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?
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 immigrantsâ€™ 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 FNâ€™s platform (without, for the moment, an FN label). The conservative make-up of the Arab-Muslim electorate, the FNâ€™s stance on foreign policy and the populist temptation which cuts across French society are all factors that may play in Le Penâ€™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.