Via Wikileaks, h/t Uriasposten:
SUBJECT: PUTTING OUT BRUSHFIRES: FRANCE AND ISLAMIC EXTREMISM
Two specific sources of Islamic extremism are of special interest. First is the French prison system, with a population that is estimated at over 50 percent Muslim. According to another leaked RG report from May 2005, Islamic extremism here is growing in popularity, with scattered reports of prisoners hanging up posters of Bin Laden, destroying Christmas trees and bibles, and cries of joy at the news of American soldiers killed in Iraq or suicide bombings in Israel. It is often the shock of prison, detailed the RG report, that transforms petty criminals into Islamic extremists.
A second source of Islamic extremism is the growing number of conversions to radical Islam by European-origin French citizens. In a report submitted to Interior Minister Sarkozy in June, the RG profiled new French converts to Islam, and found that most were young males in urban areas and/or in areas largely populated by those of North African descent. Of those converts profiled, the RG reported 49 percent did not have any diploma, and a full 44 percent opted for Salafist or Tabligh-inspired versions of fundamentalist Islam. The unemployment rate among new converts of European-French origin is five times the national average, according to the RG report. More than ten percent of the new converts had discovered Islam in prison. The RG report also revealed that approximately 3.5 percent of the French military, including officers, had converted to Islam. (Note: Although this is a striking statistic, many military converts have presumably done so in order to marry Muslims, and not necessarily for ideological reasons. End note.)
Comment: As is widely recognized, the GOF wields a muscular and effective counter-terrorism apparatus that identifies potential terrorists and thwarts potential terrorist operations. Although there is always room for improvement, the GOF appears to have done what it can in the short- and medium-term to combat Islamic extremism. Over the long-term, however, much work needs to be done. France does not only have an integration/immigration problem; it must also work to give a place to Muslims in the French identity. Despite claims that its commitment to secularism nullifies prejudice against any religion, it is an open secret that historically Catholic France has heretofore failed to muster sufficient will and understanding to truly accept Muslims as French citizens. Although Islamic extremism may never completely disappear from France, acceptance of Muslims as full, participating members of French society will go a long way to minimizing its reach. End comment.
SUBJECT: VIOLENCE IN SUBURBS: COMMENTS OF TERRORISM
¶1. (S) During a conversation November 3 with terrorism investigating judge Jean-Francois Ricard, Poloff asked for his analysis of recent violence in the suburbs (ref A). Ricard began by saying that no one in the French government should be surprised by what has happened. Successive governments have tried and failed to integrate suburbs with high immigrant populations. For "the last twenty years," said Ricard, the GOF has known that the suburbs have become areas where respect for the state has dried up. As a result of this inattention, the suburbs with high immigrant populations have lost their French identity and have built up an identity based on the "cites," (similar to the "projects"). French symbols of authority, like the fireman and policeman, are considered to be "assassins" and worthy of being targeted. In addition, gangs and radical Islamic groups have an interest in keeping the cites free of GOF influence to maintain their freedom of operation. French intelligence can only do so much, said Ricard. The areas need a substantial GOF presence, i.e., police and gendarmerie.
¶2. (S) Ricard criticized many current French analyses as "tired leftist critiques" uttered by those who have no understanding of the world of the cites. He said they focused only on socio-economic problems, viewing the cites inhabitants as victims of precarious living situations -- young people who are unemployed and uneducated, with poor prospects for the future. When he had been an ordinary investigating judge in the northern suburb of Bobigny, Ricard said people were relatively well-off. They had cars and televisions and other material possessions. Other areas of France, such as the north near Belgium, were much poorer, said Ricard. The real problem was the GOF's failure to be present in these areas. Inhabitants developed a sense of being apart from French society, and over time, became proud of this. The combination of setting oneself apart, real and/or imagined grievances against the GOF, state inattention, and the interest of gangs and other groups, including Islamists, to accentuate this divide, has led to the current unrest, said Ricard.
¶3. (S) If the unrest dies out "very quickly," this would be bad news, said Ricard. It would mean that gangs and other groups in the cites exert a powerful control over those currently burning cars and assaulting police. These gangs have no interest in triggering a massive GOF response, because it would mean the long-term "occupation" of the cites. If the unrest goes on for much more than a week, Ricard said it would signify that the cites have become completely anarchic. He speculated that one reason for the riots might have been Sarkozy's announcement in late October of an increased GOF security presence in the cites [Ed: The riots continued for two more weeks]