08ASTANA2032, KAZAKHSTAN: EMBASSY HOSTS MADRASSA STUDENTS FOR IFTAR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08ASTANA2032 2008-10-15 04:32 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Astana

VZCZCXRO5840
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW
RUEHLA RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK
RUEHYG
DE RUEHTA #2032/01 2890432
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150432Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3566
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 0683
RUCNCLS/SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0085
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0795
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1969
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1917
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 2254
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 0240
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0162
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 002032 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV SOCI KISL KPAO KZ
SUBJECT:  KAZAKHSTAN:  EMBASSY HOSTS MADRASSA STUDENTS FOR IFTAR 
 
1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified.  Not for public Internet. 
 
2. (SBU) SUMMARY:  On September 28, Embassy Astana hosted a group of 
students from the Astana madrassa for an iftar.  This was the first 
time that most of the students had met Americans or visited an 
American home.  The evening went a long way towards educating future 
Kazakhstani imams about Islam in America and demonstrating respect 
for the Muslim faith.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  (SBU) On September 28, the Embassy hosted 15 guests from 
Astana's central mosque "Astana Nur" for an iftar.  It was the first 
official event attended by the Ambassador, who had arrived in 
Kazakhstan only two days before.  Assistant Imam Adilkhan Serikbay 
later conveyed how proud he was that the Ambassador's first meeting 
had been with his students.  The event took place at the residence 
of the Deputy Chief of Mission and was also attended by 
representatives of the Embassy's Public Affairs and 
Political-Economic Sections. 
 
4.  (SBU) "Astana Nur" has become a popular stop for U.S. government 
visitors, and the mosque's leadership has gone out of its way to 
make American guests feel welcome.  Serikbay, one of three assistant 
imams, has been particularly helpful, and the mosque leadership 
specifically appointed him to work with us on this event.  He 
selected one tutor and 13 of the best first-and second-year students 
from the neighboring 80-student madrassa to accompany him to the 
iftar.  (NOTE:  Kazakhstan's three government-sponsored madrassas 
are based in Astana, Almaty, and Shymkent.  The Shymkent madrassa 
accepts both male and female students; it is also rumored that a 
madrassa for girls is being constructed in Astana.  Some of the 
students initially expressed apprehension about a madrassa for girls 
but ultimately conceded that this would be worthwhile if it would 
produce women who could raise good Muslim children.  END NOTE.] 
 
5.  (SBU) The guests had already undertaken their main washing at 
the mosque prior to the iftar, but they requested to wash their 
hands shortly before sunset.  Promptly at 6:59pm, they broke their 
fast with water and dates and then retired to the living room for a 
short prayer.  Following the prayer, the guests joined American 
staff in the dining room for a dinner of Kazakhstani chicken noodle 
soup, baursaki (fried Kazakhstani bread), and beef stroganoff.  For 
desert, there were cookies, nuts, and dried fruit. 
 
6.  (SBU) The students, who ranged in age from 17 to 21, were 
primarily from northern Kazakhstan and most had left their towns and 
villages behind to study at the madrassa.  Not only did they prefer 
to speak Kazakh, but some also could not even communicate simple 
phrases in Russian.  None of them had previously traveled outside of 
their home country, and as a result they knew very little about the 
United States. One of the students, who was seated next to the 
Ambassador, admitted that this was the first time he had ever seen a 
"live" American.  Another asked if the Bermuda Triangle existed or 
was a legend. 
 
7.  (SBU) The students were surprised to learn that there are more 
than 2 million Muslims in the United States, that American Muslims 
also read the Koran, and that America also has more than 2,000 
mosques.  They were particularly interested in learning about what 
it means to be a Muslim in America and were very surprised to 
discover that Americans are allowed freedom of conscience to convert 
from one religion to another. 
 
8.  (SBU) Though the students mainly study Islamic theology and the 
Koran, they also expressed a desire to study English and an interest 
in learning more about Islam in America.  Embassy staff provided the 
students with copies of IIP's "Islam in America" and are exploring 
the possibility of bringing a poster show or speaker on Islam in 
America as well as opportunities to involve the madrassa students in 
sports or English-language activities. 
 
9.  (SBU) COMMENT:  Assistant Imam Serikbay said he was surprised 
and pleased to have been invited to an iftar by the U.S. Embassy and 
conveyed that no other embassy--including the embassies of Islamic 
countries--had ever reached out to the mosque with such an 
invitation.  The Embassy last hosted an iftar (which the Astana Imam 
attended after receiving special permission from the Chief Mufti's 
 
ASTANA 00002032  002 OF 002 
 
 
office in Almaty) in 2004.  END COMMENT. 
 &#x00
0A;HOAGLAND

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