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.

Read the original article in French

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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