Viewing cable 05MUSCAT466
Title: OMAN ONLINE: FEMALE PRAYER LEADER, ACTIVE EMBASSY GRIST

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05MUSCAT4662005-03-16 12:19:00 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.
UNCLAS MUSCAT 000466 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI (TROBERTS), NEA/PPD (CWHITTLESEY), NEA/P 
(FFINVER), IIP/G/NEA 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: FEMALE PRAYER LEADER, ACTIVE EMBASSY GRIST 
FOR CHATROOM MILL 
 
¶1. Summary:  The Omani Internet chat rooms "Al-Sablah" and "Al- 
Majarra" are the liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic-language 
fora 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, these popular sites nevertheless offer a 
worthwhile window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of 
the day.  This edition of Oman Online contains the following 
topics: 
 
-- Dr. Amina Wadud to lead prayer before mixed congregants in NY 
-- An active Embassy draws comment 
 
End summary. 
 
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Is Oman Ready For A Female Prayer Leader? 
----------------------------------------- 
 
¶2. Recent postings in "Al-Sablah" carried mixed reactions about 
news purporting that an American Muslim Scholar, Dr. Amina Wadud, 
intends to lead prayers on Friday, March 18th, 2005 in New York. 
The article, which appeared in regional press over the weekend, 
was cut and pasted from the privately owned Omani newspaper "al- 
Watan" into Al-Sablah. Responses were generally negative.  One 
Sablah member wrote, "I implore all wise men not to join this 
prayer." Another more positive member suggested, "The idea of a 
woman prayer leader may invite more crowds of worshippers to 
join, which is a good thing." Another Sablah member offered a 
strong argument in support of Dr. Wadud as a prayer leader by 
offering an alternative interpretation of the role of women found 
in the Quran.  The conversation closed on a sarcastic note when 
one member stated, "If Dr. Wadud is so great, then she should 
step forward and ask to lead the prayers in the Sultan Qaboos 
Grand Mosque." 
 
-------------------------------- 
We Must Be Doing Something Right 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶3.   Al-Sablah recently carried the text of an article published 
in the UAE newspaper "al-Khaleej".  The article was entitled 
"Ministry of Justice organizes an English language course for 
Judges." The article referred to a "legal English" language 
course offered to Omani judges, taught by an American instructor, 
and which is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Muscat.  Many 
Sablah members reacted strongly against this article.  One Sablah 
writer wrote, "I wonder if this the beginning of western 
interference in Oman, or is this just part of the overwhelming 
western presence in the region.  Either way, it is indeed 
interference, which in Oman is overlooked by some and accepted by 
others who wish to benefit from the west." 
 
¶4.  Another Sablah member commented that, "The American Embassy 
presides over our celebrations.  The American Embassy organizes 
seminars for teachers and selects the participants according to 
criteria that are not made public knowledge.  Nor do we know the 
purpose of these courses." This same respondent later commented, 
"The U.S. Ambassador is seen all over Oman in our newspapers, 
attending seminars and workshops, participating in English 
language courses in several schools, acting as if he presides 
over everything.  The behavior of this Embassy and the U.S. 
Ambassador's presence at all these events is unlike all other 
diplomatic Missions, even those of Arab countries with diplomatic 
missions here."  Still other members suggested, "This is 
shameless interference in our affairs to which many Omanis have 
applauded, either because of ignorance, negligence, or 
indifference.  Since when have Embassies turned into schools that 
teach languages?" 
 
¶5.  Finally, on a more positive note, one Sablah member who has 
participated in past Embassy programming commented, "I personally 
benefited from the initiatives of the Embassy or "the West", 
particularly in the field of law.  As a result of my 
participation in one of their exchange programs, I am not as 
quick to condemn the Embassy's outreach initiatives as some 
here."  The same participant concluded by challenging al-Sablah 
members saying, "If you really want to know what the Embassy is 
doing in our community, and why you keep seeing their Ambassador 
in our news, contact them, and ask questions!  Stop criticizing 
automatically, especially when you see them doing positive things 
that our government isn't even doing!" 
 
BALTIMORE