US embassy cable - 93STATE176000

POLITICAL ISLAM IN BLACK AFRICA

Identifier: 93STATE176000
Wikileaks: View 93STATE176000 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Secretary of State
Created: 1993-06-10 16:02:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PINR XA KISL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 101602Z JUN 93
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO ALL AFRICAN DIPLOMATIC POSTS
AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 2362-
AMEMBASSY RABAT 6198-
AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 1248-
AMEMBASSY TUNIS 1439-
AMEMBASSY RIYADH 0270-
AMEMBASSY SANAA 7699-
AMEMBASSY CAIRO  7483-
AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY ROME 
AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 
AMEMBASSY MADRID 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
AMEMBASSY BONN 
USMISSION USNATO 
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE
USCENTCOM MCDILL AFB FL
USECU STUTTGART FRG
USASETAF VINCENZA IT
UNCLAS STATE 176000 
 
C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (ADDED INFO ADDRESSEES) 
E.O. 12356: N/A 
TAGS: PINR, XA, KISL 
SUBJECT:  POLITICAL ISLAM IN BLACK AFRICA 
 
"ROME FOR COBURN AND ALSO FOR VATICAN, LONDON FOR MC 
KINLEY, BRUSSELS FOR DUBROW, PARIS FOR PERLOW. USNATO 
FOR HAMILTON. BONN FOR KLEMP, USCINCEUR AND HQ US 
CENTRAL COMMAND FOR POLADS, HQ USEUCOM FOR EC J-5, 
COMMANDER USASETAF FOR G-2" 
 
1.  THIS CABLE TRANSMITS AN INR MEMO OF JUNE 1 ON 
 
"POLITICAL ISLAM IN BLACK AFRICA."  THE MEMO IS A 
SUMMARY OF VIEWS EXPRESSED BY ACADEMICS AT A MAY 7 
CONFERENCE SPONSORED BY INR AND, AS SUCH' DOES NOT 
REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT.  YOUR 
COMMENTS ARE WELCOMED. 
 
BEGIN SUMMARY 
 
2.  AN INR CONFERENCE ON POLITICAL ISLAM IN BLACK AFRICA 
HELD ON MAY 7 CONCLUDED THAT: 
 
--POLITICAL ISLAM THROUGHOUT THE MUSLIM WORLD IS NOT A 
MONOLITHIC FUNDAMENTALIST MOVEMENT' BUT A VARIED 
PHENOMENON, RANGING FROM REVOLUTIONARIES SUCH AS 
LEBANON'S HIZBALLAH TO REFORMERS IN JORDAN AND KUWAIT. 
 
--ISLAMISTS ARE ROOTED IN BOTH THE PAST AND THE 
PRESENT.  THEY HAVE MODERN EDUCATIONS (TURABI. THE 
LEADER OF THE NATIONAL ISLAMIC FRONT IN SUDAN, IS 
TRILINGUAL) AND EFFICIENT ORGANIZATIONS (INCLUDING FAXES 
AND CASSETTES). 
 
--MILITANT BRANDS OF POLITICAL ISLAM DO NOT FOSE AN 
IMMINENT THREAT TO BLACK AFRICA.  THE MAJORITY OF 
AFRICAN MUSLIMS BELONG TO MAINSTREAM MUSLIM 
ORGANIZATIONS AND SUPPORT DEMOCRATIZATION AS A MEANS OF 
REFORMING CORRUPT GOVERNMENTS AND STAGNANT ECONOMIES. 
IF DEMOCRATIZATION FAILS, POLITICAL ISLAM COULD POSE A 
LONGER-TERM CHALLENGE TO STATES WITH LARGE MUSLIM 
POPULATIONS SUCH AS NIGERIA. 

--THE SUDANESE REGIME HAS PLANS FOR PROPAGATING 
POLITICAL ISLAM BUT LACKS THE RESOURCES TO DO THIS. 
KHARTOUM IS NOT A THREAT TO NEIGHBORING UGANDA OR KENYA, 
WHERE MUSLIMS ARE SMALL INEFFECTIVE MINORITIES.  A 
SUDANESE INVASION OF UGANDA, OR A SUDANESE LINK-UP WITH 
AN UGANDAN MUSLIM "FIFTH COLUMN" TO OVERTHROW MUSEVENI. 
ARE UNLIKELY. 

--IRAN DOES NOT GIVE A HIGH PRIORITY TO BLACK AFRICA, 
AND ITS ATTEMPT TO GAIN INFLUENCE HAS HAD ONLY LIMITED 
SUCCESS.  ITS LONG RANGE OBJECTIVES ARE UNCLEAR. 
TEHRAN'S GREATEST ATTRACTION IS ITS DEFIANCE OF THE WEST. 

--THE REAL IMPACT OF POLITICAL ISLAM ON THE INTERESTS OF 
THE U.S. AND THE WEST LIES IN THE SPREAD OF ISLAMIC 
CULTURE.  AS WESTERN CULTURAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS, WHICH 

ONCE HAD A CRITICAL IMPACT ON AFRICAN YOUTH, ARE 
REDUCED, ISLAMIC STATES ARE FILLING THE GAP. 

BEGIN TEXT 

3.  INR'S MAY 7 CONFERENCE ON POLITICAL ISLAM IN BLACK 
AFRICA BROUGHT TOGETHER THE FOLLOWING ACADEMIC 
SPECIALISTS:  JOHN ESPOSITO, COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS; 
JOHN VOLL, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE; NELSON KASFIR, 
DARTMOUTH COLLEGE; PRISCILLA STARRATT, NEW ENGLAND 
COLLEGE; AND JOHN HUNWICK, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY. 

4.  THE CHALLENGE OF POLITICAL ISLAM:  ESPOSITO 
PRESENTED A POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR CONSIDERING POLITICAL 
ISLAM IN BLACK AFRICA.  THE WEST TENDS TO "DEMONIZE" 
POLITICAL ISLAM, PORTRAYING IT AS A MONOLITHIC 
FUNDAMENTALIST THREAT TO WESTERN VALUES.  THE REALITY IS 
A WIDE SPECTRUM OF MOVEMENTS THAT STRETCHES FROM AFRICA 
TO SOUTHEAST ASIA AND INCLUDES BOTH REVOLUTIONARIES AND 
REFORMERS.  REFORMERS CONSTITUTE THE MAJORITY AND HAVE 
PARTICIPATED IN THE POLITICAL MAINSTREAM IN SUCH STATES 
AS JORDAN AND KUWAIT. 

5.  WHAT MAKES ISLAMISTS APPEAR TO BE A THREAT IN 
WESTERN EYES IS THEIR MODERNITY.  ALTHOUGH THEY ROOT 
THEIR PRESENT AND FUTURE GOALS IN PAST VALUES, THEY HAVE 
MODERN EDUCATIONS, ARE ORGANIZED, AND OFTEN BECOME THE 
LEADING OPPOSITION MOVEMENTS IN AUTHORITARIAN STATES. 
THE MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS  RELIGIOUS OR SECULAR, WANT 
DEMOCRACY.  THEY WISH TO LEGITIMIZE DEMOCRACY BY 
REJUVENATING THE ISLAMIC CONCEPTS OF CONSULTATION AND 
CONSENSUS.  SIMILARLY, JEWS AND CHRISTIANS HAD TO 
LEGITIMIZE DEMOCRACY, WHICH WAS ANTITHETICAL TO THEIR 
TRADITIONAL BELIEFS (THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH DID NOT 
ACCEPT POLITICAL PLURALISM UNTIL VATICAN II). 

6.  ATTEMPTS TO REPRESS ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS, SUCH AS 
NASSER'S "DECAPITATION" OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, WILL 
STRENGTHEN AND RADICALIZE THEM.  ALTERNATIVELY, IF 
POLITICAL SYSTEMS BECOME MORE COMPETITIVE, SOME 
ISLAMISTS MIGHT SELF-DESTRUCT, BUT OTHERS MIGHT BECOME 
MORE PRAGMATIC AND RESPOND TO BROADER CONSTITUENCIES, 
FOCUSING ON NATIONAL INTERESTS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THE 
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. 

7.  FORMER AF ASSISTANT SECRETARY HERMAN COHEN NOTED THE 
U.S. PERCEPTION THAT POLITICAL ISLAM MEANS NASTY PEOPLE 
USING ISLAM TO UNDERMINE U.S. INTERESTS.  A REFERENCE 
WAS MADE TO CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER'S RECENT ARTICLE 
LABELING POLITICAL ISLAM THE "NEW COMINTERN."  ESPOSITO 
AND OTHER ACADEMICS ARGUED THAT THE CAPABILITIES OF THE 
SUDANESE AND IRANIAN REGIMES HAVE BEEN OVERESTIMATED. 

8.  POLITICAL ISLAM IN SUDAN:  JOHN VOLL EMPHASIZED THAT 
THE NIF REGIME IN SUDAN IS NOT AN ABERRATION--A MOVEMENT 
PUT IN POWER BY ISLAMIST CONSPIRATORS IN 1989 OR SPAWNED 
BY THE IRANIAN REVOLUTION--BUT THE LOGICAL OUTCOME OF 
LONG-TERM TRENDS.  WHAT WOULD BE UNNATURAL WOULD BE A 
SUDANESE REGIME WHICH WAS NON-RELIGIOUS OR ANTI-MUSLIM, 
AND WHICH WAS UNINVOLVED IN THE AFFAIRS OF NEIGHBORING 
STATES.  HE SUPPORTED THESE CONCLUSIONS, AS FOLLOWS. 

--SUDAN HAS HAD A SERIES OF ISLAMIST GOVERNMENTS SINCE 
THE EARLY 19TH CENTURY, INCLUDING THE FAMOUS MAHDIYYA 
(1884-1898).  EVEN THE BRITISH CONDOMINIUM (1899-1956) 
IDENTIFIED ITSELF AS A FRIEND OF ISLAM.  IN THE 
POST-1956 INDEPENDENCE PERIOD, NO SUDANESE ELECTED 
GOVERNMENT HAS DISASSOCIATED THE STATE FROM ISLAMIST 
TRADITIONS.  THE NIF GOVERNMENT IS NOT THE FIRST TO TRY 
TO UNIFY THE COUNTRY ON AN ISLAMIC BASIS.  THE NIF IS 
ONLY ONE STRAND OF POLITICAL ISLAM IN SUDAN, WHICH 
INCLUDES TRADITIONAL POLITICAL PARTIES SUCH AS THE UMMA. 

--SUDAN IS PART OF "SUDANIC AFRICA," A BELT OF CULTURAL 
INTERACTION EXTENDING FROM WEST AFRICA TO THE GULF OF 
ARABIA.  AFRICANS MAKING THE PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA ARE IN 
MOTION ACROSS THE BELT, AND MANY SETTLE TEMPORARILY IN 
SUDAN.  CONSEQUENTLY, SUDANESE THINK MORE IN TERMS OF AN 
EAST/WEST AXIS THAN A NORTH/SOUTH AXIS.  SUDANESE 
INTEREST IN EGYPT HAS BEEN OVERSTATED; EGYPTIAN PEASANTS 
ARE NO MORE INTERESTED IN THE NIF THAN THEY WERE IN THE 
MAHDI.  IN CONTRAST, THE POROUS SUDAN-CHAD BORDER 
FACILITATED QADHAFI'S INTERVENTION IN CHADIAN POLITICS 
AND ENABLED DEBY TO OVERTHROW THE PREVIOUS CHADIAN 
PRESIDENT.  SUDAN'S EQUALLY POROUS EASTERN BORDER 
FACILITATES INTERACTION WITH ERITREA. 

--IN THE DISCUSSION PERIOD, DR. ROBERT JENKINS OF THE 
HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE QUOTED NIF OFFICIALS AS 
SAYING THAT "IF NECESSARY TO PROTECT OUR BROTHERS, WE 
WILL USE FORCE."  ACCORDING TO VOLL, THE NIF IS NOT 
SAYING THAT IT WILL DISPATCH THE SUDANESE ARMY TO 
CONQUER AFRICA, BUT IS SAYING WHAT THE MUJAHADEEN, WHO 
WENT AS INDIVIDUALS TO FIGHT IN AFGHANISTAN, SAID--THAT 
EACH MUSLIM HAS THE OBLIGATION TO HELP OPPRESSED MUSLIMS 
ELSEWHERE. 

9.  THE NIF'S IMPACT IN EAST AFRICA:  NELSON KASFIR 
ARGUED THAT THE NIF IS NOT A THREAT TO NEIGHBORING 
UGANDA AND KENYA, BUT COULD CAUSE SOME TROUBLE IN 
TANZANIA.  THE SUDANESE REGIME IS EXTREMELY WEAK, BOTH 
POLITICALLY AND ECONOMICALLY.  TURABI DOES NOT HAVE THE 
SUPPORT THAT HE DID A DECADE AGO.  THE NIF STAGED ITS 
1989 COUP TO KEEP FROM BEING FROZEN OUT OF POWER.  THE 
NIF ALSO HAS ITS HANDS FULL IN THE SOUTHERN SUDAN. 
DESPITE NIF MILITARY GAINS AND SOUTHERN INSURGENT 
SPLITS, THE REGIME CANNOT BREAK THE INSURGENTS' HOLD ON 
THE SOUTHERN COUNTRYSIDE. 

10.  THE SUDANESE REGIME WILL CONTINUE TO BOMB THE 
UGANDAN BORDER AREAS OCCASIONALLY TO COUNTER MUSEVENI'S 
AID TO SOUTHERN INSURGENTS, BUT AN INVASION IS 
UNLIKELY.  IT IS ALSO UNLIKELY THAT THE NIF COULD LINK 
UP WITH A "FIFTH COLUMN" OF UGANDAN MUSLIMS.  MUSEVENI 
IS ON REASONABLY GOOD TERMS WITH MUSLIMS IN NORTHWESTERN 
UGANDA, AND MANY OF THE UGANDANS HE IS AT ODDS WITH IN 
THE NORTH AND NORTHEAST ARE CHRISTIANS.  FURTHER, 
UGANDAN MUSLIMS ARE A SMALL. DIVIDED, SCORNED MINORITY 
(ESTIMATED AT 10 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION) WITH LITTLE 
POLITICAL CLOUT.  MOST UGANDAN MUSLIMS ARE CONCERNED 
WITH THEIR LOCAL INTERESTS AND THE OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED 
BY MUSEVENI'S DEMOCRATIZATION PLANS. 

11.  KENYAN MUSLIMS ALSO ARE A SMALL, DIVIDED MINORITY 
(ESTIMATED AT FIVE TO SIX PERCENT OF THE POPULATION), 
OVERSHADOWED BY A LARGELY CHRISTIAN POLITICAL ELITE. 
MUSLIMS WHO LIVE ON THE COAST HAVE FELT ESPECIALLY 
MARGINALIZED SINCE INDEPENDENCE.  THEY FORMED A MUSLIM 
PARTY IN 1992 TO COMPETE IN THE NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE 
ELECTIONS, WINNING TWO SEATS IN AN ALLIANCE WITH A MAJOR 
OPPOSITION PARTY.  THE MUSLIM PARTY APPEARS TO BE A 
COALITION OF PEOPLE WITH LOCAL GRIEVANCES BUT NO WEDGE 
FOR INTRODUCING RELIGION INTO THE POLITICAL ARENA. 

12.  TANZANIA, WITH A MUCH LARGER MUSLIM POPULATION 
(ESTIMATED AT 30-40 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION), MAY BE 
MORE RECEPTIVE TO SUDANESE PROSELYTIZING.  IN APRIL 1993 
THREE SUDANESE TEACHERS WERE DEPORTED FOR INCITING 
MUSLIMS AGAINST NON-MUSLIMS.  ALTHOUGH AN AFRICAN CANNOT 
GET AHEAD IN UGANDA NOR KENYA BY BECOMING A MUSLIM, IT 
COULD BE ADVANTAGEOUS IN TANZANIA. 

13.  VOLL SAID THAT AN IRANIAN-ORIENTED BRAND OF 
POLITICAL ISLAM COULD APPEAL TO SMALL  SEPARATE MUSLIM 
MINORITIES IN STATES SUCH AS SOUTH AFRICA AS A MEANS OF 
TRANSCENDING THEIR DIVISIONS.  COUNTERING THE APPEAL IN 
SOUTH AFRICA IS THE DESIRE OF MUSLIMS, MALAY OR ASIAN, 
TO PARTICIPATE IN THE POST-APARTHEID DEMOCRATIC SYSTEM 
NOW BEING NEGOTIATED. 
 
14.  POLITICAL ISLAM IN WEST AFRICA:  PRISCILLA STARRATT 
DISCUSSED POLITICAL ISLAM IN WEST AFRICAN STATES WHICH 
HAVE MAJORITY MUSLIM POPULATIONS.  SHE ATTRIBUTED ITS 
GROWING APPEAL TO ECONOMIC DECLINE, INCREASING 
INEQUALITIES, AND CORRUPTION.  MANY AFRICAN MUSLIMS 
BELIEVE THAT BOTH WESTERN CAPITALISM AND MARXISM' AS 
WELL AS THE NATION-STATE, HAVE FAILED THEM AND THEY ARE 
LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK OF THEIR OWN 
CULTURE.  ISLAMIC GOVERNMENTS ARE VIEWED AS BEING JUST. 
SOME MUSLIMS SEE CHRISTIANITY AS A COLONIAL LEGACY AND 
BELIEVE THAT THE REESTABLISHMENT OF AN ISLAMIC STATE IN 
THE SUDANIC BELT, WHERE ISLAMIC EMPIRES FLOURISHED 
DURING THE 18TH AND 19TH CENTURIES, WOULD BE THE FINAL 
STAGE OF DECOLONIZATION. 

15.  OVERALL, WEST AFRICAN MUSLIMS ARE DIVIDED ABOUT THE 
MERITS OF POLITICAL ISLAM, AND THERE ARE NO ACTIVE 
ISLAMIC PARTIES IN THE REGION.  WEST AFRICANS, IN 
GENERAL, ARE PREOCCUPIED WITH CONSTRUCTING NEW 
DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL SYSTEMS WHICH OFFER HOPE FOR 
REFORM.  IF DEMOCRATIZATION FAILS. POLITICAL ISLAM COULD 
BECOME MORE IMPORTANT, ESPECIALLY IN THE SUDANIC BELT. 

16.  STARRATT, WHO HAD LIVED FOR 15 YEARS IN NORTHERN 
NIGERIA, WAS CONCERNED ABOUT GROWING MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN 
TENSIONS IN THE NORTH AND IN NIGERIA AS A WHOLE.  THESE 
TENSIONS CENTER ON SUCH ISSUES AS SHARI'A AND NIGERIA.S 
ATTEMPT TO JOIN THE ORGANIZATION OF ISLAMIC CONFERENCE. 
SHE WARNED THAT IF NIGERIANS FAIL TO REFORM THEIR 
CORRUPT GOVERNMENT AND REVIVE THEIR STAGNANT ECONOMY, 
ISLAMISTS COULD COME TO POWER WITHIN THE NEXT FEW 
YEARS.  THIS ASSESSMENT MET WITH SKEPTICISM FROM MOST 
PARTICIPANTS. 

17.  BLACK AFRICA AND THE WIDER ISLAMIC WORLD:  JOHN 
HUNWICK NOTED THAT PAN-ISLAMIC NETWORKS AND 
ORGANIZATIONS ARE AS OLD AS ISLAM ITSELF.  THE 
PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA WAS THE PRECURSOR OF THE FAX MACHINE 
AND CASSETTE TAPE.  AFRICAN MUSLIMS TODAY PUBLISH THEIR 
BOOKS IN ENGLISH, FRENCH, AND ARABIC, STUDY IN EGYPT, 
SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN, MOROCCO AND LIBYA  AND ATTEND 
INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC CONFERENCES.  HUNWICH SAID THE 
ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE, WHICH INCLUDES 
18 AFRICAN MEMBERS OUT OF 46, IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE OF 
THE PAN-ISLAMIC NETWORKS. 

18.  COMPETITION AMONG MIDDLE EASTERN STATES IN BLACK 
AFRICA WAS EXAMINED BY HUNWICK AND OTHER PARTICIPANTS: 

--LIBYA:  QADHAFI HAS USED A VARIETY OF MECHANISMS TO 
GAIN INFLUENCE.  IN STATES WITH MUSLIM MINORITIES. HE 
HAS SOUGHT TO SUPPORT THOSE MINORITIES THROUGH THE 
OPENING OF ISLAMIC CULTURAL CENTERS AND THE DISPACH OF 
MUSLIM MISSIONARIES AND ARABIC TEACHERS.  IN STATES WITH 
SOCIALIST-ORIENTED REGIMES, SUCH AS BURKINA FASO, THE 
EMPHASIS HAS BEEN ON THE IDEOLOGY OF THE "GREEN BOOK." 
IN THE MUSLIM MAJORITY STATES OF THE SUDANIC BELT. HE 
HAS ALTERNATIVELY SUPPORTED AND ATTACKED REGIMES, 
INCLUDING THE SUDAN. 

--IRAN:  IRANIAN OBJECTIVES IN BLACK AFRICA ARE UNCLEAR, 
BUT THE ACADEMICS DID NOT BELIEVE THAT TEHRAN ASSIGNS A 
HIGH PRIORITY TO THE REGION.  THE WEAKNESS OF THE 
IRANIAN ECONOMY CURBS TEHRAN.S FOREIGN POLICY 
AMBITIONS.  IRAN'S PRIMARY INFLUENCE IN AFRICA IS 
INTELLECTUAL AND CULTURAL, DRAWING ON THE MODEL OF AN 
ISLAMIC REVOLUTION WHICH HAS STOOD UP TO THE WEST AND 
SURVIVED. 

--SAUDI ARABIA:  THE SAUDIS HAVE SUPPORTED RELIGIOUS 
PROPAGANDA AND AID PROGRAMS, IN PART TO COUNTER THE 
INFLUENCE OF IRAN AND OTHER STATES. 

19.  MIDDLE EASTERN COUNTRIES HAVE POURED CONSIDERABLE 
RESOURCES INTO AFRICA, FOR DEVELOPMENT, CULTURE, AND 
EDUCATION.  THE ACADEMICS AGREED THAT THE SECOND 
CATEGORY WILL BEAR THE MOST FRUIT IN THE LONG RUN.  VOLL 
WARNED THAT THE REAL THREAT OF POLITICAL ISLAM TO THE 
U.S. AND THE WEST IS CULTURAL.  AS WESTERN CULTURAL AID 
PROGRAMS, WHICH ONCE HAD A CRITICAL IMPACT ON AFRICAN 
YOUTH, ARE PARED BACK, ISLAMIC STATES ARE MOVING TO FILL 
THE GAP. 
 
 
WHARTON 

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