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Cablegate: Codel Smith March 21-24 Visit to Cairo: Meeting

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

UNCLAS CAIRO 002480

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP KISL PREL EG
SUBJECT: CODEL SMITH MARCH 21-24 VISIT TO CAIRO: MEETING
WITH ISLAMIC, JEWISH LEADERS


Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: During his March 21-24 visit to Egypt,
Senator Gordon Smith called on Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed
Tantawi, Egypt's senior Islamic spiritual leader, and visited
the President of Cairo's Jewish community. With Tantawi,
Smith reaffirmed U.S. respect for Islam and discussed the
mutual desire to promote tolerance and cooperation. With the
head of the Jewish community, Senator Smith agreed to explore
ways U.S. groups might help preserve and protect Egypt's
Jewish heritage. The Senator had also sought a meeting with
Pope Shenouda, leader of Egypt's Coptic Christian community,
but the Pope was unable to meet the Senator. End summary.

2. (SBU) Senator Smith's March 23 courtesy call on Sheikh
Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, who, as Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, is
one of Sunni Islam's most prominent spiritual leaders, was
characterized by warmth. Welcoming Senator Smith to Cairo,
the Sheikh gave him a brief overview of Al-Azhar as an
educational and theological institution. The Senator thanked
Sheikh Tantawi for having repeatedly rejected the use of
Islam to condone intolerant ideologies and acts of violence.
"I speak out against this (phenomenon) because it is my
solemn duty," affirmed the Sheikh. Senator Smith assured
Tantawi that the American people and the USG understand the
difference between Islam as a noble and virtuous religion and
those who would subvert its message for evil purposes.

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3. (SBU) The Sheikh asserted that Islam views all mankind as
descending "from the same father and the same mother" and
underlined that "differences in creed in no way preclude
cooperation between peoples." Tantawi recalled that Al-Azhar
had condemned, unequivocally and publicly, the September 11
terrorist attacks on the same day they occurred. He
described the 9/11 attacks as vile crimes that killed men,
women, and children, Americans, Egyptians, Christians,
Muslims, Jews, and others, without discrimination. "Such an
attack is against all religious teachings, and all religions
are innocent of such a crime," he stated. The Senator
thanked Tantawi for his "message of encouragement and
healing."

4. (SBU) Subsequently, Dr. Ali Saman, an advisor to Sheikh
Tantawi, briefed Senator Smith on the progress of Al-Azhar's
interfaith dialogue initiatives, highlighting formal dialogue
agreements already concluded between Al-Azhar and both the
Vatican and the Anglican church. Senator Smith encouraged
these efforts.

5. (SBU) Immediately after his visit to Al-Azhar, Senator
Smith visited the Adly Street synagogue in downtown Cairo.
Carmen Weinstein, the President of Cairo's dwindling Jewish
community, which she estimated numbers less than 100, offered
the Senator a tour of the syagogue and adjacent library,
which houses a number of precious manuscripts. Weinstein
lamented the decline of Cairo's Jewish community, which had
once numbered 80,000. Most of the community left during the
tense times that followed the 1956 and 1967 wars, she noted,
although Weinstein asserted that more could have opted to
remain and assume Egyptian nationality, as her father did.
Weinstein told the Senator she is now focused on establishing
an international trust that can preserve and restore Egypt's
many historic Jewish artifacts and structures. Senator Smith
offered to explore possibilities with U.S. groups and
individuals that might be interested in working with Egypt's
Jewish community on such a project. Weinstein noted that
some in the Jewish community in America were trying to have
Egypt's Jewish artifacts sent to the United States for safe
keeping, but underlined her vehement opposition to this
proposal.

6. (U) CODEL Smith did not have an opportunity to clear this
message before departing Egypt.


Visit Embassy Cairo's Classified Website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/cairo

You can also access this site through the
State Department's Classified SIPRNET website.

GRAY

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