France’s Le Pen to be tried over anti-Muslim incitement

Far-right leader faces charges of provoking racial hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation.

France Muslims praying street
Muslims pray in the streets of France during Friday prayers when the mosques are full [Reuters]

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front (FN), has been ordered to stand trial in October on charges of inciting racial hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation, legal sources have said.

Le Pen told the AFP news agency on Tuesday that she would attend the trial. “Yes, of course. I wouldn’t miss such an occasion,” she said.

She was charged in July 2014, after her immunity as a member of the European Parliament was lifted following a vote over her controversial statements.

Le Pen was campaigning to take over leadership of the FN from her father in December 2010 when she made the comparison, complaining that there were “ten to 15” places in France where Muslims worshipped in the streets outside mosques when those were full.

Related: Muslims of France

“I am sorry, but for those who like talking a lot about World War II, if it comes to talking about the ‘occupation’, we can talk about it, because that [Muslims praying on the street] is the occupation of territory,” she told a crowd in the eastern city of Lyon.

‘Occupation of territory’

“It is an occupation of part of the territory, suburbs where religious law is applied. Sure, there are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation nonetheless, and it weighs on residents.”

After the comments, which provoked outrage in France, Le Pen, leader of the third-largest party in the country, was investigated for inciting racial hatred, but the probe was later closed with no result.

But a complaint by an association led to a judicial inquiry, which was opened in January 2012, leading to the charges.

Islam is the second-largest religion in France, with up to 10 percent of the population following the faith. 

Source: AFP