Monday, April 23, 2012

Alarming jump in support for far-right in France

I was unusually disconnected from all news channels on the day the French went to the polls for the first round on the 2012 presidential election. When I eventually turned to a news channel at about 9:30pm, I was alarmed but not surprised by news of massive support enjoyed by Marine Le Pen, candidate for the far-right National Front Party. This historic show of support for the far-right in France comes less than one week after Ander Behring Breivik and right-wing extremism went on trial in Oslo. Breivik, the man who massacred 77 people in Norway in July 2011, strongly opposes multiculturalism and immigration from non-European countries - a view shared by many far-right militants across Europe.

According to France 24, about 80% of French voters turned out for the first round of the 2012 French presidential election on 22 April 2012 and Marine Le Pen secured a record 17.90% of all votes cast. Information on the website of the French Ministry of Interior shows that a total of 6 421 802 votes were cast for Marine Le Pen. [Source].

The National Front, it is worth mentioning, promulgates anti-immigration, anti-Islam and Euro-skeptic views. According to a revealing article, titled Marine Le Pen, France's (Kinder, Gentler) Extremist, published in The New York Times on 29 April 2011, the party was built out of "avowed fascists, former members of the Vichy government that had been loyal to Hitler, anti-Jewish zealots, anti-immigration nationalists and staunchly conservative Catholics."

Growing support for a party with Nazis and fascist ties represents a step backward to a time when radical views against minorities were commonplace. This explains why a jump in support for the National Front is disturbing.

Marine Le Pen reportedly holds strong views on Islam and is suspicious of Muslims. In December 2010, she likened Muslims praying on the streets in France to the Nazi occupation. [source]. She has been credited with bringing the National Front back into the spotlight and for trying to "refresh the image of the far-right." But xenophobia cannot be modernized, neither can its image be refreshed. Xenophobia, like a cankerworm, destroys society by creating a "we" against "them" mentality. Xenophobia is divisive and must be completely eradicated. Political parties that flirt with xenophobia do a disservice to society.

In her speech after polls closed on 22 April 2012, Marine Le Pen said "...nothing will ever be the same again" in France. I'm afraid she is right - because it is true that with a jump in support for the far-right, nothing will ever be the same again for immigrants and other visible minority groups in France. The results of the 2012 French presidential election indicate that more people are harboring anti-immigrant and anti-Islam sentiments. Racism and discrimination thrives under such conditions.

There is a social and moral crisis in France and in many European countries, including Finland, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and many other European countries where far-right populism, racism and xenophobia have recently made significant gains. A society is morally bankrupt when a group of people are unduly treated with contempt and feared simply because of race, color, origin or creed.

*Photo of Marine Le Pen. Source: Socialdust.

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