Viewing cable 05MUSCAT697

05MUSCAT6972005-04-27 13:20:00 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 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 
-- The truth about U.S. visa applications and encouraging Omani 
students to study in the U.S. 
End summary. 
Harty Responds 
¶2. During her April 8-10 visit to Oman, Assistant Secretary of 
State for Consular Affairs Maura Harty responded to questions 
from al-Sablah members about educational opportunities in the 
United States as well as U.S. visa application procedures.  In 
the process, she also addressed misperceptions that the United 
States no longer welcomes Arab visitors and that the visa process 
is beset by long delays. 
The Dialogue Begins 
¶3. One al-Sablah member greeted A/S Harty stating, "We welcome 
you to al-Sablah and thank you for agreeing to talk with us 
frankly about visa issues and study in the U.S."  A/S Harty 
responded, "Thank you for this opportunity to dialogue with you. 
It is just this type of freedom of expression that we value and 
treasure in the United States.  We need not always agree. 
Indeed, decisions made by our friends around the world may be 
upsetting to us from time to time, but it is critical that the 
dialogue continue." 
Myth Busting and Fact Sharing 
¶4. A/S Harty's participation in the discussion generated a great 
deal of online interest.  Although a fair number of members chose 
to use the Assistant Secretary's presence on the site to critique 
U.S. foreign policy, many others expressed genuine concerns about 
visa procedures, the process of clearing immigration upon arrival 
in the U.S., and anxiety about perceived anti-Arab sentiment in 
America.  One al-Sablah participant asked, "Why is it that Arabs 
are automatically considered suspect?  Why are they susceptible 
to long detentions even if they are only suspected of being a 
threat?  What guarantee is there that innocent Omani students 
will not be treated in this way?"  A/S Harty helped to calm the 
fears of al-Sablah members by providing factual information about 
the visa process and immigration procedures.  She explained the 
safeguards that are in place to protect people suspected of 
crimes, and stressed that the new U.S. immigration procedures 
protect not only Americans, but also everyone in the United 
States, reminding her interlocutors that people from 90 different 
countries were killed in the September 11 attacks. 
¶5. The following is a summary of representative questions and A/S 
Harty's responses to them: 
Does the U.S. Embassy offer scholarships for Omani postgraduate 
students wishing to further their studies in America? 
-- Yes, the U.S. Embassy administers a number of competitive U.S. 
government scholarship programs for Omani students who want to 
study in the U.S.  Under the programs, students can obtain 
Bachelors, Masters, or Ph.D. degrees.  Information about these 
programs is available on the Embassy web site 
The names of two programs related closely with higher education 
opportunities in the United States are the following: 
- The Fulbright Foreign Student Program, which provides 
scholarships to individuals interested in pursuing graduate 
degrees in the United States; 
- The Partnerships for Learning Undergraduate Studies program 
(PLUS), which provides scholarships for students who wish to 
pursue bachelor degrees in the liberal arts, humanities, and 
social sciences. 
Do American universities offer scholarships for postgraduate 
study to foreign students? 
-- Yes, many American universities offer scholarships to foreign 
students for study at all levels.  I recommend that you contact 
the universities directly regarding their policies.  Should you 
require assistance, you may also contact the Educational Advisor 
at the U.S. Embassy. 
How can I apply for a scholarship? 
-- There are several ways to learn about scholarships.  I 
recommend that you begin by reviewing the web sites of 
universities that interest you.  These sites often list 
scholarship opportunities provided by the institutions, their 
eligibility requirements, and their application process.  Another 
option is to contact or visit the U.S. Embassy's Educational 
Advisor to discuss scholarship opportunities for Omani nationals. 
The Educational Advisor can be reached at the following number: 
24-698-989 ext. 201 or 
If I want to change my visa from a work visa to a study visa, 
will I have to pay a fee?  Is it difficult to change one's visa 
-- The answer to these questions will depend on your particular 
circumstances. I suggest you contact the Consular Section at the 
U.S. Embassy and explain your situation to them.  They will be 
able to advise you with more accuracy.  You can contact the 
Consular Section at the following number: 24-698-989 ext. 
Will I be able to get a student visa? I hear the process takes a 
long time. 
-- More than 98 percent of Omani applicants for U.S. student 
visas obtain them and the vast majority of the visas are issued 
in 24 hours. 
Is it true that Arab and Muslim students are mistreated in the 
U.S., especially since September 11? 
-- The U.S. continues to welcome Arab and Muslim students.  Many 
colleges and universities have active Muslim student associations 
that provide members with social and religious networks.  In 
addition, there is a high degree of respect for religious and 
cultural differences throughout U.S. society.  It is unfortunate 
that media reports of a few isolated incidents of intolerance 
following September 11 have left an erroneous impression that 
Americans are hostile toward Arabs. Nothing could be further from 
the truth. 
Communication & Understanding 
¶6.  A/S Harty concluded her dialogue with al-Sablah members 
stating, "We want Omanis to come to the United States to better 
understand us as a nation in the same way that I have come to 
Oman to better understand Oman, its people and culture.  I very 
much appreciate the hospitality of the many Omanis I was able to 
meet during this visit.  I am eager to underscore the United 
State's strong desire to cement the very firm and enduring 
friendship we share with the good people of Oman." 
¶7. The Embassy's Consular Section will continue to respond to 
questions raised as a result of A/S Harty's participation in the 
online forum.