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Geopolitics

Islam Like Nazi Occupation: French Right-Wing Leader Marine Le Pen Under Fire

Daughter and likely successor of National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen compares Muslim street prayers to Nazi “occupation” of France.

Marine Le Pen (flickr)

Just last Thursday, Marine Le Pen was busy distancing herself from one the many provocations of her father, France's face of the extreme right wing, Jean-Marie Le Pen. But the very next day, the daughter and heir apparent to the leadership of the National Front party, sparked outrage of her own by comparing Muslim "street prayers' to a form of "occupation."

As she campaigned in Lyon in the race to take the reins of the party founded by her father, Le Pen said Muslims praying on sidewalks may not have "tanks' or "soldiers', but it was "occupation nonetheless."

"Fifteen years ago we saw the Muslim veil, and then there were more and more veils," she told the gathering. "Then we had the burqa, and then more and more burqas. And then there were prayers out on the street (…) Now there are 10 or 15 places where people come regularly to take over territories," the National Front vice-president said.

On the campaign to replace her 82-year-old father, who serves in the European Parliament, Le Pen laid out her historical comparison. "I'm sorry, but for those who like to talk a lot about World War II, if you want to talk about occupation, we should talk about it because, in this case, that is an occupation of the territory," she declared, getting a round of applause from the 300 party members.

"There are no tanks, no soldiers, but it is an occupation nonetheless and it's weighing on the residents," she added. In the past, Le Pen has compared "Islamism" and "totalitarianism."

The 42-year-old Le Pen stood by her statements on Saturday. "I repeat that a growing number of territories are ruled by religious laws which substitute themselves to the laws of the Republic," she told the French news agency AFP. "Yes, there is an occupation and it is an illegal occupation."

"Her real nature"

While Jean-Marie Le Pen said he wasn't shocked by his daughter's use of the term "occupation," political leaders of all other stripes condemned her statement. Benoit Hamon, the Socialist party's spokesman, said Marine Le Pen statements showed "the real face of the French far right." "Historically, it is outrageous and unspeakable," he added. "Marseille was freed by Algerians. Marine Le Pen believes the grandchildren of Marseille's liberators are occupiers, when her political family, the far right, was on the side of those who collaborated" with the Nazi occupiers.

The ruling center-right also criticized Le Pen. "Her real nature has come running back," said Jean-Francois Lamour, of the majority UMP party, who called the statement "xenophobic." Green party leader Cecile Duflot called Le Pen's comments "desperately mediocre and very scary as usual." She added that Le Pen "is not "lighter" than her father."

Although the French Communist Party's leader, Pierre Laurent called for Le Pen to be sentenced by a court, Justice Minister Michel Mercier dismissed the possibility. "There is a political fight to be held against the National Front (…) with serenity, strength, without weakening," Laurent told French radio. "We're not going to put judges everywhere."

The Movement against racism and for the friendship between people (Mrap) expressed its "disgust" and "indignation" for what it called Le Pen's "disgusting" comments. On Sunday, the group's President, Mouloud Anounit said he would file charges against Le Pen for inciting racial hatred.

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