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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04ACCRA1584
2004-08-02 07:45:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Accra
Cable title:  

MUSLIM WORLD OUTREACH -- GHANA

Tags:  EAID KDEM OIIP OPRC PGOV PHUM PREL KPAO OEXC GH 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ACCRA 001584 

SIPDIS

FOR AF/PD (WHITMAN); AF/W, R

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/26/2007
TAGS: EAID KDEM OIIP OPRC PGOV PHUM PREL KPAO OEXC GH
SUBJECT: MUSLIM WORLD OUTREACH -- GHANA

REF: STATE 155954

Classified By: PAO DQUEEN. REASONS 1.4 (B & D)



1. (C) SUMMARY: Since the events of 9/11/01 Post has made
special efforts to increase contacts with and outreach to
Ghana's Muslim community. Post relations with most elements
of this community, which is far from monolithic, are very
good and, with some groups, they are excellent. We have
focused increasingly on those sects and groups that post has
identified as being most susceptible to anti-American
propaganda and maneuvering, with special emphasis on youth
and students. Paras below keyed to elements outlined reftel.
END SUMMARY



A. CONTEXT



2. (C) Ghana,s Muslim population is approximately 20% of a
country of 20 million. The rest are primarily Christians,
representing many denominations, along with a small
percentage of animists. While the north of the country is
primarily Muslim, all of Ghana,s large urban areas have
significant, long-established Muslim populations that have
mostly migrated from northern rural areas. Ghana,s Muslims
are divided into four main sects, two of which represent
different strains of Sunnism, plus smaller groupings of
Shia,a and Ahmadia. The Alhussunna Wal-Jama'a Sunni sect
hosts Wahabi missionaries and is more fundamentalist than the
other group, the Tijanniya. Muslims in Ghana generally
perceive themselves as marginalized from the mainstream
Christian culture and the economic and political power they
believe Christians monopolize. Some Muslims acknowledge that
this marginalization is a partially self-inflicted distancing
due to longstanding fear of proselytization and conversion.



3. (C) The leadership of the middle-of-the-road Tijanniya
has exerted a moderating influence over its younger, more
radical elements and, to a certain extent, with the more
Islamist Alhussunna. At the leadership level, the two
factions get along fairly well, although both face resistance
from younger and more impatient radicals, especially in Accra
and Kumasi, Ghana's second city. The Shia'a maintain a
fairly low profile, accepting assistance from Iran, although
the Iranian mission does not confine its outreach to Shia'a.
In the overcrowded and underserviced urban slums where many
unemployed Muslim young men live, discontent with U.S. policy
in the Middle East, and with a government that is viewed as a
close ally of the U.S., is a potentially volatile and
exploitable negative force.



4. (C) Ghana has been predominantly free of the religious
communal violence that has taken place in other West African
countries. For the most part, Christian-Muslim relations are
good. Even in the most deprived urban areas, where members
of all faiths are crowded together, disagreements do not
escalate into religion-based strife. Nevertheless, this
tolerance has in the past been characterized by a degree of
fragility. PAO was told by an official of the Christian
Council of Ghana, which maintains an interfaith working group
with Muslim religious leaders, that a few years back young
Muslim men in the poorest sections of Accra had coalesced
into ad hoc gangs that threatened the peace in their
neighborhoods. Only the level-headed leadership of the
Alhussunna Chief Imam prevented major incidents of violence.



B. ENGAGEMENT


--------------------------


Formal Institutions


--------------------------




5. (C) Post engages with a number of institutions and
NGO's in the Muslim community, although some are more
accessible than others. The National Chief Imam, his office,
and organizations associated with it, are prime interlocutors
with mission officers. These are adherents of the Tijanniya
sect, espousing moderate interpretations of Islam, although
many younger Tijanniya have expressed impatience with the
lack of forcefulness and the relatively pro-American stance
of the National Chief Imam. Moreover, the other Muslim sects
respect the National Chief Imam, but do not necessarily agree
with his positions or follow his leadership. Nevertheless,
his moral authority and his role as titular leader of Ghana's
Muslims, make the institution he heads and its affiliate
organizations critical contacts for this post. In a
high-profile gesture, he and his senior staff recently
attended the Ambassador's July 4th reception.



6. (C) A smaller structure exists under the Chief Imam of
the Alhussunna. They have a less liberal interpretation of
their religion than the Tijanniya, making them, if anything,
a more important target for post contact and programs. The
Chief Imam himself is a man of good sense and good will, but
it is not clear how strong a grip he has over the most
militant factions within his sect, especially the youth.
Thus, post officers are making a greater effort to engage
younger Muslim audiences, particularly among the Alhussunna.
All the Muslim communities have youth organizations and
NGO's, some directly affiliated with the offices of the
national and regional imams, and some nominally independent.
Also, there are chapters of the Muslim Student Association of
Ghana on the university campuses, and serious post efforts
are directed at them. It is not always easy to identify
which groups are the most influential, or have the most
potential for causing problems. Despite our limited human
and financial resources, post is addressing this issue.



C. CURRENT PROGRAMS


--------------------------


Representation


--------------------------




7. (U) The mission uses a multi-layered approach to engage
the Muslim community, some of which relies on funding from
ORCA. We initiated a series of events that targeted large
and influential audiences, generating a great deal of
publicity. During Ramadan, the Ambassador hosted an Iftar
dinner for Muslim leaders, also including leaders from the
Christian denominations. Working through national and
regional Imams, the mission funded food distribution in poor
Muslim neighborhoods in and around Accra. For youth, we
organized soccer tournaments in Accra and Kumasi, in
collaboration with a Muslim NGO, with teams competing for
prizes. Last year's final game started with a kickoff by the
U.S. Ambassador and was attended by the Minister of
Education, Youth and Sports. Following Ramadan, the DCM led
a delegation of post officers to present a ram and rice to
the National Chief Imam, following local custom. The mission
worked with the MinEd's Islamic Education Unit to provide
prizes to winners of popular student radio quiz show that was
specially designed to focus on Islamic history and culture.
(The prize presentation was held at PAS, with first prize
going to students from the Iran-funded Islamic University.)


--------------------------


DOD Humanitarian Assistance


--------------------------




8. (U) The Office of Defense Cooperation has carried out
humanitarian projects in Muslim neighborhoods with Navy
Seabee construction crews (e.g., a community center for the
Alhussunna near the mosque in the poor Muslim ghetto in
Accra), that have cemented relationships and received
positive media attention. When a post-organized site visit
by General Charles F. Wald (EUCOM Deputy Commander) fell
through July 15th, the Ambassador filled in. All local Imams
expressed appreciation for U.S. military assistance in
building their community center in Nima. At the Islamic
School donation of U.S. textbooks, the Chief Imam said the
U.S. military needs to know that they have friends in Nima.
ODC is working with USAID to identify other projects for the
Muslim population, including drilling boreholes in the
water-starved north of Ghana.


--------------------------


Development and Education


--------------------------




9. (U) Still in the public diplomacy domain, post organized
a series of presentations to inform Muslim leaders of USG
development programs in Ghana and encourage them to have
their followers and communities participate. One was a
roundtable discussion on education, bringing together USAID,
Peace Corps and Public Affairs Section to discuss how Muslims
in every region of Ghana might take advantage of the various
agencies' education initiatives. Our presentations in Accra
and Kumasi targeted student groups, urban youth organizations
and civic leaders, providing fora for mission agency heads to
increase awareness among Muslims of what the USG was doing
for development in Ghana, how Muslim communities were
benefiting, and how others might do the same. PAS has
brought groups of Muslim students for briefings on services
provided by the Information Resource Center (IRC) and the
Education Advising Center. PAS used the above-mentioned
prize ceremony to brief Muslim university students on PAS
services, and sign them up for membership in the IRC. The
Mission International Visitor committee targets Muslim
leaders for IV projects, recently including officials of
women's organizations and the Muslim heads of the youth wings
of the Ghana's two major political parties. Muslim students
participated in a SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise)
competition, an indication that self-enforced isolation is
being replaced with engagement, thus creating openings for
increased tertiary education programming.


--------------------------


Individual Outreach


--------------------------




10. (SBU) Post officers have represented and explained U.S.
positions and programs to Muslims, one-on-one, to small
groups and larger audiences. This has been a
highly-effective way to engage people in a culture that puts
great store on face-to-face encounters and personal
relationships. It also involves keeping an open door,
usually at PAS, so that Muslim friends can drop in for a chat
or have meetings with EmbOffs. Officers have accepted
invitations to speak before large groups on issues of policy
and respond to questions on those areas that particularly
trouble Muslims. One officer gave a talk to students at the
Islamic University, never before visited by an embassy
officer, at the invitation of students who had participated
in a program at the IRC.


--------------------------


New Initiatives


--------------------------




11. (C) We are expanding and replicating all of the programs
and events described above to more communities and
organizations. We are also planning new initiatives and more
contact with students and youth, which is crucial to efforts
to engender longer term trust and mutual understanding. We
plan to host a speaker on Muslim life in the U.S. before the
end of the current FY or early in the next. Our biggest
outreach to an entire region will be launched in September,
when the Ambassador opens an "American Corner", i.e., an IRC
annex, in Tamale, the largest city in the Muslim majority
north of Ghana. (Note: Tamale, over 400 miles from Accra,
has no other permanent foreign mission presence.) PAS is
supplying this facility with $30,000 worth of books, 10
computers, along with $22,000 supplemented through AF/PD for
Internet connectivity and other equipment. This center will
serve as a platform for all mission officers and agencies to
program or plan representational events in that region.
Tamale also is home to a public university, whose students we
expect to become regular visitors to this facility.



12. (C) Muslims in Ghana are open to contact and many are
eager to learn more about the U.S. Even those who oppose
U.S. policies look with respect and admiration on America's
social and economic accomplishments. While there are groups
and individuals who are worrisome and need to be monitored,
there is little evidence their numbers are growing. Post
outreach efforts are now a significant counterinfluence to
attempts by the most negative elements within the Muslim
community to expand their influence.

YATES