US embassy cable - 05CAIRO2405

BOGEYMAN OF FOREIGN INTERFERENCE STALKS EGYPT: EGYPTIAN MEDIA THEMES, MARCH 20 TO 27

Identifier: 05CAIRO2405
Wikileaks: View 05CAIRO2405 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2005-03-28 08:00:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PGOV PREL KPAO EG Media Themes
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS CAIRO 002405 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KPAO, EG, Media Themes 
SUBJECT:  BOGEYMAN OF FOREIGN INTERFERENCE STALKS EGYPT: 
EGYPTIAN MEDIA THEMES, MARCH 20 TO 27 
 
 
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Summary 
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1.  Opposition newspaper Al-Wafd launched a campaign on 
March 20 against foreign economic assistance and 
"interference."  Several newspapers picked up this thread of 
criticism throughout the week, but none were as vociferous 
as Al-Wafd in calling for Egypt to refuse U.S. assistance. 
Commentators sharply criticized the female imam who led 
Friday prayers in New York City on March 19.  One 
commentator feared an attempt to "secularize" Islam from 
within.  The media roundly criticized the Arab Summit's 
failure to accomplish anything, while the summit's highlight 
for many Egyptian journalists was Moamar Qaddafi's hour-long 
speech in which he called Israelis and Palestinians 
"idiots."  End summary. 
 
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Main Themes in the Egyptian Media 
--------------------------------- 
 
2.  Fears of foreign interference:  In continuing reaction 
to the Ambassador's March 6 announcement of direct grants to 
NGOs for democracy and governance work, opposition Al-Wafd 
(circulation: 200,000) kicked off its campaign against 
"foreign interference" (i.e., U.S. "interference") on March 
20 with the banner headline:  "Politicians and Economic 
Experts Support Al-Wafd Party Chairman's Call:  'No to U.S. 
Aid.'"  On the same day, an Al-Wafd cartoon depicted a foot 
labeled "Egyptian parties" kicking an Uncle Sam-like figure 
with a cowboy hat and money bag, labeled "foreign 
interference."  Additional commentaries critical of foreign 
assistance were published on March 20 in independent Al- 
Masri Al-Youm (circulation: 5,000) and in opposition weekly 
Al-Araby (circulation: 20,000).  Similar commentaries in 
print and TV media appeared throughout the week, with Al- 
Wafd taking the lead in urging the GOE to refuse further 
U.S. economic assistance.  (Note:  In a widely published 
March 19 statement, ruling NDP Secretary General Safwat El- 
Sherif rejected "foreign interference in Egypt's domestic 
affairs."  End note.) 
 
3.  Controversy over female imam in New York City:  The 
March 19 Friday prayers in New York City led by Dr. Amina 
Wadoud prompted critical coverage.  Sheikh Tantawi of Al- 
Azhar Mosque was widely quoted on March 20 saying that a 
female imam can only lead prayers for women, not for men.  A 
March 22 commentary in pro-government Al-Akhbar (circulation 
800,000) entitled "Female Imam Attempts to Secularize Islam" 
elicited hostile commentaries.  "This event is but a smoke 
screen for vicious intentions aiming to destroy Islam from 
within," inveighed the commentator.  "The goal is to pave 
the way for preaching a secular Islam conforming to the new 
global order."  A commentator in pro-government Al-Ahram 
(circulation: 750,000) remarked on March 22, "This is part 
of an attack on Islam in revenge for September 11."  On 
March 26, papers reported that a female led prayers at a 
mosque in Boston.  A prominent commentator in Al-Akhbar Al- 
Youm, Ahmed Ragab, wrote March 26,  "Al-Azhar and sheikhs 
and imams of the Moslem world are at fault for having become 
marginalized and irrelevant." 
 
4.  Arab League Summit:  On March 23 and 24, Nile TV and 
Nile News featured commentators critical of the summit for 
its failure to improve the region.  An Al-Ahram commentator 
on March 24 criticized the summit for "failing to meet 
Arabs' basic aspirations."  For many commentators, the 
summit's highlight was Libyan leader Qaddafi's hour-long 
speech in which he called both Israelis and Palestinians 
"idiots" and compared the UN Security Council to a 
"terrorist organization."  Al-Jazeera, the most widely 
watched satellite channel in Egypt, replayed Qaddafi's 
speech several times on March 23 and 24.  One journalist, 
claiming to summarize the view of his colleagues, told 
EmbOff, "Qaddafi might be crazy, but sometimes in a crazy 
world only mad men have wisdom." 
 
GRAY 

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