In December 2012, French authorities asked the European Parliament to lift the immunity of far-right leader Marine Le Pen so that she could be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred.

In 2010, the president of the National Front party likened Muslim street prayers in France to the Nazi occupation, sparking widespread condemnation.

Many Muslim leaders have blamed Le Pen's fiery rhetoric on Islam and immigration for a  rise in Islamic intolerance and xenophobia in France. But she insists she is neither a racist nor xenophobic, but simply a patriot.

"I want you to understand that there is no reason to ask the French to accept things that no other people in the world would accept. It's as simple as that .... I feel hatred towards nobody, but I have immense love for my people and for my country that I will defend in all circumstances," she said.

And it is a discourse that is increasingly appealing to many French, especially during these tough economic times.

High unemployment, factory closures and rising food prices have given unexpected credibility to Le Pen’s anti-Europe, anti-immigration stance.

And her efforts to revamp the National Front’s previously overtly racist and fascist image has also led to a surge in public support.

Le Pen won 18 per cent of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential election in April, the party’s highest-ever score.

In this episode Talk to Al Jazeera sat down with Le Pen in the European Parliament in Strasbourg for a wide ranging conversation that covers her thoughts on Islam and immigration in Europe.

Le Pen, who is serving a second term as a member of the European Parliament, also talks about the EU, Syria, as well as Libya where she says it was wrong to get rid of the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430; Sunday: 0830, 1930; and Monday: 1430.

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Source: Al Jazeera