Viewing cable 05MUSCAT1577

05MUSCAT15772005-10-19 13:21:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. Summary: The Omani Internet message board "al-Sablah" is the 
liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic-language forum for 
political and social discourse in the country, touching on issues 
and personalities rarely addressed in the conventional media. 
While not totally free, nor wholly reflective of Omani public 
opinion, this popular site nevertheless offers a worthwhile 
window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of the day. 
This edition of Oman Online contains the following topics: 
-- Iraq's Draft Constitution 
-- Oman's History In East Africa 
-- Loud Imams In Salalah 
-- Sheikh Khalifa's Gift To Oman 
End summary. 
The Genuine Article 
¶2. The entire text of the draft Iraqi constitution was posted for 
al-Sablah's readers, and a number of forum members (360 hits and 
20 responses) took the opportunity to criticize the document, 
article by article.  "This so-called constitution was written by 
American Jews, in consultation with the Israeli government, just 
before the occupation - and was approved by the 2002 London 
conference of Iraqi opposition leaders under the supervision of 
U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad," claimed one writer.  Another chimed 
in, "Constitutions cannot be drafted under duress or occupation. 
For a constitution to be successful, the drafters need absolute 
freedom and security, both of which were totally lacking in 
¶3. Although some respondents supported the referendum, the 
strongest comments came from those opposed to the constitution. 
"Anybody who thinks a unified Iraq will result from this 
ratification is mistaken.  There will just be a number of small 
states in conflict, with different languages, the same as 
happened in South Yemen during the British occupation 150 years 
ago," noted one contributor.  Remarked another, "This 
constitution is an example of `Divide and Rule.'  Curse the 
drafters of this constitution and those who have paved the way 
for it." 
Imperial Hubris? 
¶4. Oman's imperial history in East Africa surfaced as a topic on 
the Internet message board, generating 1,500 hits and 34 
responses.  A debate ensued over Oman's legacy in the region, 
with contributors citing slavery and Islam as the Sultanate's two 
main exports.  "The majority of Omanis who immigrated to Africa 
did so with the purpose of establishing trade and commerce. 
Unfortunately, these intentions caused a lot of problems.  Rather 
than bringing over science or culture, the Omanis brought 
carnation plants to Zanzibar in the hope of making money," 
offered one writer.  Another lamented, "Slavery was the hallmark 
of the Omanis during their rule of Zanzibar.  This type of human 
trade is abhorrent to Islam in particular and humanity as a 
¶5. Others defended Oman's record:  "The Omanis were certainly 
interested in trade and expansionism, but that doesn't mean they 
neglected the mission of Islam.  The good reputation of the 
Muslims always preceded the conquering forces.  The people of 
East Africa were influenced by the nobility of Islam, and that is 
why they still embrace it willingly today." 
The Sound And The Fury 
¶6. Continuing on the theme of Islam, one al-Sablah member alleged 
that an imam in Salalah had turned up the volume on his mosque 
loudspeakers to intolerable levels.  "In order not to cause 
problems for both children and sick people, I call upon the 
Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs to intervene and keep the 
volume at a moderate level," continued the author.  468 people 
viewed the topic, and 15 responded.  "There is an abundance of 
mosques in our country," began one writer, "and you don't need 
loudspeakers to find them to pray."  Another said, "There are non- 
Muslims living near the mosque, and we have to respect their 
privacy and feelings."  Others disagreed:  "What a beauty it is 
that our children wake up to a voice saying `God is Great.'  It 
is strange, especially during Ramadhan, to hear someone say that 
the broadcasting of prayers is a disturbance." 
Road To Nowhere 
¶7. In a popular topic that provoked 1,135 hits and 41 responses, 
an author asked "What happened to the RO 100 million gift 
(roughly $260 million) from the ruler of the UAE (Shaykh Khalifa) 
that was supposed to go towards building a dual carriageway 
(highway) from Nizwa to Salalah?"  Others took up the call:  "We 
heard from Dubai and Abu Dhabi TV that the gift was intended for 
the construction of a dual carriageway, but the Omani press has 
ignored the issue.  Is this deliberate, because the money has 
been put to other uses?" 
¶8. The conversation then turned to a critique on the tenure of 
Ahmed Abd al-Nabi Macki, the Minister of National Economy.  "I 
want to ask the president of the UAE if he ever heard Macki 
saying that the funds would be shifted to other destinations," 
declared one respondent.  Another asked, "Who is Macki, and on 
what basis can he dispose of Sheikh Khalifa's donation to the 
Omani people?"  Others became more emotional:  "Isn't this a 
suitable time for this man to step down and stop his policies 
that increase the agony of the Omani people every day?  Doesn't 
he feel the suffering of his countrymen?  The answer is no, a 
thousand times."