Marine Le Pen, the head of France’s far-right National Front party, wasn’t invited by French president Francois Hollande to participate in Sunday’s Paris Unity march — which drew more than a million people in solidarity with the 17 victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack. So she held her own rally in the sympathetic southern town of Beaucaire. She claimed that she marched “for liberty” of the French people.
Who is Le Pen? She’s something like France’s answer to Sarah Palin, with her finely coiffed blonde bob and penchant for saying warm and fuzzy things about French national identity while doling out thinly veiled hate speech about those who do not fit the French model, namely immigrants and other “undesirables.”
Standing on a platform of anti-immigration and backwards pro-“French” sentiment, Le Pen, or Marine as she is simply referred to in France, has been criticized for inciting Islamophobia in her country. Yet, the National Front saw major victories in last year’s municipal elections, historically winning seats in the French senate. This sent many political commentators into a tizzy about Europe’s increasing overall lean to the right, and the frightening positions far-right leaders take.
Here are the top 5 super scary things about Le Pen and her party.
Marine took the reigns of the National Front from her father nearly four years ago. Daddy dearest is Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has let loose some shocking gems of hatemongering, including stating last year that Ebola could be a solution to Europe’s “immigrant problem.” Jean-Marie has been accused of committing unspeakable atrocities during his time as a lieutenant in the French-Algerian war of the 1960’s, still a deep colonial wound for France’s large North African population. The party may be turning into a family affair as well, as Jean-Marie’s granddaughter was recently elected into the party.
Jean-Marie Le Pen has denied the allegations of his torturing Algerians, while Marine has defended the use of torture following release of the CIA Torture Report. She also came out in support of reinstating the death penalty, which has been banned in France since 1981 and is forbidden by the French Constitution. (The last person to be executed in the country was a Tunisian immigrant, and he was killed by guillotine, the only form of capital punishment legal since the French Revolution.)
but terror suspect seems potentially to mean anyone with Arab ancestry or who is practicing Islam — somewhere between 5 and 12 percent of France’s total population. In 2013, she faced prosecution for racist comments, comparing Muslim prayer in the streets to the Nazi occupation.
4. A comedian known for making Nazi-evocative gesture “La Quenelle” is a big fan of Marine and the National Front
Controversial French comedian Dieudonné has come under fire for creating an anti-Semitic gesture, La Quenelle, which is essentially an inverted Nazi salute. The original salute is illegal to perform in France. Dieudonné has been open about his allegiance to the far-right party. He also recently praised the killers of the Charlie Hebdo journalists, stating “I feel I am Charlie Coulibaly,” a merging of the names Charlie Hebdo with that of Amedy Coulibaly, who prosecutors say killed four hostages at a kosher supermarket.
5. Marine is capitalizing on the Charlie Hebdo massacre, despite suing the publication over its depiction of her
While the manhunt for the Charlie Hebdo killers was underway, she used the horrific attack to justify her own political war on Islam. “It is my responsibility…to say that this attack must continue to prompt free speech in the face of Islamic fundamentalism,” she stated in a promotional video following the attack. And it’s been noted that her views — hard-line anti-Islam and anti-immigrant — may be in a good position to gain politically. Yet Le Pen herself sued the publication for its depiction of her.
Carol Schaeffer writes on global and breaking news. She researches resistance movements, policing, & international intrigue.