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Brazil - US: engaging moderate muslims, monitoring "threatening" ones

Natalia Viana, 29 November 2010, 07.36 GMT

São Paulo, Brazil - New documents released by Wikileaks show that the US government tried to engage the Muslim community in Brazil to combat the spread of extremism.

In a report sent to Washington in 20 November 2009, the American consul in São Paulo suggested that, "Brazil could be an excellent testing ground for programs that might be useful to other WHA (the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs ) posts with similar Muslim minority populations". In late November 2009, the consul organised a visit of US Government’s Special Representative for Muslim Communities to Sao Paulo. She visited a mosque, met religious leaders and was interviewed by an important newspaper about her story "as an American Muslim".

She also spoke to students at the Santo Amaro mosque’s school. According to a cable sent on 8 December, 2009, "Overall, the group was friendly and highly accessible. The kids evinced interest in learning English and showed obvious knowledge of U.S. pop culture." (See Cable).

Another cable sent in November 2009 (See Cable) explained the consul’s plan in more detail.

"Engaging moderate Muslims puts radicals on the defensive and opens conduits of communication that could lead to greater information about more distant elements of the community given over to greater radicalism. Work with friendly moderates should not be seen as separate from monitoring more threatening elements".

Apart from the visit of Farah Pandith, the document suggests "a series of outreach presentations on President Obama" and, more importantly, "to bring down a visiting U.S. Sheik who can explain how Islam is now a vital part of American society and build ties with local religious leaders". The US strategy seems to build on the findings of the Brazilian security forces. Daniel Lorenz, the former head of intelligence of the federal police, said at a congress hearing in July 2009 that Libanese extremist living in São Paulo have recruited in order to promote communications and logistics for terrorist acts outside the country. In May 2009, a member of al Qaeda allegedly responsible for communications was arrested in the city.