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Cablegate: Muslim Outreach Program: Embassy Madrid Hosts Its

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

UNCLAS MADRID 003671

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/WE - CLEMENTS AND HALL
FOR EUR/PPD - WALKER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KPAO KISL SP
SUBJECT: MUSLIM OUTREACH PROGRAM: EMBASSY MADRID HOSTS ITS
FIRST IFTAR


1. Summary. As part of its Muslim Outreach program, Embassy
Madrid held its first Embassy Iftar on the evening of October
13 in the Ambassador's residence. Approximately fifty guests
attended, including leaders of Spanish Islamic organizations,
mosques, and immigrant associations, as well as foreign
diplomats and Spanish government officials. In his remarks,
the Ambassador expressed his desire to learn more about Islam
and the Muslim community in Spain, and spoke of the many
values that Muslims and Americans of all religious beliefs
share. He concluded by reading President Bush's Ramadan
message. The event was extremely well received. Both
long-time Embassy contacts and new invitees praised the
initiative and the respect and sensitivity it demonstrated.
The event also received positive press coverage, including in
a key Muslim community website and in the prominent Spanish
language daily El Pais. End Summary.

2. The Ambassador hosted Embassy Madrid's first iftar the
evening of October 13. Leaders of Spanish Muslim
organizations from Madrid, Cordoba, Seville and Barcelona
attended, as did members of the diplomatic corps (including
the Moroccan, Lebanese, Iraqi and Arab League Ambassadors),
journalists, and a representative of the Spanish Ministry of
Justice's Office of Religious Affairs. In all, approximately
fifty guests were present.

3. The imam from Spain's largest mosque at the Islamic
Cultural Center in Madrid (the M-30 mosque), Imam Moneir
Mahmoud Aly El Messery, performed the call to prayer at
sundown. As guests finished their first course of the
traditional Moroccan iftar (500,000 of the at least 600,000
Muslims in Spain are of Moroccan origin), the Ambassador gave
his remarks, speaking about America's Muslim population,
about what Americans of all faiths have in common with
Muslims, and about how much there is to learn about each
other. He expressed the Embassy's desire to learn more about
the Muslim community in Spain and to collaborate on projects
to build mutual understanding.

4. The reaction of the guests was excellent. Invitees
repeatedly told the Ambassador and Embassy attendees how
delighted and surprised they were by the invitation and
pleased with the initiative. The Ambassador received a gift
of thanks from the Islamic Commission of Spain: a
Spanish-language Qur'an, accompanied by a letter addressed to
President Bush from Mansur Escudero, Secretary General of the
Commission (to be reported septel) Escudero, one of the most
prominent Muslim leaders in Spain, issued a fatwa against
Usama bin Laden on March 11, 2005 on the one-year anniversary
of the Madrid train bombings of 2004.

5. Press coverage after the event was also positive. The
daily El Pais carried a piece quoting the Ambassador's
speech, "The United States is proud of its Muslim citizens,"
and describing the event in some detail. Webislam, the
Spanish-language Islamic web portal usually critical of the
US, covered the event positively, mentioning the details
attended to at the dinner, such as halal food and setting
aside a prayer room. The publishers also posted the text of
the Ambassador's speech on the site.

6. Comment. The iftar was a significant element in Embassy
Madrid,s on-going Muslim Outeach plan. It follows on
the Ambassador's recent visit to the main mosque in Madrid,
known as the &M-30 mosque8 and its Muslim center and
school; speeches on religious tolerance, noting the
distinction between Islamic fanatisicm/terrorism and the
Muslim faith; a luncheon for Muslim Ambassadors; and events
earlier in the year for which Public Affairs brought American
Muslim speakers to speak to the community in Spain and to
meet senior Muslim leaders. Post also identified several
Muslim community members for our 2005 International Visitor
program and has already begun looking closely for potential
candidates for next year. Post looks forward solidifying
relationships with the many new contacts we made at this
event, and we will continue our collaboration with our
longstanding contacts in the community. End comment.
AGUIRRE

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