US embassy cable - 05CAIRO2480

CODEL SMITH MARCH 21-24 VISIT TO CAIRO: MEETING WITH ISLAMIC, JEWISH LEADERS

Identifier: 05CAIRO2480
Wikileaks: View 05CAIRO2480 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2005-03-29 15:51:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: OREP KISL PREL EG Visits
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 002480 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: OREP, KISL, PREL, EG, Visits 
SUBJECT: CODEL SMITH MARCH 21-24 VISIT TO CAIRO:  MEETING 
WITH ISLAMIC, JEWISH LEADERS 
 
 
Sensitive but unclassified.  Please protect accordingly. 
 
1. (SBU) Summary: During his March 21-24 visit to Egypt, 
Senator Gordon Smith called on Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed 
Tantawi, Egypt's senior Islamic spiritual leader, and visited 
the President of Cairo's Jewish community.  With Tantawi, 
Smith reaffirmed U.S. respect for Islam and discussed the 
mutual desire to promote tolerance and cooperation.  With the 
head of the Jewish community, Senator Smith agreed to explore 
ways U.S. groups might help preserve and protect Egypt's 
Jewish heritage.  The Senator had also sought a meeting with 
Pope Shenouda, leader of Egypt's Coptic Christian community, 
but the Pope was unable to meet the Senator.  End summary. 
 
2. (SBU) Senator Smith's March 23 courtesy call on Sheikh 
Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, who, as Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, is 
one of Sunni Islam's most prominent spiritual leaders, was 
characterized by warmth.  Welcoming Senator Smith to Cairo, 
the Sheikh gave him a brief overview of Al-Azhar as an 
educational and theological institution.  The Senator thanked 
Sheikh Tantawi for having repeatedly rejected the use of 
Islam to condone intolerant ideologies and acts of violence. 
"I speak out against this (phenomenon) because it is my 
solemn duty," affirmed the Sheikh.  Senator Smith assured 
Tantawi that the American people and the USG understand the 
difference between Islam as a noble and virtuous religion and 
those who would subvert its message for evil purposes. 
 
3. (SBU) The Sheikh asserted that Islam views all mankind as 
descending "from the same father and the same mother" and 
underlined that "differences in creed in no way preclude 
cooperation between peoples."  Tantawi recalled that Al-Azhar 
had condemned, unequivocally and publicly, the September 11 
terrorist attacks on the same day they occurred.  He 
described the 9/11 attacks as vile crimes that killed men, 
women, and children, Americans, Egyptians, Christians, 
Muslims, Jews, and others, without discrimination.  "Such an 
attack is against all religious teachings, and all religions 
are innocent of such a crime," he stated.  The Senator 
thanked Tantawi for his "message of encouragement and 
healing." 
 
4. (SBU) Subsequently, Dr. Ali Saman, an advisor to Sheikh 
Tantawi, briefed Senator Smith on the progress of Al-Azhar's 
interfaith dialogue initiatives, highlighting formal dialogue 
agreements already concluded between Al-Azhar and both the 
Vatican and the Anglican church.  Senator Smith encouraged 
these efforts. 
 
5. (SBU) Immediately after his visit to Al-Azhar, Senator 
Smith visited the Adly Street synagogue in downtown Cairo. 
Carmen Weinstein, the President of Cairo's dwindling Jewish 
community, which she estimated numbers less than 100, offered 
the Senator a tour of the syagogue and adjacent library, 
which houses a number of precious manuscripts.  Weinstein 
lamented the decline of Cairo's Jewish community, which had 
once numbered 80,000.  Most of the community left during the 
tense times that followed the 1956 and 1967 wars, she noted, 
although Weinstein asserted that more could have opted to 
remain and assume Egyptian nationality, as her father did. 
Weinstein told the Senator she is now focused on establishing 
an international trust that can preserve and restore Egypt's 
many historic Jewish artifacts and structures.  Senator Smith 
offered to explore possibilities with U.S. groups and 
individuals that might be interested in working with Egypt's 
Jewish community on such a project.  Weinstein noted that 
some in the Jewish community in America were trying to have 
Egypt's Jewish artifacts sent to the United States for safe 
keeping, but underlined her vehement opposition to this 
proposal. 
 
6. (U) CODEL Smith did not have an opportunity to clear this 
message before departing Egypt. 
 
 
Visit Embassy Cairo's Classified Website: 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/cairo 
 
You can also access this site through the 
State Department's Classified SIPRNET website. 
 
GRAY 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04