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El Rufai Writes To President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

It is an honor to humbly address myself to you on this occasion, and extend awarm
greeting to wish you a successful New Year.

My reasons for writingthis letter, however, are regrettable. Please allow me to be
among thefirst to express my profound sadness and distress on behalf of all
Nigeriansfor the recent attempted terror attack over American soil on December
25,2009. Our feelings of shock, outrage and rejection of this appalling actare
beyond words, and I reflect the feelings of every Nigerian to pledge ourfull
solidarity to you against the specter of international terrorism.

Unfortunately, thisnarrowly averted tragedy also raises tremendous concerns for both
my people andtheir relationship with the people and government of the United States

In the aftermath of this event, official decisions have been made with regardto
security policies and practices to ensure the safety of American citizens,as is the
full right and responsibility of your offices. One of the newmeasures put in place
has been to subject incoming passengers of Nigeriannationality to undergo the same
security screening procedures as state-sponsorsof terrorism.

I write to inform youthat inside Nigeria and among our large, vibrant Diaspora, this
understandablechange in policy has created a negative and hopefully incorrect
perception thatthe United States considers us to be a terrorist state. There
aresignificant fears that other countries will adopt similar measures,
andspeculation that 150 million innocent and peace-loving citizens of Nigeriacould
be subjected to racial profiling and discriminatory treatment at allairports and
transportation hubs in the world.

Serious threats frominternational terrorism must be confronted head on with tough
policies andstrong actions on behalf of a united international community.
Iunderstand that in its rightful pursuit of security, the U.S. government
isconfronted with difficult choices and sometimes controversial decisions.

Nevertheless, there arestrong arguments which point out that the addition of Nigeria
to a terrorismlist causes more damage than benefit. For example, we have seen
terrorattempts perpetrated by a wide variety of nationalities and ethnic
backgrounds,so it is impossible to define a typology. Yemeni authorities
alsoindicate that the individual was recruited in London, United Kingdom – a
closeally of the United States. Furthermore, following the reprehensibleterror
attacks of September 11, 2001, passengers arriving from Saudi Arabia tothe United
States were not subjected to this kind of treatment, despite thefact that eleven of
the attackers held Saudi passports.

Instead of providing anadditional security precaution, this decision has sown deep
bitterness anddistrust on the streets of Lagos and Abuja, among people who firmly
reject theactions and beliefs of this one tragically misguided individual.
Itsaddens me to witness this acrimony, and it is hoped that when constitutionalorder
is restored from the currently troubled leadership in Nigeria, that theU.S. and my
country can repair their once strong partnership.

As you may know, givenyour family origins, your election last year held great
meaning for us, asNigerians poured into the streets to broadly celebrate new
possibilities andoptimism for the people of Africa. As a proud Muslim man, I was
inspiredby your historic June 4th speech in Cairo, in which you stated“So long as
our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empowerthose who sow hatred
rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather thanthe cooperation that can
help all of our people achieve justice andprosperity. And this cycle of suspicion
and discord must end.”

I respectfully submit toyou, Mr. President, a proposal to reconsider these targeted
policies againstNigerian nationals, which contradict the essential principles of
your Cairodeclaration. Ibelieve that peaceful cooperation, fruitful partnerships,
and mutuallyrespectful engagement is possible between the people of the United
States andthe Muslim world. I also believe that the goodwill that defined
relationsbetween the United States and Nigeria can be restored. Nigerians are ready
tolead the way. But you must give us the chance to build trust.

Sincerely andrespectfully,

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

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