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Cablegate: Visit by Noted U.S. Scholar Places Accent On

VZCZCXRO8354
OO RUEHBC RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHDT RUEHGI RUEHHM RUEHJS
RUEHKUK RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHJA #1527/01 2250511
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120511Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9770
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5289
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2889
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 1191
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1160
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2095
RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY 3908
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2351
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 2938
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 2874
RUEHPT/AMCONSUL PERTH 1031
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHHJJPI/USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 001527

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, DRL, DRL/AWH, DRL/IRF,
EAP/PD
NSC FOR E. PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF KISL ID
SUBJECT: VISIT BY NOTED U.S. SCHOLAR PLACES ACCENT ON
OUTREACH TO INDONESIAN MUSLIMS

REF: JAKARTA 1070 AND PREVIOUS

JAKARTA 00001527 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) SUMMARY. Key Indonesian Muslim leaders joined noted
U.S. scholar on Islam John Esposito for the August 10 launch
of the translated version of his 2008 book, "Who Speaks for
Islam?" The discussion focused on how Indonesian
Muslims--the largest community of Muslims in the world with
roughly 200 million adherents--can make their largely
moderate views better heard on the international stage. The
leaders also expressed strong interest in increasing
understanding with the U.S. Esposito is widely known in
Indonesia and his visit underscored the importance of
continued outreach to the Indonesian Muslim community. END
SUMMARY.

VISIT BY NOTED EXPERT

2. (U) A noted U.S. scholar on Islam recently visited
Jakarta. John Esposito, Professor of Religion and Islamic
studies at Georgetown University, spoke at the August 10
launch of the Indonesian-language version of his book, "Who
Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think" by an
Indonesian publisher. The Bahasa Indonesia title translates
into English as, "It's Time for Muslims to Speak Out."
Esposito's visit was privately financed and not USG-linked.
(Note: Esposito was among the earliest American Islamic
studies scholars to come to Indonesia when he first visited
in 1975 as a USG-sponsored speaker.)

3. (U) The audience of over 100 at the event included many
prominent Muslim scholars and leaders. The Master of
Ceremonies was Abdillah Toha, a well-known member of the
national legislature. (Note: Toha recently visited the U.S.
on a USG-funded visit.) In addition to Esposito, the panel
included: Din Syamsuddin, chair of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's
second largest Muslim organization with about 35 million
members; Anies Baswedan, Rector of Paramadina University, a
moderate Muslim school; and, respected scholar Dr. Mochtar
Pabottingi of the Indonesian Institute for Social Sciences.
DepPol/C and Library of Congress representative also attended
the event.

A CONSTRUCTIVE DISCUSSION

4. (U) During his talk, Esposito summarized the findings of
recent Gallup research--done over six years and involving
more than 50,000 interviews. His main point was that the
survey revealed that 93 percent of Muslims are moderate,
based mostly on their view that the September 11 attack was
not justifiable. U.S. foreign policy needs to focus on the 7
percent of radicals, he said. This group is mostly better
educated and has stronger belief in democracy than mainstream
Muslims in general, but are highly cynical toward the West
and about whether democracy can be realized. Esposito said
the study revealed that the world's Muslims do not hate
Americans, but do not like our foreign policy, and are able
to distinguish between the two.

5. (U) The panelists and audience praised the Gallup study
for offering an honest and empathetic take on Muslim views,
and for the fact that it included Indonesia. The overall
discussion was constructive, emphasizing how the U.S. and the
Muslim world can avoid a "clash of civilizations" and find
common understanding. In response to some comments, Esposito
offered a frank rebuff to negative stereotypes of the U.S.,
saying it is patently wrong to say the U.S. is less spiritual
than Muslim nations, for example.

MUSLIM LEADER: FOCUS ON COMMON GOALS

6. (U) In his remarks, Muhammadiyah head Din Syamsuddin

JAKARTA 00001527 002.2 OF 002


politely criticized U.S. foreign policy but then added that
in his recent meeting with U/S Glassman in Washington,
Syamsuddin had emphasized that the Muslim world should be
seen as a partner rather than a threat. Syamsuddin said,
"Let's fight common enemies--poverty and economic injustice."
Paramadina University Rector Baswedan said he was studying
for his doctorate at Northern Illinois University when
September 11 occurred, and he was surprised by the relatively
few retaliatory acts of violence against Muslims in the U.S.
(Note: Baswedan also got his masters at University of
Maryland under a Fulbright Scholarship.)

7. (U) The discussion also focused on how Indonesian
Muslims--the largest community of Muslims in the world with
roughly 200 million adherents--can make their largely
moderate views better heard on the international stage.
Asked for his major criticisms of the Muslim world, Esposito
commented that oftentimes the educational sophistication of
college-educated Muslims is not matched by increased
understanding of religious values, and thus they can be
easily influenced in a negative way. Muslims also, he
claimed, overemphasize their own sense of being victimized
and lack of power. He cited what he calls the "Muslim couch
potato" who takes no action to right misperceptions. He
posed the rhetorical questions of how many Muslims have
studied in the West and tried to understand the culture, or
how many Muslim universities have American studies programs.
Very few, Esposito asserted.

OUTREACH KEY

8. (U) Esposito's visit--which was not
USG-linked--underscored the importance of people-to-people
outreach. He is well known here, and many Indonesians lined
up to ask him about ways to establish academic and religious
exchanges with the U.S. As he was among the first wave of
U.S. scholars of Islam to visit Indonesia under United States
Information Agency speaker programs and one who visited often
in the 1970s and 1980s, Esposito understands the value of
long-term people-to-people exchanges. He commented that
outreach and public diplomacy are the most important types of
diplomacy that the U.S. can carry out in the Muslim world and
the goodwill his brief visit engendered bore this out.
HUME

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