The French National Front

In the wake of ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trumpism’, is France next in line for a shock to the political system?

Founded in 1972 and presided by Marine Le Pen, the National Front is a conservative-nationalist political party in France originally formed with the mission of unifying multiple right-wing nationalist movements. Having pledged to “take back full control of France’s borders” and to ensure “an end to the rights of illegal immigrants”, the party has consistently echoed the cruel, far-right language of intolerance and xenophobia that came to dominate both Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, and that of the recent EU referendum in the UK.

Indeed the latest National Front manifesto lays bare its parochial and protectionist agenda: all in the name of defending French people and culture “against Anglo-Saxon multiculturalism”.

The French National Front aspires to dramatically reduce legal immigration by 95%, from the current level of around 200,000 people per year to just 10,000. Further controversial proposals include banning dual-nationality for non-Europeans, and revoking the Schengen Agreement to suspend the free movement of citizens between European member states.

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Through harsh anti-immigration rhetoric, Marine Le Pen has emboldened racists and incited among the French populace a sense of resentment and mistrust towards ‘others’. In particular, she has capitalised on the fear and suspicion instilled by recent terror attacks across France – thereby fuelling racism and Islamophobia within French society.

Why does this matter? Since the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in January 2015 there has been a spike in racially charged hate-crime and anti-Muslim discrimination in France, such as the controversial ‘Burkini ban’ this summer. The rise of the National Front, and indeed the rise of far-right politics across the West, therefore directly reinforces the recruiting narrative espoused by Islamic extremist groups: that the hostile West is a threat to Islam and to Muslims everywhere. How can we collectively dispel this narrative and defend our values of tolerance, diversity and harmony?

Although the National Front started out as a marginal party, Marine Le Pen is now a mainstream contender in France’s 2017 Presidential election. We can only hope the French public will see sense and reject the divisive xenophobia that drives far-right nationalism.

Amy Simon – 29/11/16

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