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Viewing cable 09CAIRO945, CONVERSATION WITH EGYPTIAN MUSLIM TELEVANGELIST

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO945 2009-05-27 14:02 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO3936
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0945/01 1471449
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 271449Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2594
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000945 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR NEA/ELA 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/25/2029 
TAGS: PGOV KISL KIRF KPAO SOCI EG
SUBJECT: CONVERSATION WITH EGYPTIAN MUSLIM TELEVANGELIST 
 
REF: CAIRO 202 
 
Classified By: Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs Catherine Hill-Herndon for reason 1.4 (d).
1. Key Points: -- (C) According to Moez Massoud, a rising star among Egyptian Muslim televangelists, Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are competing fiercely for influence among Egypt's youth. -- (C) Massoud said Salafist influence - which has been present in Egypt since the movements founding by Al Azhar scholars in the late nineteenth century - is growing for two reasons: an influx of Saudi Arabian money financing Salafist satellite television stations and Egypt's old-line Salafist charitable organizations, and GoE encouragement of Salafism as a counter-force to the MB (reftel). -- (C) Massoud believes the GoE is committing a serious mistake in encouraging Salafism and fears a merger of ultra-orthodox Salafist religious views with MB grass roots political activism could create a dangerous movement.

2. (C) Comment: Massoud is gaining a growing following, at least in Egypt. His views on Islamic tolerance and moderation seem to resonate with his young, well-educated and relatively wealthy audience. It will be interesting to see if he is able to make inroads among Egypt's much larger group of impoverished young people, especially in the face of the louder MB and Salafist voices he believes he competes against. ------------ Moez Massoud ------------

3.(SBU) Massoud is a 31 year old Egyptian Muslim televangelist, part of a new wave of Egyptian Islamic preachers - including Amr Khalid and Khalid Al Ghindy - who are comfortable using electronic media to convey a religious message, which often includes secular self-help advice. They also appear to be prospering financially. Massoud began his career in televangelism by creating and hosting a series of television shows dealing with Islamic issues, primarily on the Saudi-owned ART network. He currently appears live each week on the popular television news program "Ninety Minutes," broadcast in Egypt and throughout the Middle East on Al Mehwar (the "Focal Point") network.

4.(C) In a recent meeting, Massoud described his upbringing in a wealthy, secular Muslim Egyptian family. As an undergraduate at the American University of Cairo (AUC), he became involved in a Salafist group led by a fellow AUC student. According to Massoud, he was eventually put off by the Salafist focus on ritual. He returned to what he described as traditional Egyptian Islam - moderate, tolerant, and focused on ethics and spirituality. He said that he retained a Salafist view that religion and politics should not mix. After several years in business, he began his career as a televangelist.

5. (C) Massoud described his views on Islam - that it should be seen as an ethical system, influencing but separate from politics, as similar to those of prominent Muslim televangelist Amr Khalid, although he said Khalid emerged from an MB background, and initially advocated a leading role for Islam in governance. Massoud said that Khalid, perhaps because of GoE pressure, moved away from the idea that Islam should be central to governance. He said Khalid now sincerely embraces a 'traditional" Egyptian view on Islam as an ethical, rather than political, system.

6. (C) Massoud lamented that he and Khalid are among the few voices promoting 'traditional" Islam to Egypt's youth. Instead, young Egyptians, especially on public university campuses, are surrounded by appeals from MBs and Salafists. Massoud said that the MB appeals to Egypt's youth because of its opposition to the unpopular GoE and because its structure offers opportunities for social advancement. Salafists offer another alternative, through their well-financed outreach activities, not only on university campuses but also among Egypt's urban and rural poor. Massoud said the GoE encourages the spread of Salafism because it believes it will keep youth away from the MB. Massoud said that although Salafists generally eschew political activism and instead focus on creating a more Islamic society, he fears the combination of Salafist ultra-othodox Islam with MB political activism. He views what he sees as a deliberate GoE CAIRO 00000945 002 OF 002 strategy, fueled coincidentally by Saudi money, as a dangerous mistake by the government. SCOBEY