Cablegate: Minister of Islamic Affairs On Fostering Moderation

DE RUEHKU #3877/01 2710639
P 280639Z SEP 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUWAIT 003877




E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/2016

B. KUWAIT 1741

Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C/NF) Summary: The Ambassador called on Dr. Abdullah
Al-Maatouq, who serves as both Minister of Justice and
Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs (MAIA), on September
27. They discussed the MAIA's upcoming Moderation conference
in Washington, which the Minister said had been in some
jeopardy of cancellation because of the Pope's recent
comments, but that the Amir had insisted it go forward. He
noted that the previous moderation conference, held in
Britain earlier this year, had led to Kuwait's redoubling its
efforts to spread moderation since European Imams were
susceptible to falling into extremism. He said Kuwait's
moderation stemmed from dialogue within the society as well
as openness to the outside world. A more pressing worry for
him is sectarianism. The Minister agreed with the
Ambassador's criticism of the misrepresentation of the war on
terror by some commentators as a war on Islam and hoped the
Ministry could help convey this point to the public. End

Amir Insists on Holding Conference Despite Pope's Remarks
--------------------------------------------- ------------

2. (C/NF) The Ambassador called on Dr. Abdullah Al-Maatouq,
who serves as both Minister of Justice and Minister of Awqaf
and Islamic Affairs, on September 27. Al-Maatouq began by
thanking the U.S. for its recognition of Kuwait as a free
country, presumably in response to the recently released
International Religious Freedom Report. The Minister then
mentioned the upcoming MAIA conference in Washington. He
said that the recent comments by the Pope had threatened to
derail the conference, but that meetings with foreign
ambassadors and the Amir's insistence that the conference
continue as planned had saved the conference.

UK Conference Reveals Imams' Need for Moderation Training
--------------------------------------------- ------------

3. (C/NF) Al-Maatouq said the British government had called
the MAIA's recent conference in London one of the most
successful conferences ever in the UK in terms of the topics
discussed and the participants involved. The conference
recommended improving training of Imams in Europe on
moderation, since many tend toward extremism. The Minister
said the conference convinced him to increased the budget
"ten-fold" in order to train Imams both in Kuwait and Europe.
Included was funding for an Islamic center in Manchester for
training of Imams. Al-Maatouq commented that the conference
was an experiment, but declared that it had been an enormous

Washington Conference Will Be Closed

4. (C/NF) In response to the Ambassador's question on
whether the Washington conference would be open to the
public, Al-Maatouq said that it would be patterned as a
consultation with American Muslim leaders, but that another
conference in Britain, to be held under the patronage of
Prince Charles in February 2007, would focus on interfaith
dialogue and include Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

Moderation is Rooted in Openness and True Islam
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (C/NF) Al-Maatouq insisted that part of the key to
moderation is teaching true Islam. He noted that none of the
prominent Al-Qaeda leaders was trained in Islamic studies.
For instance, Osama Bin Laden is a university graduate and
Ayman Al-Zawahiri is a doctor. He cited a study by an
Egyptian writer who interviewed 3,000 terrorists in Egypt,
and found that only one was a graduate of Al-Azhar (Egypt's
foremost Islamic University).

6. (C/NF) The Ambassador inquired about the tension between
moderation and extremism in Kuwait over the past 20 years.
Al-Maatouq said Kuwait was a very moderate society and that
its diwaniyas have allowed people to talk to one another and
reach mutual understanding. He acknowledged that there were
a few extremists but that they had not come to extremism
through the mosques. The Ministry had been successful in
inculcating moderation among potentially extremist Imams
through training courses and trips to Europe. The trips to
Europe are part of Al-Maatouq's view that isolation breeds
extremism. He cited Saudi Arabia as an example of a society

KUWAIT 00003877 002 OF 002

that mistrusted everything from the outside and therefore
bred extremists. The Ministry's training programs were
developed in consultation with reformed extremists in order
to understand how to reach other extremists (ref B). The
Ministry has used these experiences to develop a strategy
(ref C), which he said was approved by the OIC and
distributed to other Islamic Affairs Ministries. Al-Maatouq
said that even Saudi Arabia, which had initially been
resistant to Kuwait's moderation project, jumped on board
when King Abdullah called for moderation at the most recent
OIC meeting.

Sectarianism More of a Threat than Extremism

7. (C/NF) Al-Maatouq declared that Kuwait's extremists were
not a major concern. He expressed greater worry over
sectarian divisions and specifically mentioned the Shi'a and
the Salafis.

Minister Advises Cooperation in USG Public Diplomacy
--------------------------------------------- -------

8. (C/NF) The Ambassador lamented Kuwaiti and other
regional writers' increasing conflation of the war on terror
with a war on Islam. Al-Maatouq vociferously rejected that
idea, saying "there is no war on Islam" and expressing
support for American efforts to rid Afghanistan and Iraq of
unwanted elements. He commented that Kuwaiti writers are
pandering to the public rather than leading it, and that he
hoped his Ministry's programs would train writers to comment
more intelligently on the war on terror. The Minister also
advised the USG to route its rebuttals through the GOK, since
recent events in Lebanon, Palestine/Israel, Afghanistan, and
Iraq have made Kuwaitis wary of U.S. intentions. The
Ambassador also noted successful visits to the U.S. by
Kuwaiti imams, who experienced the full range of religious
practice in the U.S. and came back with completely different
attitudes toward the U.S. The Ambassador told the Minister
that we would like to work with his ministry to expand such

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