minister, as well
as with Princess Masna, Ambassador at Large in the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, S/E Cumber noted that Kosovo represents a tolerant
Muslim nation. Using recent photos from Kosovo, in addition to
prepared talking points, he outlined that Kosovo is at a crucial
stage where those who promote a less tolerant Islam are trying to
make headway into Kosovar society. Recognition from Brunei and
other OIC nations would allow Kosovo to negate these more extremist
elements.

3. (SBU) In meetings with the State Mufti, Minister of Religious
Affairs, and Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University (UNISSA), all
agreed with S/E Cumber that a tolerant Islam, as practiced in
Kosovo, is a belief system that Brunei can accept. University
officials also noted that they have four Kosovar master degree
students currently studying on full scholarships. Local media
coverage highlighted Kosovo statehood recognition as a primary topic
of Cumber's visit.

ISLAMIC INTRAFAITH DIALOGUE
-----------------------------

4. (SBU) An intrafaith dialogue in needed, according to S/E Cumber.
He noted that until Islam is tolerant of difference within the
faith, it will be difficult to see significant progress. Brunei's
State Mufti, Pehin Dr. Ustaz Aziz, and as well as the Minister for
Religious Affairs, Pehin Mohamad Zain, was receptive to this
message. Both noted repeatedly that Brunei believes in a tolerant,
but pious Islam. In addition, both were quick to point out that
Brunei does not believe in interference in religious practices of
non-muslims. (NOTE: This sentiment may not be fully realized at
lower levels of some ministries, but generally senior officials have
been consistent in both message and practice. END NOTE)

WOMEN IN ISLAM AND BRUNEI
--------------------------

5. (SBU) The role of women, both within Islam, and within Brunei
society was discussed throughout S/E Cumber's meetings. Princess
Masna noted that Brunei is proud the role of women throughout
government ministries and within the business sector. However, more
opportunities are needed. S/E Cumber noted that women play a key
role within Islam and that he was pleased to see Brunei's forward
leaning attitude toward women's full involvement in both civil and
Islamic society.

EDUCATION COMBATTING EXTREMISM
-------------------------------

6. (SBU) Using education to combat extremism was highlighted
throughout each meeting. Officials from UNISSA were eager to
demonstrate a growing curriculum and student base with teaching
based on tolerance and enlightenment. (NOTE: Embassy will use S/E
Cumber's visit as a means to further engage with UNISSA to develop a
better understanding of the entire curriculum, much of which is in
Arabic. End Note). S/E Cumber stated education is the critical link
both to enhance intrafaith dialogue and the role of women in Islam
and Brunei. Education that demonstrates an "intellectual Islam"
also will serve to combat Islamic extremism.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) Post is grateful for S/E Cumber's visit. With a new
embassy team recently arrived and emphasizing the same policy areas,

BANDAR SER 00000230 002.2 OF 002


the timing was fortuitous. The meetings were cordial and Brunei
officials (public and private) were receptive and quick to emphasis
the tolerant role they believe Islam plays in Brunei society.
Government officials were pleased to hear that the U.S. will seek a
more active and collaborative role in OIC. The key, as is often the
case in Brunei, is if action will follow a warm reception and good
intentions. Post plans to use S/E Cumber's visit to follow up on
these key policy areas.

S/E Sada Cumber did not have the opportunity to clear on the cable.

TODD

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