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Cablegate: Muslim Iv Says American Islam Can Teach Muslim

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 MAPUTO 001372

SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR AF/PD (LMING, PEHRNMAN); AF/S (HTREGER;
ECA/PE/V(CPETERSON)
PARIS FOR ARS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT OIIP KPAO KISL SCUL MZ
SUBJECT: MUSLIM IV SAYS AMERICAN ISLAM CAN TEACH MUSLIM
RECONCILIATION

1. SUMMARY. The American experience subtly changes Islam for
the better by erasing many of the schisms that plague
Muslims elsewhere, according to returning International
Visitor and Islamic Council member Bayano Valy. Leading a
roundtable discussion at PAS based on his recent
participation in the IVLP, "Islamic Leadership," he argued
that the American Muslims offer a model of Islamic
reconciliation under one roof, whether divisions are
theological or ethnic. Valy's remarks and the subsequent PAS-
hosted Iftar received significant press coverage, including
by the local Muslim radio station. Hats off again to
ECA/PE/V for producing a timely, well-organized program. END
SUMMARY

2. On October 11, PAS hosted a roundtable discussion on
Islam in the United States, led by Bayano Valy, a journalist
and researcher who also serves as press officer for the
Islamic Council of Mozambique. Valy participated in the
recent International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)
"Islamic Leadership," and used the roundtable to present his
impressions. He spoke to an invited audience of about 25
Muslims and journalists.

NO MUSLIM UNDERCLASS
3. Valy opened by dispelling the common impression that
Muslims form an underclass in the U.S. He listed figures to
the contrary, citing high income and educational levels. In
fact, Iranian-Americans are among the most successful
immigrants in American history. Taken together, he averred,
Muslims represent perhaps the fastest growing religious
group in the U.S., now outnumbering Jews and many individual
Christian denominations.

E PLURIBUS UNUM, SORT OF
4. What struck Valy most, however, was not American Islam's
size, growth, or affluence; it was its relative lack of
internal discord. The sectarian and ethnic schisms that
plague Islam in the Middle East and Africa simply don't
exist in the U.S. Typically, American mosques encompass
many ethnicities and both major sects without distinguishing
one from the other. He noted that the practice of treating
all Muslims equally reflects the original Islam of Mecca
before the Sunnis-Shia split emerged. American Islam, thus,
presents Muslims around the world a model of unity and
internal reconciliation. In this context, he told Muslims
to stop thinking of America either as a mission field or
simply beyond the holy pale, and to begin to see that
American Islam has something important to offer
traditionally Muslim societies.

AMERICANS IN NEED OF A RELIGIOUS IDENTITY
5. How did American Muslims get to this point? Largely by
the fact that many are immigrants, suggested Valy, and their
subsequent economic success. As with most immigrant groups,
Muslims immigrants have tended to assimilate as they and
their offspring become more culturally American. The
challenge of the American mosque, Valy noted, lies in
maintaining an Islamic community, particularly among youth.
It must accentuate what believers share, rather than their
differences. Moreover, American converts, including African
American Muslims, simply don't care about Old World
divisions. As a result, American Muslims of all backgrounds
tend to see themselves as Muslims, not Sunnis or Shias.

6. He was careful to point out, however, that there is no
such thing as a Muslim community per se in the U.S., but
rather that it is a hodgepodge of ethnic and linguistic
communities ranging from immigrant groups to the Nation of
Islam. Overall, Muslims remain a minority in a predominantly
Christian culture. Minority status encourages unity, the
notion of One Islam under One Roof helping to define a
community in an alien context.

EDUCATE THE IMAMS
7. Prompted by audience comments about the low level of
education among Mozambican Muslims, Valy called for more and
better education in general. American Muslims, he said,
succeed in part because of their education, both practical
and liberal. One explanation for the unity of American
Islam lies in its well-educated leadership. Unlike
Mozambican imams, their education is not limited to
theology. Valy said he met American imams with doctorates
in political science and other social sciences, and most
hold undergraduate degrees.

8. Average American Muslims also have access to education
and thus appreciate to some degree the need to maintain the
intellectual underpinnings of the faith. By contrast, it is
the lack of education for Mozambican Muslims that stands as
their greatest obstacle; until 1990 there was not a single
Islamic school in the heavily Muslim north. He concluded
that it is precisely their ignorance that makes Mozambican
Muslims ripe for manipulation by an ill-educated clergy.

EDUCATION AND WORK FOR WOMEN IS A NECESSITY
9. Valy challenged the commonly held notion that Islam
discourages women from work. Even in Saudi Arabia, he
averred, women work within the home. The question is not
whether women will work, it is rather what kind of work they
will do. Educate women, and the country and Islam will move
forward. Leave them ignorant, and they will hold back the
community and the country.

SEPTEMBER 11
10. Valy called September 11 a short-term problem for
American Muslims, but a long-term blessing in disguise. The
fear that followed the attacks led to numerous incidents of
discrimination and even violence against Muslims. Yet it
was these incidents that forced non-Muslim Americans to
recognize the Muslims in their midst, and that they too were
fellow Americans. September 11, therefore, had the
paradoxical result of transforming terrorists' hatred of
things American into a deeper American understanding and
acceptance of Islam.
PRESS COVERAGE
11. Radio Imame, a Maputo radio station for the Islamic
community with an audience of about 15,000, recorded and
later aired extended segments of the discussion, noting also
the PAS-hosted Iftar that followed. Radio Capital, a
Christian station with about 25,000 listeners, aired a story
using recorded segments of the session. O Pais, an
influential independent weekly with a print run of 20,000,
also published a story on October 14.

A BROADER SPECTRUM OF IVLP PARTICIPANTS WOULD BE BETTER
12. In a separate debriefing, Valy made one criticism of the
IVLP. The other participants were either imams or were
perceived as religious leaders in their countries. He felt
alone in his more journalistic and in many ways secular
approach to the program. He suggested inclusion of Muslims
with broader backgrounds (such as journalism) for balance in
such future programs.

13. COMMENT. Valy spoke not as a religious leader, but as a
Muslim journalist. He carefully sidestepped theological
questions, choosing to focus on American Muslims
politically, socially, and economically. By painting a
picture of a sophisticated American Islam, he has
contributed to the Mozambican Muslim community's overall
reassessment of the United States, assisted by our highly
visible outreach program.
LA LIME

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