Muslims for Le Pen?


In a recent editorial for the Washington Times, Paul Belien of the Brussels Journal warns that demographic trends spell electoral disaster for the European right, where the growing immigrant-origin populations of major cities have recently out-voted the right`s homegrown base in a string of electoral defeats in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Turning to consider the French case — of special interest with presidential voting just days away and the largest Muslim population in all of Europe — Belien notes the curious but unmistakable overtures recently made towards France`s Muslim voters by Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. What does it all mean?

Belien:

Some politicians on the European far-right, however, seem convinced that the Islamization of Western Europe has become inevitable. Like the parties of the left, they hope to counter electoral decline by striking a deal with the Islamists. This explains why last week Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the anti-immigrant National Front in France, emphasized that, unlike Mr. Sarkozy, he does not want to “clean the suburbs out with a high pressure hose.” Mr. Le Pen told the Muslim youths in the suburbs: “You are the branches of the French tree. You are as French as can be.”

We are on the eve of a crackup of the so-called European far right between pro-Islamists and anti-Islamists. [In Bed with Islamists, 11 April 2007]

An important shift does seem to be afoot. As an Agence France Presse article recently observed: “The phenomenon is unlikely to have much effect on the election – there are after all some 5 million Muslims in France – but even the FN`s opponents agree that loyalties are shifting” [Muslim National Front Voters Challenge Stereotype, 6 March 2007].

A March 2007 article in Le Choc du mois, an organ of the French far right, examines the dynamics of rightward shift in the Muslim electorate (article unavailable online, see link below for translation):

Like the majority of their compatriots, most immigrant-origin French people are correctly formatted. They remain in the grip of official interpretations: the FN is the enemy of immigrants’ children. Yet things are changing. In the first place, banlieu resentment has crystallized around the figure of Sarkozy-the-American. But it is also because, more than anywhere else, the conditions in the banlieues are favorable to support for the FN’s platform (without, for the moment, an FN label). The conservative make-up of the Arab-Muslim electorate, the FN’s stance on foreign policy and the populist temptation which cuts across French society are all factors that may play in Le Pen’s favor. [F.Bousquet, Sketch for a Front Alternational, March 2007]

The full translation is available here as are excerpts (here) from an interview with Franco-Arab scholar Chiheb Nasser on immigrant-origin FN voters.