Marine Le Pen calls globalization, ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ threats against French

French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen decried the “two totalitarianisms” of globalization and Islamic fundamentalism Sunday in a speech formally launching her presidential campaign.

Looking to translate her high early poll numbers into votes, Le Pen evoked a frightening image of France’s future during her much-anticipated speech. The country, enslaved to the European Union and unrecognizable as French, risks losing its identity if the political status quo endures, she said.

“We are at a crossroads … This election is a choice of civilization,” she said, asking whether her three children and other young citizens would have the rights and cultural signposts of the current generation. “Will they even speak our French language?”

She issued a call for French voters on the left and right to join her, saying “You have a place at our side.”

“We do not want to live under the rule or threat of Islamic fundamentalism. They are looking to impose on us gender discrimination in public places, full body veils or not, prayer rooms in the workplace, prayers in the streets, huge mosques … or the submission of women,” she said.

The estimated 5,000 people in the amphitheatre and watching on big screens cheered and chanted “On est chez nous” (“We are in our land”).

Le Pen reiterated some of the 144 “commitments” she has pledged to fulfil, if elected. It is a nationalist agenda laying out plans for France to leave the European Union, control its borders and readopt the old French franc as the national currency.

Running under the slogan “In the Name of the People,” her platform also would create popular referendums on any issue that gathered at least 500,000 signatures. And it would put French people first, with “national preference” enshrined in the Constitution.

Le Pen has been a leader in early polls, which place her at the top in the April 23 first-round vote but not winning the May 7 runoff.

If elected, she envisions a “government of national unity” formed after June legislative elections.

Le Pen took control of the National Front in 2011 and largely rid it of the overt anti-Semitism that flourished under her father’s leadership.

Since then, the party has drawn supporters from the length of the political spectrum by tapping into disgust over France’s 10-per-cent unemployment rate and political corruption scandals. But the portrait its presidential candidate paints is as stark as her prescriptions for change.

The European Union, she said, “is a failure.” “It hasn’t upheld one of its promises especially in terms of prosperity and security,” Le Pen told the cheering crowd on Sunday.

If elected, she plans to call a referendum on EU membership within six months. She also predicted other European members will join her. She said the EU is “historical parentheses and, hopefully, one day, just a bad memory.”

Along with leaving the EU, Le Pen would withdraw France from NATO’s integrated command, crack down on illegal immigration and reduce regular immigration to 10,000 people a year. No one living in France illegally would be issued residency documents or allowed to acquire French citizenship, she said.

She said she would arrange for foreigners convicted of crimes in France to serve their prison terms in their homelands.

“There will be no other laws and values in France but French,” she said.

 

Hollande urges ‘firm’ response to Trump

French President Francois Hollande urged Europe to form a united front and provide a “firm” response to US President Donald Trump, at a gathering Saturday of southern European Union leaders.

“We must conduct firm dialogue with the new American administration which has shown it has its own approach to the problems we all face,” he said at the end of the gathering as he was flanked by the other leaders who took part.

Trump has rattled America’s traditional European allies with a range of radical policy plans.

On Friday he also signed a sweeping executive order to suspend the arrival of refugees and impose tough controls on travelers from seven Muslim countries.

During his first phone conversation with Trump late Saturday, Hollande stressed the “economic and political consequences of a protectionist approach”, adding that the principle of “acceptance of refugees” should be respected.

“Faced with an unstable and uncertain world, withdrawal into oneself is a dead-end response,” Hollande was quoted as saying in an Elysee Palace statement.

Hollande had earlier told the gathering that “when he adopts protectionist measures, which could destabilise economies not just in Europe but the economies of the main countries of the world, we have to respond”.

“And when he refuses the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we have to respond.”

While officially the new administration in Washington was not on the agenda, the six other European leaders who took part in the summit also alluded to Trump.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Europe was “ready, interested and willing to cooperate” with the Trump administration. “But we are Europe, and we cherish our values,” he added.

 

 

 

Francois Fillon, embracing his Catholicism, challenges France’s secular tradition

When French presidential contender François Fillon marked the Feast of the Assumption last summer, he attended Mass at Solesmes Abbey, a Benedictine monastery known for resisting the anticlerical purges of the French Revolution. The trip, coming just weeks after the slaying of a Catholic priest in a terror attack, didn’t go unnoticed.

“He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s Catholic,” said Christophe Billan, head of Sens Commun, a grass-roots movement comprising thousands of French Catholics.

In France, the strict separation between personal faith and public life, known as laïcité, is a pillar of national identity. However, a confluence of events—from the legalization of gay marriage to the more recent string of Islamist terror attacks—has many conservative voters looking to the country’s Christian heritage as a bulwark.

Mr. Fillon’s candidacy is seizing on that impulse. In publicly embracing his faith, the 62-year-old is tapping a wellspring of Catholic voters who have begun coalescing into a potentially decisive voting bloc.

His performance during the country’s first-ever conservative primaries provided the clearest sign yet of the revived Catholic vote. After lagging behind rivals for weeks, Mr. Fillon spent the homestretch of the race debating opponent Alain Juppé over which of them stood closer to the teachings of Pope Francis —a development Le Monde described as “unprecedented.”

More than two-thirds of the people who voted in the primaries described themselves as Catholic in exit polls, and they helped hand Mr. Fillon a commanding victory. Pollster OpinionWay said 83% of Catholics who regularly attend Mass voted for Mr. Fillon and 68% of nonpracticing Catholics also backed him. Between 55%-60% of the overall French electorate identifies as Catholic, according to Jerome Fourquet, director of polling firm IFOP.

“I’ve never been so consciously influenced by my being Catholic,” said Catherine Mordant, 46 years old, a stay-at-home mother of four children who voted for Mr. Fillon. “Now we have to act, because the problem is really crucial.”

The Catholic vote is shaping up to play an unusually prominent role in the general election in May, when polls predict Mr. Fillon will face-off against Marine Le Pen , leader of the far-right anti-immigrant and anti-euro National Front party.

Many conservative Catholics shifted to the National Front during recent regional elections, feeling more at home with its call for revived nationalism than with the pro-EU principles—free movement of people and goods—espoused by other parties.

A quarter of self-described practicing Catholics voted for the National Front in December 2015 regional elections, up from 16% in local races in March of that year, according to IFOP.

Mr. Fillon’s Catholicism reassures voters who want to show support for French traditions. “The National Front has made a lot of progress with this group,” said Mr. Fourquet. “They could come back to the center-right with Fillon.”

The rise of a Catholic vote in France is a measure of how deeply the continent has been shaken by a series of crises, from the arrival of migrant waves from the Middle East to the surge in political parties questioning the future of the European Union itself. Just over a decade ago, it was France that led a successful campaign to prevent any reference to Europe’s Christian heritage from being added to the European Union’s constitution.

Today the EU is grappling with nationalist movements that point to President Vladimir Putin of Russia as a model of leadership, preferring his authoritarianism to the uncertainty clouding the economic bloc. Mr. Fillon has cultivated ties with Mr. Putin, criticizing sanctions the EU imposed on Russia after its forced annexation of Crimea.

Mr. Fillon has been careful to couch his talk of faith in language respectful to secularism. His support for Church teachings are personal choices, he says, not policy prescriptions. He has said he is personally against abortion but believes pro-choice laws shouldn’t be changed, and that he wouldn’t repeal the gay-marriage law but would revise sections that legalized adoption by gay couples.

Still, the politician has gone further than many of his peers in demanding space for religious voices in the public square. “Whenever the nation faces fundamental questions—life, death, what makes us human beings—it’s important that the point of view of religions not be ignored,” Mr. Fillon wrote in a chapter dedicated to faith in his book “To Do.”

In September, he returned to the question of religion and Republican values with the publication of a follow-up, best-selling volume, “Vanquishing Islamic Totalitarianism.”

“Let’s stop kidding ourselves,” he wrote. “France doesn’t have a problem with religion [in general]. The problem is linked to Islam.”

French secularism grew out of the 18th-century Enlightenment and the 1789 Revolution. It was codified in a 1905 law on the separation of church and state that strictly limited the display of religious symbols in public places and forbade religious instruction in public elementary schools.

Designed to curb the influence of the Catholic Church, the law also helped lay the foundations for political conduct in the post-World War II era. French Catholics followed the cues of statesmen from Charles de Gaulle to François Mitterrand, who mainly kept their religious beliefs to themselves.

Any public references to faith were discreet. Mr. Mitterrand was praised for a 1981 campaign poster that set him against a bucolic background dominated by a church bell tower—a symbol of the central place of Christianity in the secular nation’s heritage. At the same time, the church’s cross had been airbrushed out.

The balance between public service and private faith has come under strain as the children and grandchildren of North African immigrants in the 1960s have come of age. These younger generations of one of Europe’s biggest Muslim minorities tend to practice stricter forms of Islam.

In response, successive French governments have become increasingly strict in their application of secularism. A debate over students wearing Islamic head scarves led to a 2004 ban on wearing religious symbols in general in public schools, including crosses and yarmulkes.

Catholics who once steered clear of politics out of respect for laïcité gradually found reason to speak up. One moment came in 2013 after newly elected president, Socialist François Hollande, signed legislation legalizing gay marriage. To the surprise of many, hundreds of thousands of Catholics took to the streets in what was known as a “manif pour tous,” a protest march for everyone.

“A cornerstone was being touched—defining the identity of the child, the couple—and we were barred from the debate,” said Mr. Billan of Sens Commun.

Seizing on the momentum of the protests, Mr. Billan and others founded the grass-roots movement, called “common sense,” with 9,000 members across the country. Though not officially Catholic, the group aimed to pressure lawmakers on a platform consistent with church teachings. Suddenly, French Catholics had a lobby.

The group found a kindred spirit in Mr. Fillon. He had grown up in Sarthe, a rural area nestled in France’s northwest, where he attended a Jesuit school. He recited morning prayers and mealtime benedictions.

“I grew up in a world where the Catholic faith structured whole sections of your social life,” Mr. Fillon wrote in “To Do.”

As prime minister between 2007 and 2012 to then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr. Fillon’s social conservatism took a back seat to his role as a technocrat carrying out economic policy.

When he returned to the opposition as a lawmaker in 2012, however, Mr. Fillon clashed with Mr. Hollande’s Socialist government. He voted against the gay-marriage bill and criticized the government for not doing more to protect Christian minorities in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, organizing a rally in June 2015 to support them.

“We are all Eastern Christians!” Mr. Fillon told the crowd.

A year later, Mr. Fillon met with Mr. Billan of Sens Commun, seeking the group’s support to better compete with Messrs. Sarkozy and Juppé, who had the support of the machinery of the conservative party, the Républicains.

Sens Commun had built the kind of grass roots organization Mr. Fillon lacked. It had phone banks, a social-media operation and local chapters across the country that would eventually be called upon to canvass for voters and drive them to the polls.

Weeks later France was hit by a pair of terrorist attacks. The first, a truck attack on a Bastille Day fireworks display in Nice that killed 86 people, struck at a symbol of national unity.

Less than two weeks later, the brutal slaying of Rev. Jacques Hamel, 85, while he celebrated Mass in a small town church in the country’s north stirred a rare outpouring of support for France’s Catholic roots. Thousands of people, including Mr. Fillon, packed into Notre Dame of Paris to celebrate a Mass in tribute to the priest.

Thibault Fraisse, a 28 year-old doctor from the town of Aurillac in central France, said he worried the priest’s slaying and other attacks were an outgrowth of Muslim communities isolated from the rest of French society. He said wider acknowledgment of France’s Christian past, and a vote for Mr. Fillon, could act as a counterweight.

“We have to recognize that France is first and foremost a country with Catholic roots,” said Mr. Fraisse, who describes himself as a nonpracticing Catholic.

In August, Mr. Fillon held a rally near his hometown, where he warned of a France “ashamed” of its history and reminded the crowd he had recently celebrated the Feast of the Assumption at the nearby Abbey of Solesmes.

“You just heard the bells ringing,” Mr. Fillon said, gesturing toward the Benedictine monastery. “A thousand years of history! How can you not feel the force, the power, the depth of this past that forged us, that giv

 

Le Pen: France has choice between fundamental Islam and independence

Marine Le Pen says France’s next presidential election will be a choice between a “multi-cultural society… where fundamental Islam is progressing” and an “independent nation, with people able to control their own destiny”.

In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Le Pen said on Sunday that Donald Trump’s US election victory heralds the “building of a new world,” and that recent elections and referendums were victories “against the unfettered globalisation that has been imposed on us… and which today has clearly shown its limits,” she claimed.

Le Pen described the Republican’s win as a “victory of the people against the elite” and said she hoped a similar outcome could be achieved in French presidential elections in May.

“Clearly, Donald Trump’s victory is an additional stone in the building of a new world, destined to replace the old one,” she said.

Trump “made possible what had previously been presented as impossible,” she said, predicting that the “global revolution” that resulted in his election, as well as in the vote for Brexit, will also see her elected as president.

“So if I can draw a parallel with France then yes I wish that in France also the people up-end the table, the table around which the elites are dividing up what should go to the French people.

Hailing the rise of “patriotic movements” in Europe, Le Pen drew parallels between the US vote, Britain’s 23 June decision to leave the European Union, and France’s rejection of the European constitution in 2005.

 

She told Marr the rise of nationalism in the West meant Europe needed to look after its own citizens and stop “taking in the poverty of the world”.

“We are not going to welcome any more people. Stop, we are full up.”

When asked if Muslims could be good French citizens, she said: “I don’t judge people based on their religion. But I judge them based on how they respect the French constitution.

“If some people refuse to comply with French law or our codes, our values, our lifestyles, then we will act.”

She also said there was no reason for Europe to be scared of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We’d better, if we want a powerful Europe, negotiate with Russia, and have cooperation agreements with Russia, commercial agreements with Russia,” she said, adding that it was the EU that was destabilising Europe, not Russia.

“The model that is defended by Vladimir Putin which is one of reason, protectionism, looking after the interests of his own country, defending its identity, is one that I like.”

 

Brexit board member resigns over Islamophobic tweets

A board member of the Leave campaign resigned Monday over a series of anti-

Muslim tweets, just two days before a referendum decides whether the U.K.

should stay in the EU, according to British media reports.

The Guardian noted that Arabella Arkwright, who is also a businesswoman,

reposted on her Twitter feed an image of a white woman surrounded by black-

colored burqas along with the caption: “Britain 2050: Why didn’t you stop them

Granddad?”

She also reposted another message saying: “Yazidi women fleeing Isis [Daesh]”

with a “Stop Islam” logo, according to the paper.

Arkwright reportedly deleted her Twitter account after she got negative

reactions to her posts.

Vote Leave campaign in a statement to the paper said that Arabella’s tweets did

not reflect the views of the group.

“As soon as we were made aware of these tweets we asked Arabella to hand in

her resignation, which she has done with immediate effect. These tweets do not

reflect the views of the Vote Leave campaign,” it said.

Also, Arkwright defended her position in a statement to the paper.

“I would like to make it absolutely clear that my RTs [re-tweets] and forwarding

do not mean that I endorse in any way the content of them,” she said.

Leave campaigners have repeatedly used xenophobic and Islamophobic content

to instill fear among voters that such a move would supposedly invite millions of

migrants into the bloc, especially to the U.K.

On Monday, Sayeeda Warsi, a senior Muslim politician in Britain’s governing

Conservative Party, also abandoned her support for Brexit.

The former Foreign Office minister had accused the Leave campaign of telling

“complete lies” about Turkey’s EU membership and announced she now

supported a vote for Britain to remain in the European Union.

Islamophobia Threatens Democracy in Europe, Report Says

In a report on the health of democracy in the post-Soviet world, Freedom House painted a bleak picture of the state of liberal values in parts of Europe. The Washington-based human rights advocacy organization, which publishes a global freedom index every year, highlighted a number of worrying trends in 29 countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia.

Chief among them was the strengthening of authoritarian politics in a number of countries, as well as the rise of “illiberal nationalism” in others, particular European Union democracies like Poland and Hungary. The European struggle to come to grips with the migrant crisis on its borders, as well as ongoing economic turmoil, are the leading causes of this democratic malaise, according to Freedom House.

The new assessments were published this week in Freedom House’s annual Nations In Transit report, focused on the countries that started transitioning toward democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. It usesthe organization’s specific ratings that evaluate nations across a range of criteria, from corruption to the strength of electoral institutions to the independence of the media. Weighted for population, the average Democracy Score in the 29 countries profiled by Freedom House has declined for 12 years in a row.

“The biggest challenge to democracy in Europe is the spread of deeply illiberal politics,” details Freedom House’s press release. This, as WorldViews has charted over the past year, has been very much on display in the response to an influx of refugees and migrants from Syria and other countries. Right-wing politicians, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, fanned populist flames by grandstanding over the threat of Muslim migration.

Their rhetoric, garbed in ominous declarations of a clash of civilizations, played to domestic audiences and, in a few cases, boosted the political prospects of some ruling parties. Governments from Poland to Slovakia to Hungary rejected E.U. proposals to accommodate tiny numbers of refugees.

Leaders in these countries, the report states, “exploited the crisis to strengthen their populist appeal, disregarding fundamental humanitarian principles and the ideals of democratic pluralism for short-term partisan gain.”

The mood exacerbated wider strains within the European Union, whichfaces an existential moment in June as Britain votes in a referendum on its membership in Europe.

“Claiming that Europe faces a Muslim invasion has become standard fare for a range of politicians and political parties in Europe,” Nate Schenkkan, project director of Nations in Transit, said in a statement. “This kind of speech undermines democracy by rejecting one of its fundamental principles—equality before the law. There is a danger that this kind of hateful, paranoid speech will lead to violence against minorities and refugees.”

The report also digs into various social and political crises in Eurasia sparked by the drop in global oil prices, the scourge of corruption in Ukraine and the deepening dictatorships of Central Asia. You can read it in full here.

French state calls for a mobilization to combat the rise of Jihad

July 3, 2014

In January 2014 the French Secret Service identified more than seven hundred individuals believed to be involved in the “Franco-Syrian conflict.” In recent months, the French government, along with the European Union, has promised to take steps to curb the spread of jihad in European countries. The French state promises to “reinforce the cooperation between state services” in order to implement an intelligence network that would support the Secret Service. This information sharing would include cooperation between local housing authorities, job centers, and even middle and high schools, with the former being able to identify nascent threats. The goal is to “tighten the net” in order to reduce the number of Frenchmen leaving to fight in Syria.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke of the “hundreds and hundreds of Europeans and Frenchmen who are currently fighting in Syria. In France there are over eight hundred individuals who are involved in the conflict: because they are fighting, because they have died (more than thirty), because they have recently returned, because they want to go. We have never been confronted with such a challenge: it’s without a doubt the most pressing threat.”

Valls stated that the anti-terrorism legislation, passed at the end of 2012, would be modified at the beginning of July. Any changes to the law would be aimed at reinforcing preventative measures and the ability to monitor families whose members are potential threats. He stressed the need for legislative changes so that judges can act to further curb terrorism.

After six presumed Frenchmen were successfully stopped from returning to Syria at the beginning of June, Bernard Cazeneuve spoke of the “government’s complete determination to fight with all its strength against terrorism and the teaching of radical violence to young people.”

Swiss referendum on immigration

February 12, 2014

 

According to Robert Misik, Xenophobia was just one of the reasons why 50.3% of those who voted in Switzerland’s recent referendum on immigration back strict quotas for immigration from European Union countries; a provincial mentality and anti-EU sentiment also played a role.

 

Read more: http://en.qantara.de/content/swiss-referendum-on-immigration-the-swiss-against-the-world

Netherlands Most Likely EU Country to Grant Asylum Seekers Residency

24 May 2013

The Netherlands is more likely to give asylum seekers residency papers than the rest of the European Union, according to the head of the Dutch immigration service. In 2012, 13,650 people applied for asylum in the Netherlands, a drop of almost 7% on 2011. The reduction was particularly apparent in the first half. At the same time, the number of people making a second application rose 26%.

Most applicants came from Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

The number of requests for naturalisation rose almost 10% compared with 2011 to almost 29,000.

Right to Asylum: the Court of Justice of the European Union defines religious persecution and reinforces freedom of religion

September 5

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg has issued an important sentence in favor of religious freedom. The sentence defines what type of infringement on freedom of religion justifies the granting of refugee status. According to this directive, Member States of the European Union should in principle grant refugee status to foreigners who face persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a social group in their country of origin.

The specific case concerns two Pakistani nationals belonging to the Ahmadi Muslim minority (a minority not recognized by the Muslim majority) and seeking asylum in Germany. According to the Pakistani Penal Code, the two were liable to up to three years imprisonment if they claimed to be Muslims, preached or tried to spread their religion. The German authorities have rejected their application on the ground that the restrictions on the practice of religion in public imposed on Ahmadis were not “persecution” in the eyes of the right of asylum. Both applicants then complained to the German administrative courts, arguing that the German authorities’ position was contrary to Directive 2004/83/EC.

By declaring that “certain forms of serious interference with the public manifestation of religion may constitute persecution for reasons of religion”, the Court corrected this interpretation, and admitted the possibility that two Pakistanis are given refugee status.