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Viewing cable 07PARIS306, ENGAGEMENT WITH MUSLIM COMMUNITIES - FRANCE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07PARIS306 2007-01-25 17:05 2010-12-01 12:12 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Paris
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHFR #0306/01 0251730
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251730Z JAN 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4447
UNCLAS PARIS 000306 

SIPDIS 

SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 

For EUR/PGI (Weinstein), EUR/PPD (Davis) 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: OPRC PREL PHUM KPAO KISL FR XG

SUBJECT: ENGAGEMENT WITH MUSLIM COMMUNITIES - FRANCE 

REF: 06 STATE 185834 

Sensitive but unclassified - entire text. Please protect 
accordingly. 

1. Summary: The Ambassador and all of Mission France support a 
sustained and focused effort to engage France's Muslim minorities, 
recognizing that organizing and executing such an effort will 
continue to require considerable discretion, sensitivity and tact on 
our part. Although there is some evidence that France's Muslim 
minorities are better integrated than their counterparts elsewhere 
in Europe, the French have a well-known problem with discrimination 
against minorities. French media has fallen short in their 
reporting on these issues and French government and private 
institutions also found it difficult to face up squarely to the 
challenges involved. We can engage the French both privately and 
via the media on the issue of minority inclusion, but superior 
French language skills are crucial to make effective use of the 
French broadcast media. 

2. Our specific goals for this strategy: a) demonstration of our 
commitment to these issues, b) sharing of our American experiences 
in managing diversity, and c) encouraging social reforms within 
France to improve the lot of its minorities. 

3. Post will continue to grow its established minority outreach 
effort, identifying Arab-Muslim outreach projects as such in 
expanded program reporting. Effectiveness will be measured in terms 
of audience and participant totals, improved French media treatment 
of minority issues, a measurably improved perception of the U.S. 
among target audiences, and the initiation of new policies and 
programs by both the French government and French non-governmental 
organizations to improve the lot of French Arabs and Muslims. 

4. Contact information for post's designated minority engagement 
officers - PDOff Colombia Barrosse and PolOff William Stephen Wells 
- is in the last paragraph. End summary. 

------------- 
The Challenge 
------------- 

5. Reftel tasked post to produce a '07 - '08 public outreach 
strategy for engaging France's Muslim minorities, to counter 
terrorist recruiting among them, and to foster their greater 
integration into mainstream French society. We regret the late 
response to this tasking. 

6. Embassy Paris and its seven field posts began to reach out 
systematically to France's Arab and Muslim populations several years 
ago, in 2003, targeting neighborhoods and institutions known to have 
large immigrant populations (first, second and third generation.) 
Since that time post established a broad base of political reporting 
on French Muslim issues, and the post's Public Affairs Section 
increasingly focused its program assets (speakers, DVCs, exhibits, 
exchanges and grants) on minority communities, under the more 
acceptable rubric of "civil society" outreach. 

7. Organizing and executing this outreach required sensitivity and 
discretion due to France's particular philosophical outlook and 
history. It has the largest Muslim minority population in Western 
Europe, both as an absolute number and as a percentage of the 
national population. France's five million plus Muslims are largely 
North African (Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian) in origin, although 
they remain diverse and resistant to blanket categorization. The 
French Government's approach to religion and minorities 
traditionally has been to promote assimilation under the banner of 
equality, however imperfectly that goal has been achieved, with a 
strong emphasis on "laicite" (secularism) in public spaces. This 
policy demands official blindness to all racial and ethnic 
differences. French law formally prohibits the collection of 
statistics on the basis of race, religion, or ethnic background; and 
only approximate figures are available to us regarding France's 
minorities, including Muslims. 

8. Concepts such as "affirmative action," "diversity," 
"multiculturalism," or compound descriptions of identity (e.g. 
Arab-American) are relatively new and somewhat controversial in 
France, where the approach has been more to target specific 
geographic enclaves, e.g. educational programs for neighborhoods 
with a high percentage of socio-economically disadvantaged (often 
Arab and Muslim) youth. 

9. Young French citizens across the religious spectrum tend not to 
be practicing/devout, but disadvantaged minority youth remain an 
obvious target for extremist recruiting. As a result of recent 
events (including the November 2005 unrest in the suburbs), 
diversity and integration are discussed more openly - at 
conferences, as well as on talk shows and campuses. Nevertheless, it 
remains generally indelicate in France to ask a person's religious 
affiliation. Challenging the government's approach to assimilation 
can amount to challenging the basis of French identity within the 
Republic. 

10. The organization and execution of any official USG Muslim 
outreach strategy in such an environment - whatever the strong 
justification in our eyes - will continue to require considerable 
and continuing discretion, sensitivity and tact. 

----------------- 
Media Environment 
----------------- 

11. As in other European countries, French media reporting of U.S. 
policies and intentions is often skeptical. Reporting by the 
mainstream media on Arab Muslims and their issues, however, is 
typically not so much negative as negligent, falling short both in 
its coverage of discrimination towards them and of juvenile 
delinquency among them. 

12. Official Americans and pro-USG surrogates have ready access to 
most French media to convey official policy messages, but using that 
access effectively presents a special challenge. Superior French 
language and presentation skills are especially important for making 
effective use of French broadcast media. Communicating to the 
French about the treatment of their minorities, a topic they 
themselves are often reticent to explore in depth, is more difficult 
for us than, say, describing our own, American experience. Any 
ill-prepared efforts to reach out to France's Muslim audiences could 
easily become counter-productive. We therefore must continue to 
proceed with care. 

13. Our primary media focus needs to be on TV and radio, but print - 
and the new media - should not be ignored. 

14. Fewer or less than one French adult in four reads a national 
newspaper regularly. Regional papers are still important, however, 
with Ouest France (Rennes) being the largest daily. The French are 
more avid magazine readers, buying over three billion copies a year. 

15. French broadcasting is partly state-owned and partly in the 
hands of private enterprise. Most French TV viewers still, 
reportedly, prefer the six major broadcast channels, but the number 
of channels offered by various cable and satellite operators 
continues to grow, with the newest being France 24, a CNN-like 
24-hour news-station. Average French TV viewership is over five and 
one-half hours per day. 
16. Radio, especially FM, remains an important medium in France: 
over 99 per cent of French households own at least one radio and 
almost 5 in 6 over the age of 13 year listen to the radio daily. As 
with TV, French radio is part state-owned and part private. 
17. Top French journalists are often products of the same elite 
schools as many French government leaders. These journalists do not 
necessarily regard their primary role as to check the power of 
government. Rather, many see themselves more as intellectuals, 
preferring to analyze events and influence readers more than to 
report events. 
18. The private sector media in France - print and broadcast - 
continues to be dominated by a small number of conglomerates, and 
all French media are more regulated and subjected to political and 
commercial pressures than are their American counterparts. The 
Higher Audio-Visual Council, created in 1989, appoints the CEOs of 
all French public broadcasting channels and monitors their political 
content. 
19. Internet access is growing steadily in France, especially among 
the younger generation, rapidly replacing traditional media. All 
important television and radio channels in France have their own 
websites, as do the major print media. Blogs are an increasingly 
popular method of communication for minorities and NGOs, who use 
them to express opinions they do not feel are reflected in the 
traditional media. 
20. France's first generation Arab immigrants typically continue to 
read publications from their countries of origin, and the major 
Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian papers are widely available in 
larger French cities. These individuals also watch satellite and 
cable TV stations in Arabic, including Al-Jazeerah TV. Second and 
third generation French Arabs, however, are typically not literate 
in Arab, and their print media habits are similar to those of other 
French readers. 
-------------- 
Specific Goals 
-------------- 

21. DEMONSTRATE OUR COMMITMENT. We need to say and show, repeatedly, 
to Muslim and non-Muslim audiences alike, the USG is engaged for 
good in the Arab-Muslim world, we respect Islam, and the USG takes 
seriously the potentially global threat of disenfranchised and 
disadvantaged minorities in France. For those reasons, and because 
we believe in participatory democracy, we promote the advancement 
and full integration of France's minorities into mainstream 
society. 

22. SHARE OUR EXPERIENCES. We also must continue to communicate, 
well and often, to both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences in France, 
the American experience with ethnic and social conflict - both our 
successes and our failures - in order to establish our legitimacy 
for engagement on this issue. We can strengthen the sense of shared 
values and common cause between Americans and French working for 
inter-communal cooperation, peace, stability, opportunity and 
respect. In addition, we need to remain present, listening and 
showing respect for French (immigrant and non-immigrant) 
experiences. 

23. Most French minorities, including Arabs, are somewhat aware of 
the U.S. experience and positively inclined towards us, seeing us as 
having tried to address our shortcomings. What many French lack is 
specific information about or any in-depth understanding of our 
experience that might help them to conceive of and implement a 
workable French model for addressing ethnic conflict. The French 
establishment, for the most part, has been reticent to face up to 
these problems or their root causes, reluctant to accept the U.S. as 
a model - or as a partner. The Ministry of Education, however, has 
shown its willingness to engage with us in this area. 

24. ENCOURAGE REFORM. We must continue to encourage and help to 
empower moderate social reformers in France to preempt and thwart 
those who would aggravate social discontent for the purposes of 
extremist recruiting. 

--------------------------------------------- -- 
Humanitarian/Development Issues to be addressed 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

25. Although France has a highly developed, modern economy with 
significant resources at its disposal, much of the discontent 
reported by French minority communities relates to economic and 
social exclusion. While direct development assistance from the USG 
is not likely to be available for France, some USG financial and 
program resources were and will continue to be deployed to address 
the consequences of discrimination and minority exclusion in France. 
Some French NGOs working to assist minority youth, for example, 
received financial and other support - such as invitations to 
participate in exchange programs - through the Embassy to pursue 
specific programs. 

------------------------ 
Target Audiences by Goal 
------------------------ 

26. DEMONSTRATE COMMITMENT. We need to show the USG takes seriously 
the threat of disenfranchised and disadvantaged minorities around 
the world, including in France, and we are committed to empowering 
minorities as part of our fundamental belief in participatory 
democracy. 

27. Our target audiences for this goal include both Muslims and 
non-Muslims: at-risk youth, professionals who serve them, NGO 
leaders, and the media, both national and regional. We will 
continue to engage resident Muslim country diplomats to improve 
their understanding of the U.S. We also must continue to educate 
ourselves systematically on Islam through such efforts as our 
in-house speaker program, which recently invited a prominent French 
scholar on Islam to address a lunchtime roundtable for Embassy 
staffers. 

28. While much of the existing effort already ties into our current 
Embassy public diplomacy strategy, increased funding for exchanges, 
speakers and grants would be most welcome. So would more help from 
Washington with recruiting minority speakers (Francophones) and 
further access to short-term exchanges, such as ECA's summer 
institutes, to target minority educators. 

29. SHARE EXPERIENCES. We must continue communication in a broad 
and frequent manner to audiences in France about our own American 
experience with ethnic and social conflict. We need to demonstrate 
our legitimate standing on this issue in order to strengthen the 
sense of shared values and common cause between Americans and the 
French. 

30. Our target audience for this goal, again, is Muslim and 
non-Muslim, but especially the media, NGOs, educators, and French 
youth (students and professionals.) All need to engage - themselves 
and each other - to resolve the minority problems facing France. 

31. As with the earlier goal, a considerable effort is already 
underway, tied to our existing public diplomacy strategy, but 
increased funding for exchanges, speakers and grants would enable us 
to reinforce our current efforts. 

32. ENCOURAGE REFORM. We need to encourage moderate social 
reformers in France and thwart those who would aggravate social 
discontent for the purposes of extremist recruiting. 

33. Our target audience for this goal should be both social reform 
elements and the individual young Muslims most likely to be targeted 
by extremist recruiters. The reformers need to be encouraged and 
resourced. The minority youth need to believe that they have a 
bright future in their adopted country and that they have nothing to 
gain and much to lose by association with extremist violence. 
Specific programs we could deploy to address these audiences include 
our existing media and Information Resource Center outreach efforts, 
increased targeting of our exchange programs to those engaged on 
minority issues, and expanded personal outreach by the entire 
Mission staff via our in-house public speaker program. A concerted 
effort will also be made to increase invitations to Muslims and 
other minorities for Mission representational events, not only in 
Paris but also in our field posts across France. 
Again, increased funding for exchanges, speakers and grants would 
enable us to reinforce our current efforts. 

----------------------- 
Measuring Effectiveness 
----------------------- 

34. We will now identify our minority outreach efforts more clearly 
as such in our routine program reporting, tying into the new PD 
evaluation project led by ECA's PD Evaluation Office. We will 
measure our effectiveness in terms of audience and participant 
totals, improved French media treatment of minority issues, improved 
perceptions of the U.S. among minority audiences, and the initiation 
of new policies and programs by the French government and/or French 
non-governmental organizations to improve the lot of French Arabs 
and Muslims. 

---------------- 
Embassy Contacts 
---------------- 

35. Minority engagement officers for Embassy Paris are PDOff 
Colombia Barrosse (BarrosseCX@state.gov, x 4541), who coordinates 
our programmatic outreach and PolOff William S. (Steve) Wells 
(WellsWS@state.gov, x 4284), who tracks minority issues for 
reporting. 
STAPLETON