Cablegate: S/E Cumber's July 21 Meetings in Paris

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1. (SBU) Special Envoy to the Organization of the
Islamic Conference (OIC) Sada Cumber stressed the
importance of Muslim integration, social cohesion and
individual accountability during his visit to Paris
July 21. At the Institute of the Arab World, he
outlined the U.S. Government's effort to establish
digital libraries in developing Muslim countries and
emphasized the essential role of education in helping
Islamic youth resist extremism. The Institute's
leaders expressed openness to cooperation with the
S/E?s office. They also discussed impediments to
progress in the Arab world, such as conflict, lack of
education and the lingering effects of colonialism.
At the Grand Mosque, S/E Cumber summarized U.S.
cooperation with the OIC and asked about French
Muslims' experiences with integration. The Mosque's
leaders related that the colonial past, social
stigmatization and economic challenges have hindered
Muslims' ability to assimilate and advance in France.
They praised the U.S. digital library initiative and
agreed with S/E Cumber's view that the 25 million
Muslims who live in free societies should exert a
positive influence for the hundreds of millions who
don't. S/E Cumber also met with the Aga Khan and
discussed cooperation with the United States,
religious defamation issues and the Aga Khan's
programs in Europe. End Summary.

World Arab Institute

2. (SBU) S/E Cumber opened the meeting at the World
Arab Institute by outlining the U.S. government's
digital library program for the developing Muslim
world. The digital libraries include material on
subjects ranging from health and the environment to
good governance and rule of law. The goal is to
empower individuals to achieve positive change in
their societies, S/E Cumber said, stressing that the
United States and the World Arab Institute could work
together to that end. He outlined the challenges many
Muslim countries face, noting that in addition to
suffering from an overall lack of transparency and
accountability, governments have much catching up to
do on the economic front. Muslim countries cover 22
percent of the world's land surface, are home to 20
percent of its population, and contain 70 percent of
its natural resources (including 40 percent of energy
reserves). Yet Islamic nations account for only 7
percent of global GDP, S/E Cumber said.

3. (SBU) Education is one key to improving this
record, he contended. Wahabism and other extremist
schools of Muslim thought have failed to make inroads
in former Soviet republics because the populations are
generally well educated, he said. The United States
wants to enhance the OIC's education initiatives and
bolster progressiveness in Islamic societies.

4. (SBU) World Arab Institute Director General
Mokhtar Taleb Bendiab responded that while his
organization focuses only on Arab Muslim countries, he
agreed with S/E Cumber's overall points. He added
that the culture of democracy has lagged in Arab
countries because "Islam has not yet shed its old
skin" and has evolved only slowly in terms of
progressive thinking. Foreign invasions, lack of
education and the lingering effects of colonialism
have hindered progress. Advancement has occurred
where societies embrace reason and science;
governments that have turned away from rationality in
favor of attaching importance to extreme
interpretations of religion have fallen behind.

5. (SBU) The Arab-Israeli conflict also fans
extremism in the Arab world, Bendiab said. Leyla
Hazaz-Letayf, the Institute?s chief of staff, added
that "big countries" (that is, the United States)
should "work reasonably with Arab countries to solve
the big problems, including between Israelis and

PARIS 00001439 002.2 OF 002

Palestinians." She criticized the United States for
taking actions that in her view undermine rational
discourse and encourage extremists. "Many Arabs have
the sense that the United States is playacting,"
Hazaz-Letayf remarked. Bendiab tempered Hazaz-
Leytaf's statements, emphasizing that if the United
States takes productive steps on the Middle East, we
will be rewarded with a "new commitment" from the
parties involved in conflict.

6. (SBU) S/E Cumber rejected the idea that the United
States does not play a constructive role in the Middle
East. He pledged, however, to convey Bendiab and
Hazaz-Leytaf's remarks to Washington. He returned to
the theme of unity, underlining that in the United
States, the 5 million Muslims are cohesive because
they live in a free society and take accountability
seriously. The Muslim community in Houston accounts
for some USD 3 billion of the local economy. The
contrast with the Middle East and other areas is
striking. Elsewhere in the world, "Muslims have
failed to build enabling societies," S/E Cumber
observed, underlining that "there is such a term as
personal responsibility." S/E Cumber accepted
Bendiab's invitation to return to the Institute to
give remarks and participate in a roundtable in the
coming months.

The Grand Mosque

7. (SBU) The discussion at the Grand Mosque focused
on the integration experience of France's Muslims.
Slimane Nabour, the Mosque's director for
communications, provided a demographic overview,
stressing that exact numbers are hard to come by
because questions about religion are not allowed on
France's census. He said there are probably about
4.5-5 million Muslims in France. Those of Algerian
origin form the biggest bloc, with about 1.5-2 million
people. The next largest group consists of about 1
million Muslims of Moroccan origin. There are also
significant numbers of Tunisians, Turks and West
Africans. Nabour said the 1975 law allowing families
to join immigrant workers was a pivotal moment in that
it prompted a social shift toward a more settled
immigrant population. While all citizens of France
are supposed to be equal before the law, the reality
has been mixed, Nabour contended. He related that
France's colonial past, social stigmatization of
immigrants and economic challenges have hindered
Muslims' ability to assimilate and advance in France.
In addition, French Muslims are far from united,
Nabour observed. There are fissures along national
origin lines as well as between competing schools of
religious thought. Nabour praised the U.S. digital
library initiative and agreed with S/E Cumber's view
that the 25 million Muslims who live in free societies
should exert a positive influence for the hundreds of
millions who don't. He underlined that the program
should focus especially on youth.

Meeting with the Aga Khan

8. (SBU) S/E Cumber also met with the Aga Khan at his
residence in Normandy. The Aga Khan told S/E Cumber
that he and his organizations are open to cooperation
with the United States. He added that his foundation,
the Aga Khan Development Network, is currently in
discussions with Europenan governments in an effort to
finalize memoranda of understanding that would
institutionalize the Network's activities. Turning to
the issue of religious defamation, the Aga Khan
contended that governments should not be answerable
for statements or actions that denigrate faith.
Rather, individuals -- journalists and cultural
figures, for example -- should be held accountable.

9. (U) S/E Cumber has cleared this message.
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