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Cablegate: Initial Reactions to Post Initiatives to Engage

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001090

SIPDIS


STATE FOR AF (PERRY), AF/RA, AF/PD, AF/W, OIIP, R
EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES FOR PAS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SCUL OEXC NI
SUBJECT: INITIAL REACTIONS TO POST INITIATIVES TO ENGAGE
MOSTLY MUSLIM NORTHERN NIGERIA IN THE WAKE OF SEPTEMBER 11


1. This cable reports initial reactions from two Post
initiatives to engage mostly Muslim northern Nigeria in the
wake of the 9/11 attacks. (Large numbers of Muslims are
also in other parts of Nigeria, especially the populous
southwest. Nigeria probably has the largest Muslim
population in all of Africa.) The initiatives are
"Magama", a Hausa-language monthly magazine, and a series
of targeted mailings to Muslim leaders. Some have decried
our efforts as American propaganda and even those who
praised the Embassy for undertaking direct communication in
Hausa were not always swayed by the policy arguments
conveyed. But the reaction so far has been overwhelmingly
positive.


2. The first issue of "Magama", distributed at the end of
January, went to 5,000 influential Hausa speakers in
northern Nigeria. Its content was heavily oriented toward
the U.S. response to terror and the effects of that
response--especially in Afghanistan, which had been
liberated from Taliban control. The cover photo was a
close-up of a smiling Afghan woman.


3. The very first response we received was from a radio
commentator at popular Aso Radio across town in Abuja. He
read excerpts of the incriminating Bin Laden tape taken
from "Magama". Upon leaving the station that day, he was
accosted by some angry young men who accused him of being
an American propagandist. He defended reading the excerpt
and, in fact, asked for an extra 10 copies of the magazine.


4. Another response reflected a similar division between
radical and moderate Muslims. In Kaduna, a hotbed of fiery
Muslim clerics, a sheikh walked into the mosque before
Friday prayers a week ago holding a copy of "Magama", which
he showed to the Muslim faithful already seated in the
mosque. He denounced "Magama" as "an attempt by America to
spread propaganda because they know we are unhappy with
their attacks on Muslim brothers in Afghanistan." The
sheikh also condemned the recent visit to Nigeria by U.S.
Speaker, Dr. Aly Abuzaakouk, who spoke to both Christians
and Muslims about peaceful co-existence through interfaith
dialogue. Fortunately, the Chief Imam arrived and
countered the sheikh's claims about "Magama". He told the
congregation that "Magama" was not propaganda, but a means
of sharing information on U.S. policies towards Islam and
other issues. He said "Magama" should be seen as an
instrument of peace, not conflict. He also said the U.S.
took the right decision by bringing Dr. Abuzaakouk to talk
about peace.


5. Some other reactions, in the form of letters or personal
encounters, from readers of the first issue:


"I am writing to you to show my appreciation to you for
creating this important magazine, "MAGAMA." It shows
thoughtfulness and foresight on the part of the Public
Affairs Section of the American Embassy to keep the
community well informed.


I would like to use this opportunity to call on all
Northerners, other Nigerians and Hausa speakers in general
to show interest in "MAGAMA" and to read the Magazine
regularly. I have no doubt in my mind that by reading
"MAGAMA" our people would be more enlightened on U.S.
policies and other World affairs, such as the question of
the State of Palestine."


"I commend the wisdom of the United States Ambassador to
Nigeria Mr. Howard Jeter in starting this magazine, and for
finding time to explain America's bilateral assistance to
the developing world with details of the war against
terrorists."


"I am very pleased with the introduction of this magazine,
aimed at explaining in detail the war against terror. This
magazine is very important because it will help educate a
large number of Muslims, who erroneously believe that this
war is against Islam, and that America is only using Usama
bin Laden as a scapegoat to justify the war. Now your
magazine is proving that this notion is not true, just as
it is in the Holy Koran, which says that no one has a right
to take another person's life."


"I read your report suggesting that before the Taliban,
Afghan women were allowed to go to work and that in other
democracies women contribute in nation building as medical
doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, judges and so on.
I would like to inform you that Islam forbids women from
mixing freely with men just for the sake of seeking earthly
rewards. Islam allows women to attend marriages, naming
ceremonies, condolences, and to visit their families, but
for a woman to just go out and do the kind of things your
magazine talks about is improper. It is against Islam. If
these are the kinds of story your magazine wants to
circulate, I don't want to read your magazine again."


"I want to express my displeasure with the sufferings that
Muslims have been subjected to by America's unjust war
against Islam. The aim of this war is to destroy Islam,
which is impossible. I would like to continue reading your
magazine."


"It is very good that you are communicating with us in our
language, but you should cut back the propaganda; it is too
heavy. We want to read more about Nigeria and Africa."


6. In addition to publishing "Magama" (the second edition
just hit the streets), Post has begun to translate
Washington File items into Hausa and distribute them not
only to the usual media contacts, but to a growing list--
now totaling 167--of Muslim leaders: clerics, legislators,
traditional rulers, youth leaders, Islamic scholars,
teachers, and women's leaders.


7. Again the response has been strongly positive. We have
placed our translated policy items in influential print and
broadcast media in northern Nigeria. One of the radio
stations alone--FRCN Kaduna--reaches 25-30 million
listeners. Following are some of the reactions from the
Muslim leaders, most of whom are pleased to get the
materials and want us to continue:


"It was thoughtful of you to deem it appropriate to send to
us such wonderful and informative articles on happenings in
the United States as a fallout from what befell the U.S. on
11th September, 2001. The gesture will facilitate a better
understanding of U.S. policies in this war against terror."


"While the forum members are open to dialogue, we believe
that the US will contribute to world peace by fighting
injustice wherever it exists, putting a halt to its
selective war against innocent Muslims. The first place to
begin is Palestine. Yes, we are interested in receiving
these articles."


"The documents enclosed are indeed most educative and
refreshing. I wish to point out that there is no mention
of African Muslims' contributions in the on-going public
dialogue and look forward to having such."


"I particularly like the abridged paper of Dr. Diana L.
Eck. Though I am aware that the U.S. Government is
tolerant of religious pluralism, the paper in question did
put the magnitude of such tolerance in clearer
perspective."


"We would like to thank you for your articles and reports
on terrorism, including the original Arabic transcript of
the alleged Usama bin Laden video tape. We shall make our
thought on the issues known to you in due course, while
looking forward to more articles in the future."


"I am happy that you realized that we are in the capacity
to organize and educate our fellow brothers and sisters
about the policies of the United States of America on the
war against terrorism, which I am made to understand after
going through the articles, is not directed towards Muslims
or the Islamic religion."


8. Post plans to expand the circulation of "Magama" by
1000 copies per issue and we will ratchet up the size four
pages per issue from the current 16 inside pages until we
reach 32 pages. This will allow us to give more generous
coverage to US-Nigerian relations; MPP issues like
democracy, bilateral cooperation on law enforcement,
HIV/AIDS, and regional security and the mil-to-mil
relationship, while keeping a strong focus on the War on
Terror.
Jeter

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