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Cablegate: Northern Nigeria's Most Strident Anti-U.S. Radio

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

181336Z Sep 03

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001627

SIPDIS


STATE FOR PA/OBS/BS JULIE JAMES; AF/PD AMIRTHANAYAGAM
LAGOS FOR PAS


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OEXC SCUL NI
SUBJECT: NORTHERN NIGERIA'S MOST STRIDENT ANTI-U.S. RADIO
STATION JOINS MODERATE MUSLIM VOICES


Ref: State 079567


1. SUMMARY: "America gives more freedom to Muslims to
practice their religion than anywhere else in the Islamic
world," says FRCN Kaduna on the eve of 9/11 in the seventh
episode of the program series on "Muslim Life in America"
presented by State Department-sponsored TV Co-op producer,
Buhari Auwalu. FRCN Kaduna is northern Nigeria's oldest
and most listened-to radio station established in 1962 as
"The Voice of the North" by northern Nigeria's highly
respected religious and political leader, Ahmadu Bello.


The producer said that the TV Co-op program was his most
difficult challenge in many years of experience at FRCN
because of the misconceptions about America that their
listeners had been fed over the years (Note: Many of
misconceptions were aired on FRCN Kaduna. End Note). FRCN
is surprised, however, that rather than lose their
traditional listeners because of the pro-American message
now being broadcast, the station has gained more listeners
since the program began airing on July 23.


After weeks of listening to the voices of their fellow
Nigerian Muslims living in the U.S. tell their story of
religious freedom and equal treatment before the law on
their most trusted radio station, northern Islamic
extremists face greater obstacles convincing their
audiences that America is at war with Islam. End summary.


2. DESCRIPTION OF ACTIVITY: FY-03 TV Co-op request for NTA
and FRCN Kaduna: Public Affairs Abuja, working with
PA/OBS/BS, facilitated the TV Co-op production on the
subject of "Muslim Life in America" with Nigeria's National
Television Authority (NTA) and the Federal Radio
Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN Kaduna). The crew traveled to
the U.S. April 26-May 11, 2003. PA/OBS/BS Julie James was
the Production Officer for this project. She arranged
interviews and location shots in Washington, DC; New York
City; Jackson, MS; St. Louis, MO; and Houston, TX for the
Nigerian crew to look at various aspects of life in America
-- particularly through the eyes of Hausa-speaking
Nigerian Muslims in America. As a result of this tour,
FRCN Kaduna produced 13 episodes of a 15-minutes Hausa
program now on its seventh week of broadcast under the
title "Jakar Magori" (The Pandora Box). The interviews
included citizens, scholars, and religious activists. The
National Television Authority (NTA), the second Nigerian
crew on this project has produced a 6o-minute English
television documentary to be broadcast later this
September. Results of the NTA program will be reported
separately.


3. JUSTIFICATION AND OBJECTIVE: Many Nigerian Muslims
believe that the USG sees Islam as a threat and is actively
working to stop its growth and influence in America and
other parts of the world, especially after September 11.
Many northern Nigerians, for instance, are unaware that
Muslims live in the United States and are freely practicing
their religion in mosques throughout the U.S. The TV Co-op
program was aimed at educating Nigerian Muslims about
democracy, religious tolerance, and cultural diversity in
the U.S. with a view to disabusing their minds of
allegations that the United States is targeting Islam in
the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq, or
elsewhere in the world.


4. MPP UMBRELLA THEME AND AUDIENCE REACHED: War against
terrorism, and understanding of the U.S. Audience was a
targeted group of about 60 million northern Muslims, most
of whom believe that America is targeting Islam in the war
against terrorism. FRCN Kaduna is the oldest, and the most
influential radio station in northern Nigeria.


5. USG SUPPORT: Excellent. PA/OBS/BS Project Production
Officer Julie James was highly praised by the Nigerian crew
for her professionalism and accommodation for all their
requests to see and speak with representatives of various
communities and organizations in America. The ability of
the Nigerian crew to discover America by themselves had a
tremendous impact in the rich quality and credibility of
the program. Abuja would welcome an opportunity to program
another TV Co-op crew on the subject of agricultural
biotechnology or the YES program in FY-04.


6. NON-USG SUPPORT: Highly commendable. The NTA crew paid
for their international ticket and postproduction
activities. They also donated airtime for the program.
FRCN Kaduna engaged the services of its best Hausa producer
and donated airtime on its most popular program "Jakar
Magori" (The Pandora Box) for 13 weeks. The FRCN Kaduna's
program on "Muslim Life in America" is broadcast on
Wednesdays, at 10:30pm and repeated on Thursdays at 5:30pm.
7. RESULT/IMPACT: Very effective. The feedback from
listeners of the program varies, but is generally positive.
Asked whether American Muslims were harassed and targeted
after 9/11 attacks, Malam Bello Shehu, a Nigerian Muslim
from Zaria now residing in Brooklyn, New York said,
"Initially we were afraid, but our non-Muslim neighbors
were the ones that protected us from any harassment." The
radio producer, Buhari Auwalu, wrote in his assessment of
the audience response to the program, "The number of
listeners to the program, especially on the day my slot is
being aired, has increased tremendously, as some have even
adjusted their schedule in order to listen to the program.
Some have requested copies of the program to be recorded
for them. A lot of people are surprised by what they hear
in the program because it contradicts the misconceptions
that they have about America."


Comment: Although radio broadcasting was not part of the
TV-Coop program, Hausa radio is the optimal medium for
reaching the broad Muslim population in northern Nigeria
and we are grateful to the Department for working with us
to permit FRCN's participation. Buhari was an earlier IV
grantee, with some familiarity with the U.S. However, his
initial experience in the United States (focusing on
discussions with U.S. Muslim leaders) did little to change
many of his personal anti-U.S. biases. On his return to
Nigeria, he did nothing to publicize his IV experience.
This visit resulted in a marked change in his opinion of
the United States and he admitted to us that his
appreciation of the United States deepened considerably due
to his exchanges with a broader cross-section of people.
We believe this bodes well for a better working
relationship with FRCN Kaduna, which we hope to continue.


MEECE

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