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Cablegate: Continued Muslim Outreach Following Newsweek

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS PARIS 003547

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PREL KISL FR
SUBJECT: CONTINUED MUSLIM OUTREACH FOLLOWING NEWSWEEK
RETRACTION

REF: A. STATE 90992
B. PARIS 3413

1. Summary: As requested in reftel A and initially reported
in reftel B, Post has continued its outreach to French Muslim
contacts following Newsweek's retraction of its story
alleging desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo. Post and
Consulate Strasbourg issued press releases to contacts and
the media, spoke to senior officials in France's leading
Muslim organizations, and will continue to clarify the
situation as appropriate in our ongoing interactions. End
Summary.

2. Poloff raised the issue of the Newsweek article with
Grand Mosque of Paris Communication Consultant Slimane Nadour
on May 19. Nadour told us that he fully understood that the
allegations of U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay
desecrating the Koran were untrue and had been retracted.
Nadour said that the Grand Mosque of Paris had been contacted
by the Iranian press and asked to comment on the story. The
response, on behalf of both the Grand Mosque and the
presidency of the Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM),
underlined that the story was completely false. Poloff
thanked Nadour for the support of the Grand Mosque of Paris
in making sure that the matter was being accurately
characterized in the media.

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3. The Consulate in Strasbourg received requests May 19 for
official statements regarding the Newsweek allegations from
the Grand Mosque of Strasbourg and the "Meditation and
Prevention Cell" of the Urban Community of Strasbourg. The
requesting organizations wished to use the information during
Friday prayers May 20 to counter a planned May 21 protest by
the hardline, fringe French Muslim Party (PMF) initially
planned against the GOF and its 2004 law banning headscarves
in public schools, but expanded to include the USG after the
Newsweek allegations. Drawing from ref A and Secretary
Rice's May 12 testimony before the Senate Appropriations
Subcommittee, Post and Consulate Strasbourg provided the
Strasbourg Mosque with a press release explaining the
inaccuracies and retraction of the Newsweek article, which
was also sent to 62 foreign affairs journalists from both the
French and Arab/Muslim media.

4. News reports following the May 21 protest indicate that
approximately 200-300 demonstrators attended the PMF protest,
during which PMF president Mohamed Latreche criticized the
attitude of American soldiers and perpetuated false claims
they desecrated the Koran. Latreche similarly attacked
French president Jacques Chirac, whom he called an
"Islamophobe," characterizing him as using "secularism to
mislead the French people." (Note: The PMF was created by
Latreche for the 1997 general election, in which it won 0.92%
of the vote in one of Strasbourg's wards but has not fielded
candidates in any subsequent elections. Although Latreche
claimed 2,000 adherents in early 2004, authorities believe he
has only about 150 hard core sympathizers. Latreche's
demonstration may have been intended to jockey for support in
advance of regional Muslim Council elections. End note.)

5. In a May 23 meeting, Poloffs ensured that Union of
Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF) secretary general
Fouad Alaoui was fully informed of developments in the
Newsweek story. (Note: The fundamentalist-leaning UOIF
includes over 200 Muslim groups in France and has been
accused of radicalism and links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Nevertheless, it works closely with the GOF as a key player
within the government-created CFCM, where it claims to have
the largest base of popular support. End Note.) Alaoui
indicated that he was aware of the retraction, stating that
the UOIF had known of the debate about the veracity of the
report and thus had chosen not to make any public statements
regarding the allegations. Poloffs took the opportunity to
present Alaoui with talking points and the Secretary's
comments on the issue.

6. Comment: Interactions with several of the main French
Muslim organizations reflect a broad understanding of the
facts surrounding the Newsweek story. The defense of the USG
position by the Grand Mosque of Paris, the proactive outreach
from the Strasbourg groups, and the caution of the UOIF
reaction demonstrate responsible leadership on the matter
from the respective organizations. End Comment.
WOLFF

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