TEL AVIV – A secret U.S. State Department dispatch from Paris bluntly accused the French government of being “reticent” to explore its growing Muslim minority problem in depth and of adopting a policy of “official blindness” toward the issue.
The secret cable, released by WikiLeaks and reviewed by WND, was written in 2007 by the U.S. Embassy in Paris and addressed to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The sensitive document sounded the alarm on growing discontent, increased isolation and “extremist recruiting” within France’s Muslim minority communities, warning those problems could explode into a “global threat.”
The dispatch criticized what it called “the French,” for “hav[ing] a well-known problem with discrimination against minorities.”
It further complained, “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 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,” the dispatch said.
“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.”
The cable, classified as for official use only, reported the U.S. Embassy in Paris started researching the issue in 2003 and found much of the discontent reported by French minority communities “relates to economic and social exclusion.”
‘Potentially global threat’
The cable showed a particular concern for “extremist recruiting” among France’s isolated Muslim minority communities.
The dispatch identified “the potentially global threat of disenfranchised and disadvantaged minorities in France.”
The U.S. Embassy was so concerned it wrote it was seeking ways the U.S. could help engage the Muslim minority community. The cable said “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.”
The U.S. goal must be to “promote the advancement and full integration of France’s minorities into mainstream society,” the Bush-era cable said.
U.S. staff members in France were asked to engage in a French news media blitz “to convey official policy messages” on the issue of France’s Arab and Muslim minorities.
Among those policies, according to the cable:
- “Demonstration of [U.S.] commitment to these issues.”
- “Sharing of our American experiences in managing diversity.”
- “Encouraging social reforms within France to improve the lot of its minorities.”
Continued the cable: “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.
“We need to say and show, repeatedly, to Muslim and non-Muslim audiences alike, the [U.S. government] is engaged for good in the Arab-Muslim world, we respect Islam, and the [U.S. government] takes seriously the potentially global threat of disenfranchised and disadvantaged minorities in France.”
It was not the first such cable. An earlier cable, from August 2005, lectured, “France not only has a problem with integration or immigration; it also needs to act to give Muslims a sense of French identity.”
Another cable in January 2009, released by WikiLeaks and reviewed by WND, stated, “French institutions appear insufficiently flexible for a population that is growing more diverse.”
France’s more than 5 million Muslims largely are from the North African nations of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.