In a recent interview with Al Jazeera in which she expounds on the alleged threat France faces from radical Islam, Marine Le Pen – president of the far-right National Front party and member of the European Parliament – seeks international validation for her anti-immigrant views:
No country in the world… would accept to go through the fast and sizeable immigration of people who, without a doubt, have a different religion and culture.
It would seem, of course, that many places in the world have already gone through this very process – including, for example, certain former French colonial possessions, which were also treated to military invasions, widespread killing, torture and expropriation of resources.
Now the tables have turned, however, prompting right-wing hallucinations of an Islamic empire under construction in Europe.
According to prominent neo-conservative propaganda, the imperialist strategy rests on a number of subtle subversive manoeuvers such as “the demonisation of courageous opponents of Islamic imperialism”.
Though Le Pen refrains from referencing the empire, she does hint in her interview at possible additional tactics such as the surreptitious force-feeding of halal meat to non-Muslims:
[M]illions of French people eat halal food every day without realising it… [I]t’s a problem because it breaks our law on secularism. This is because making people who are not religious consume halal food is contributing, due to this consumption which lacks transparency, to financing a cult… If in a Muslim country[,] Muslims were made to eat consecrated bread, they would scream.
That the majority of the French population has not been screaming about the threat of unwitting ingestion of halal meat was suggested in a March 2012 article in the British Guardian, which reported “surveys showing that [French] voters were less concerned about halal meat than they were about the weather and football”.
Undeterred, Le Pen reiterates France’s unique torment: “[T]here is no reason to ask the French to accept things that no other people in the world would accept.”
When in doubt, bring up the Nazis
As if the halal plot weren’t bad enough, Muslims have also engaged in more visible assertions of control over French territory, prompting Le Pen’s December 2010 comparison of Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation of France.
|Talk to Al Jazeera
Marine Le Pen: The threat of radical Islam
In the event that we wanted to defend Le Pen’s sensational analogy, we could always argue that she didn’t mean it in an overly negative way; after all, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, penultimate president of the National Front party, described said occupation as “not especially inhumane“.
A more relevant Nazi analogy might however recall the handy practice of scapegoating certain religious and ethnic groups in times of national decline and economic hardship.
Le Pen lays the blame for France’s retreat from its position as “one of the richest countries in the world” on contemporary administrations and “anarchical immigration in our country which creates the conditions for conflict, for the disintegration of society, which disturbs our indivisibility, our laws, including our law on secularism”.
In Le Pen’s ideal indivisible nation, “religious personnel can have religious clothing but all the others should not be able to distinguish themselves, as it were, by presenting their religion before presenting themselves as individuals”. Following this logic, it would seem that her definition of France as a country where “Christian civilisation” is decisive in “determin[ing] our whole way of life [and] our calendar” might also constitute an example of religious-over-individual presentation. In other words, calendars may need to be banned along with headscarves.
In the latest foretelling of impending Islamic hegemony in France, meanwhile, it was revealed earlier this month that French authorities had requested the lifting of Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity in order to enable prosecution on a charge of incitement of racial hatred.
The dangers of immense love
Le Pen has countered hate-related allegations with the claim:
I feel hatred towards nobody, but I have immense love for my people and for my country that I will defend in all circumstances.
Without delving into the issue of the obvious right of non-citizen immigrants in France to live free of persecution, it is worth noting that Le Pen’s “immense love” facilitates persecution of Muslims who happen to be national citizens and who therefore ostensibly also qualify as “my people”.
In the first round of France’s presidential election this past April, the pro-love politician garnered 18 percent of the vote, a record for the National Front. Impressive levels of fanatical attachment to one “people” have also been registered in other European locales such as the Netherlands, where politician Geert Wilders has warned of the “Islamisation of our societies”, declared Islam “fascist” and compared the Quran to Mein Kampf.
Italy’s recurring malady Silvio Berlusconi meanwhile rivals Le Pen for ignorance of historical realities such as the role imperialism can have in future migration patterns. In 2009, Corriere della Sera quoted the then-Prime Minister’s latest philosophy [IT] on immigrants:
It is unacceptable that sometimes in certain parts of Milan there is such a presence of non-Italians that instead of thinking you are in an Italian or European city you think you are in an African city. We do not accept this.
In typical incoherent fashion, Le Pen prefers to highlight other European trends such as “multiculturalism in Great Britain”, which has resulted in “conflict” and “hate speech”. Decrees Le Pen: “I don’t want that for France.”
Apparently, then, divisive discourse will save France from divisiveness.
In response to Al Jazeera’s question of whether radical Islam does indeed boast a substantial presence in French suburbs, Le Pen provides the following damning evidence:
It’s a good question. It’s up to them to ask it. What’s for certain is that attitudes are being radicalised, Madame. There you have it.
As for Len Pen’s theory that the job of radical Islamic recruiters is facilitated by “social uneasiness” and a lack of immigrant assimilation, the National Front leader could perhaps sabotage recruitment efforts by abstaining from analogies between Muslims and Nazis.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in 2011. She is a member of the Jacobin Magazine editorial board, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, Al Akhbar English and many other publications.