OCT. 20, 2015 — With pugnacity and self-assurance, the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen defended herself in a courtroom on Tuesday against charges of inciting religious hatred against Muslims, provoking cheers of “France for the French” from supporters in the courthouse halls afterward.
Drawing on French anxiety over the migrant surge in the east, an electoral campaign in which Ms. Le Pen’s National Front is seen as having momentum, and her own charisma, she turned what was meant as an accusatory stage into a full-throated platform for her views.
The context was unusual, but the hard line taken by the populist leader was not: France’s Muslim immigrants are an alien force threatening French values.
Far from being a provocation, at Tuesday’s hearing she described a notorious speech she made five years ago comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation as an “exhortation to respect the law” on behalf of “those who have been abandoned, the forgotten ones.”
“There are people with police-style armbands at these prayers,” Ms. Le Pen continued. “I’m scandalized. This is an abandonment by the state.”
She was in court under France’s tough hate-speech laws for the speech she made to supporters in this city five years ago, which touched on two of the most tender nerves in the French collective psyche: the Nazi occupation and the country’s relationship with its Muslims.
Nobody had yet so publicly compared the Muslim presence to the Nazis, and the speech provoked an uproar, a slow-moving investigation by judicial authorities, and prodding by rights groups.
Locked in 2010 in a fierce battle for control of her party, she delighted activists by launching into the subject of mass Muslim prayers in the street...
“If you want to talk about the occupation, let’s talk about that, by the way, because here we are talking about the occupation of our space,” she said in 2010. “It’s an occupation of entire stretches of territory, of neighborhoods where religious law is applied. This is an occupation. Sure, there are no armored vehicles, no soldiers, but it’s still an occupation, and it weighs on the inhabitants.”
Anti-racism and Muslim rights groups filed a complaint and demanded an investigation. But it took the lifting of her parliamentary immunity by the European Parliament in 2013 for the case to move forward, spurred on by the human rights groups.
The case finally came to trial on Tuesday. A final judgment is expected on Dec. 15, and Ms. Le Pen could face a fine of over $50,000 and up to a year in prison.
Read the whole New York Times article here: Marine Le Pen, French National Front Leader, Speaks at Her Hate-Speech Trial.
Media and politicians don't really know how to deal with criticism of Islam. They don't know if it's wrong or not. What will ultimately change public opinion (and therefore the kind of politicians we have in office) is a greater number of voters who understand the problem of Islam. How is this going to happen? It's up to those of us who already understand it to share what we know with others as skillfully as we can. If you get objections you have difficulty answering, find an effective response here: Answers to Objections.