Viewing cable 06MUSCAT1376
Title: OMAN: SHARP REACTION TO POPE'S REMARKS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06MUSCAT13762006-09-19 13:43:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Muscat
VZCZCXRO7514
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHMS #1376 2621343
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 191343Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY MUSCAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7162
INFO RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0037
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0085
C O N F I D E N T I A L MUSCAT 001376 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR NEA/ARP, DRL/IRF 
EMBASSY ROME FOR AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2016 
TAGS: PREL KISL MU
SUBJECT: OMAN: SHARP REACTION TO POPE'S REMARKS 
 
REF: A. MUSCAT 1370 
     ¶B. MUSCAT 222 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Gary A. Grappo for Reasons 1.4 (b, d) 
 
¶1.  (C) Summary:  Pope Benedict's recent remarks on Islam 
elicited an unexpectedly strong reaction in the local press, 
Internet chatrooms, and general conversation.  Omani papers 
have prominently highlighted international critical response 
to the papal comments, while editorials in Arabic state-owned 
daily "Oman" took the highly unusual step of chiding the Pope 
for adding to tensions between the West and the Islamic 
world.  Post contacts have been surprised at the Omani 
reaction given the country's tendency to avoid or downplay 
controversial religious topics.  End Summary. 
 
¶2.  (SBU) In an uncharacteristically swift response to 
remarks recently delivered by Pope Benedict XVI regarding 
Islam, leading Arabic daily "Oman" - which as a government 
outlet generally reflects officially approved opinion - 
carried a front-page editorial on September 15 entitled "When 
Wisdom is Lost."  In contrast to "wise people" who seek to 
promote religious understanding, the article stated, the Pope 
in his comments "added more fuel to the fire" igniting 
tensions between Western and Islamic cultures.  The editorial 
warned that "these types of comments" might generate 
extremist reactions from both Christians and Muslims, and 
"provoke a chain reaction that may lead into catastrophe." 
An article in the September 18 edition of "Oman" (equally 
strongly worded, though buried inside the paper) by a 
professor at Sultan Qaboos University asserted that, "Muslims 
need to understand that the recent comments made by the Pope 
against Islam and the Prophet are part of the campaign 
against Islam and are not an isolated incident." 
 
¶3.  (C) Apart from editorials, Omani dailies have given 
extensive coverage of the reaction to the Pope's remarks 
around the world (ref A).  The English language daily "Times 
of Oman," for example, devoted a whole page on September 17 
to news agency reports on the fallout from the papal address, 
as well as the Vatican's official clarification of the Pope's 
speech.  This concentration of coverage on a single topic is 
extremely rare, and in terms of column inches, was not seen 
even at the height of the Danish cartoon controversy. 
 
¶4.  (SBU) On the Internet, the controversy surrounding the 
Pope has sparked considerable activity in popular Omani 
Arabic-language web forum "Al Sablah" (www.omania.net) with 
several separate message threads.  Most participants 
denounced the Pope's statements concerning Islam; some 
speculated that President Bush or "Jewish influence" was 
behind the remarks.  Posters to the site's English-language 
sister (englishsabla.com) were equally taken up by the topic, 
with Christian posters from outside Oman trying, mostly in 
vain, to inject balance into what was otherwise a steady 
stream of denunciations of the Pope. 
 
¶5.  (C) A few post contacts have privately expressed their 
surprise over the extent and degree of reaction in Oman to 
the papal comments.  Haider al-Lawati, Board Member of the 
Oman Journalist Association, told Pol/Econ Couns on September 
17 that he had not anticipated the press attention devoted to 
the subject.  "Usually we try not to dwell on these types of 
things too much," he stated.  Lawati added that the 
controversy was a major source of conversation among Omanis. 
His surprise - at the public nature, rather than the content 
of the negative response - has been echoed by participants in 
one of this week's Public Affairs programs, one of whom 
jokingly congratulated the PAO for being "out of the line of 
fire on this one." 
 
¶6.  (C)  Comment:  Omani authorities are keen to promote 
moderate Islam and to cultivate an image of religious 
toleration.  Controversial religious topics are generally 
avoided in the press, which toes the government line, and in 
official circles so as not to fan potentially extremist 
feelings.  The media attention given to the Pope's remarks, 
including editorials at least informally sanctioned by the 
government, is accordingly out of step with usual Omani 
cautiousness.  Some theorize that this may be in response to 
lingering public discontent over a perceived lack of official 
reaction to the Danish cartoons deemed insulting to Islam 
(ref B).  End Comment. 
GRAPPO