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Cablegate: Bogeyman of Foreign Interference Stalks Egypt:

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



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Opposition newspaper Al-Wafd launched a campaign on
March 20 against foreign economic assistance and
"interference." Several newspapers picked up this thread of
criticism throughout the week, but none were as vociferous
as Al-Wafd in calling for Egypt to refuse U.S. assistance.
Commentators sharply criticized the female imam who led
Friday prayers in New York City on March 19. One
commentator feared an attempt to "secularize" Islam from
within. The media roundly criticized the Arab Summit's
failure to accomplish anything, while the summit's highlight
for many Egyptian journalists was Moamar Qaddafi's hour-long
speech in which he called Israelis and Palestinians
"idiots." End summary.

Main Themes in the Egyptian Media

2. Fears of foreign interference: In continuing reaction
to the Ambassador's March 6 announcement of direct grants to
NGOs for democracy and governance work, opposition Al-Wafd
(circulation: 200,000) kicked off its campaign against
"foreign interference" (i.e., U.S. "interference") on March
20 with the banner headline: "Politicians and Economic
Experts Support Al-Wafd Party Chairman's Call: 'No to U.S.
Aid.'" On the same day, an Al-Wafd cartoon depicted a foot
labeled "Egyptian parties" kicking an Uncle Sam-like figure
with a cowboy hat and money bag, labeled "foreign
interference." Additional commentaries critical of foreign
assistance were published on March 20 in independent Al-
Masri Al-Youm (circulation: 5,000) and in opposition weekly
Al-Araby (circulation: 20,000). Similar commentaries in
print and TV media appeared throughout the week, with Al-
Wafd taking the lead in urging the GOE to refuse further
U.S. economic assistance. (Note: In a widely published
March 19 statement, ruling NDP Secretary General Safwat El-
Sherif rejected "foreign interference in Egypt's domestic
affairs." End note.)

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3. Controversy over female imam in New York City: The
March 19 Friday prayers in New York City led by Dr. Amina
Wadoud prompted critical coverage. Sheikh Tantawi of Al-
Azhar Mosque was widely quoted on March 20 saying that a
female imam can only lead prayers for women, not for men. A
March 22 commentary in pro-government Al-Akhbar (circulation
800,000) entitled "Female Imam Attempts to Secularize Islam"
elicited hostile commentaries. "This event is but a smoke
screen for vicious intentions aiming to destroy Islam from
within," inveighed the commentator. "The goal is to pave
the way for preaching a secular Islam conforming to the new
global order." A commentator in pro-government Al-Ahram
(circulation: 750,000) remarked on March 22, "This is part
of an attack on Islam in revenge for September 11." On
March 26, papers reported that a female led prayers at a
mosque in Boston. A prominent commentator in Al-Akhbar Al-
Youm, Ahmed Ragab, wrote March 26, "Al-Azhar and sheikhs
and imams of the Moslem world are at fault for having become
marginalized and irrelevant."

4. Arab League Summit: On March 23 and 24, Nile TV and
Nile News featured commentators critical of the summit for
its failure to improve the region. An Al-Ahram commentator
on March 24 criticized the summit for "failing to meet
Arabs' basic aspirations." For many commentators, the
summit's highlight was Libyan leader Qaddafi's hour-long
speech in which he called both Israelis and Palestinians
"idiots" and compared the UN Security Council to a
"terrorist organization." Al-Jazeera, the most widely
watched satellite channel in Egypt, replayed Qaddafi's
speech several times on March 23 and 24. One journalist,
claiming to summarize the view of his colleagues, told
EmbOff, "Qaddafi might be crazy, but sometimes in a crazy
world only mad men have wisdom."


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