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Cablegate: Panama: Embassy Initiates New Out-Reach to Muslim

VZCZCXYZ0020
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #1081 1762155
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 252155Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0692
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 001081

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/21/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV SOCI PM
SUBJECT: PANAMA: EMBASSY INITIATES NEW OUT-REACH TO MUSLIM
SCHOOL


Classified By: POLCOUNS Brian R. Naranjo. Reason: 1.4(b) and (d).

--------
SUMMARY
---------
1. (C) EMBOFFs visited for the first time a traditional
Muslim school (madrasa) in Aguadulce, Cocle Province on June
21. Representatives from the Embassy's Political and Public
Diplomacy sections donated English-language books and
discussed a possible opportunity for students to participate
in a cultural exchange for Muslim students to visit
Washington. (Note: The school requested English-language,
not Arabic-language, books.) While the school bills itself
as providing a traditional Muslim education as well as
providing a secular education, EMBOFFs, who were warmly
received, saw scant evidence that any meaningful secular
education was indeed part of the curriculum. End summary.

----------------------------
EMBOFFs Reach Out to Madrasa
----------------------------

2. (SBU) In its latest out-reach effort to Panama's Muslim
community, EMBOFFs visited for the first time a madrasa in
Aguadulce in Cocle province where they donated
English-language books. Established seven years ago, the
school has thirty-seven students and seven teachers (all
male). Most of the students are second generation Gujarati
Indian Sunni Muslims. The teachers are clerics, educated in
India and England. Before the visit, the school's teachers
told EMBOFFs that, although they emphasized teaching and
learning about Islam, academic subjects like math and science
were taught and highly regarded. They explained that half of
the school day was spent on religious learning and the other
half was spent on academic subjects. The school officials
also told us that most of the children were between the ages
of 12 and 18.

3. (SBU) Students and teachers were dressed in traditional
Muslim clothing and were seated at low-level tables on the
floor. Teachers told EMBOFFs on June 21 that the school was
essentially a religious school where students memorized the
Koran in its entirety, normally a two to three year task.
The school contracted non-Muslims to teach academic subjects
such as math one to two times per week. Teachers stated that
once students finished this particular madrasa, they either
went to the UK for further Islamic study if they came from
more affluent families or to India if they came from more
modest families. They also stated that students were able to
obtain a certificate from the school and to pursue secular
study at the University of Panama. Although we were
originally told that the age range for boys in attendance was
12 to 18 years, one teacher told EMBOFFs that his son, who
attended the school, was 10. Students, roomed 4-5 to a room,
live at the madrasa for about 2 months before receiving 1
month of vacation. At the school, students have little
contact with the outside world as there are no televisions or
radios at the school.

-------
Comment
-------

4. (C) At first glance, it appears that only lip service is
paid to the school's secular curriculum. Given the that the
majority of their time is spent on Islamic studies, these
students will have difficulty integrating into Panamanian
society, if that is indeed their objective. EMBOFFs were
warmly greeted by teachers and students, and post will
continue to develop ties with this madrasa and the wider
Panamanian Muslim community.
EATON

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