Macron and Le Pen’s positions on halal

In France the issue of halal meat has often been polemicized in presidential campaigns.

Le Pen has previously stated that “according to the Île-de-France Agricultural Chamber, 100% of meat killed in the region is halal.” She added that “ritual slaughter makes animals suffer, but it also poses numerous questions in terms of tracing the meat’s origins, as well as transparency regarding the products offered to consumers. Ritual slaughter thus causes considerable stress and suffering for the animals killed, which has been shown in numerous videos taken in slaughterhouses that show the animals’ throats being slit while they are still alive…”

Macron, however, has had less to say about the issue. When asked about his position, he stated that “the debate must be respectful of everyone’s spiritual beliefs.” He has spoken out in favor of “all meat (even imports) sold in France to be labeled” in order to “specify the method of slaughter.” Macron called for “additional video surveillance in the slaughterhouses” as well as “inspections by veterinarians.” Unlike Le Pen, however, he has called for these measures to apply to all types of slaughter, not just halal.

 

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.”

 

Opinion: Attack Will Empower Europe’s Far Right

2197395841

By Mabel Berezin

Responding to the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, President Barack Obama and other public figures such as John Kerry, author Salman Rushdie — even the far-right nationalist French politician Marine Le Pen — have defended the right to freedom of expression as a core democratic value. Huge demonstrations in solidarity with the victims are occurring throughout France and in many European capitals.

The slogan “Je suis Charlie Hebdo” is circulating widely in social media. Twitter is inundated with tweets about the political power of satire. Pictures of demonstrators holding pens in the air abound.

The political mood in Europe has been growing dark. Volatility is becoming more and more constant. In December, the Swedish government went into a crisis triggered by the right nationalist Sweden Democrats, which are vehemently opposed to more immigration and whose leader recently proclaimed that Jews, Kurds and Sami were not Swedish unless they assimilated. A last-minute compromise among the major parties saved the day in Sweden, but the Sweden Democrats — whose electoral share went from 6% in 2010 to 13% in 2014 — are not leaving the scene.

In Greece, where the openly neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has been in the parliament since 2012, the pro-Europe government came apart and the Prime Ministerhas called snap elections for January 25. In Germany, a group called Pegida staged large demonstrations in Dresden against the “Islamification of Europe.” Prime Minister Angela Merkel in her New Year’s address told the group to stop its demonstrations, but Pegida staged another one in Dresden anyway.
And now France.

Le Pen’s goal since she became head of the National Front in 2011 has been to make it a mainstream party. In 2014, it moved from one electoral breakthrough to another. In March it won mayoral races in four French municipalities, including the traditionally socialist city of Hénin-Beaumont. In May, it came in first place in the European parliamentary elections — which saw an uptick in the fortunes of right nationalist parties throughout Europe.

Le Pen has consistently polled well as a contender in the 2017 French presidential elections. Even before the Charlie Hebdo attack, it was more than likely that she would make it to the second round in 2017. In an October public opinion poll, she outpolled French President François Hollande by 15 percentage points. Her closest rival was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and she outpolled even him.
The international media often present her as a single-issue candidate around xenophobia and immigration, but Le Pen’s and the Front’s positions have expanded considerably. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former head of the party, began a strong push against further European integration and French involvement in the Economic and Monetary Union. Unemployment outpaces immigration as the leading problem in public opinion polls.

But politicians take opportunities where they see them, and voters tend to remember dramatic events as well as everyday grievances. Nothing could be more dramatic than the public killings of 12 persons in the center of Paris.

They may well become a tipping point — Europe’s 21st-century version of a Sarajevo moment. Europe has been convulsing for the last few years. The sovereign debt crisis, the high youth unemployment rates, the failure to come up with a just and reasonable refugee policy — all these issues may crystalize around of the event in Paris whether they are directly related or not.

The nationalist right has been gaining strength all over Europe on just these issues. The Charlie Hebdo massacre will not only help Marine Le Pen but will be a boon to nationalist parties throughout Europe. From north to south, ordinary European citizens are already voting for parties that they had shunned in the past. If this trend continues, there will be no guns of August — just the silent assault of one nationalist electoral success after another.

The government’s denial of the current stigmatization of French Muslims

French politicians react to a string of attacks by Muslims over the Christmas holiday. (Photo: AFP)
French politicians react to a string of attacks by Muslims over the Christmas holiday. (Photo: AFP)

Press release from Bertrand Dutheil de La Rochère, advisor of Marine Le Pen.
“To refuse to denounce the Islamist fundamentalism in the light of current acts of individual terrorism is to deny what is real. Such silence will not lead to measures that would isolate and repress the extremists. With government inaction in the face of these crimes, widespread censure should not fall on all of our Muslim citizens. Yet, those who wish to practice their faith while respecting the laws of the Republic are in the large majority. The official soothing discourse does not reflect recent events and leads to misconceptions.

That certain perpetrators of these crimes are psychologically disturbed, that some are recent converts has little relevance: their inspiration always comes from dangerous jihadist ideology. To be certain, they are not part of a plot organized in Mosul or in Kabul. But they follow the Islamic State’s and other extremist groups’ radical ideology. These are no longer myths of self-radicalization or of radicalization in prisons, they find places in France where their criminal intentions are not discouraged. Sometimes they are even encouraged. It is the government’s responsibility to employ all its resources and to eventually come up with new measures to eradicate these fundamentalist groups.

With Marine Le Pen, the Marine Blue Gathering requires that every person who is a leader in the Muslim community publicly and firmly condemn all violence and all calls to violence committed in the name of the religion. In mosques, the sermons must be in French. The associations much be monitored with vigilance, and any serious suspicion must bring about their dissolution. Funding must be strictly controlled. In addition, encouragement and most of all participation in jihad must be severely punished, and those with dual citizenship must automatically lose their French citizenship. More than ever, immigration must be stopped. France must regain control of its borders and leave the Schengen Area.”

Statement by Gilles Lebreton, Political Advisor to Marine Le Pen

“Two young Frenchmen appear to have participated in the bloody executions on November 16 by the Islamic State. They are Michael Dos Santos and Maxime Hauchard.

This confirms the reality of the danger that Muslim fundamentalism represents in the world, but particularly in France. Every young Frenchman, no matter their culture or religion, is susceptible to being indoctrinated and to becoming a killer in the name of an extremist interpretation of Islam.

It is urgent to take strong measures to counter this threat, including:

-separation in prisons of fundamentalists from other prisoners, to prevent them from proselytizing;

-prohibiting fundamentalist preaching in mosques and more generally throughout the entirety of French territory;

-pronouncing the dissolution of fundamentalist movements, including the UOIF;

-firmly condemning the fundamentalists who have committed grave acts of violence;

-reaffirming our values of secularism and reviving our traditional policy of assimilation;

-and fighting fundamentalism everywhere in the world where it tries to plant the roots of terrorism, such as in Mali or Iraq.”

 

The European Elections and What They Mean for Turkey

June 5, 2014

The reaction of the world press at the results of the EU Parliamentary elections  have so far been dominated by hyperbolic and catastrophist headlines, heavy on (highly repetitive and after a while a bit tedious) tectonic metaphors (“EU Elections = Policical Earthquake”, etc.).

Notwithstanding the media’s sensationalism for commercial purposes (drama sells) and also a somewhat paranoid, pervert taste for scaring oneself with “threats” that often do not exist (i.e. the “islamization” of Europe, the coming of “Eurabia” and that sort of things), the anti-EU europhobic, eurosceptic, sovereignist, etc. populist parties, most of which from the nationalist far right and in some cases such as Hungary’s Jobbik party (15%) or Greece’s Golden Dawn (over 9%), frankly neo-nazi, racist and openly antisemitic,  have indeed accomplished a spectacular and even a historic breakthrough. They have been on the rise across Europe (Western Europe in particular)  for decades now, and this was expected. Yet, there is no denying that looking at the often stunning figures, the shockwave is justified and the established government parties have cause to worry.

In France, the second biggest EU economic power after Germany, its second biggest financial contributor, one of its postwar historical founders and to this day a major driving force of the E.U., the winner is the (so far) underdog Marine le Pen’s National Front,  at nearly 25%, well ahead of the center-right UMP (nearly 21%) and the Socialists (14%). This is the first time in the history of France’s Fifth Republic since the late 1950s that a far-right party wins a nation-wide election, therefore becoming in this particular election France’s first political force.See here two interviews of Marine le Pen, a formidable, immensely charismatic leader and without a doubt one who is transforming European politics in depth. The British political establishment is equally shaken by the triumph of UKIP, the UK Independence Party led by its flamboyant and charismatic leader Nigel Farage . A 27,50% score made even more impressive by the fact that very young party, founded in 1993, is only 20 years old. It is now considered possible that Britain will soon leave the E.U. altogether following the coming 2017 popular referendum on that question.

Despite the cold shiver many across Europe are now feeling running down their political spines, one needs to put in perspective all this hype about the far-right. There are four trends at work here, and the two main ones are not the victory of anti-EU parties.

1. Abstention. First, by far the main winner of this election is, so to speak, the invisible party of the absentionists: 57%, the vast majority, of eligible European voters did not bother to cast a ballot, a trend on the rise since the late 70s. In Eastern European countries, the abstention rate is staggering  : 68% in Romania, 71% in Hungary, 77% in Poland (despite the fact this country has benefited enormously from joining the EU both economically and politically in terms of democracy and civic liberties, and one may have expected a little more gratitude there), about 80% in Slovenia and the Czech Republic, 87% in Slovakia, etc. This very high abstention rate is due to a mix of indifference (“Nothing will change no matter what”), incomprehension about how the E.U. works and what exactly it does (after half a century of existence, the media still need to add pedagogical inserts on the basics of the major institutions such as the Parliament and Commission), and resistance, possibly defiance towards the whole enterprise.

2. Same old, same old. Despite the fact the europhobes and eurosceptics from the far-right or the far-left gain significant ground in 2/3 of the countries and even come first in 3 countries out of 28 (France, the UK, and Denmark, with the radical left colaition of Syriza number one in Greece), they actually do not win the day by any means, not even close: contrary to what the headlines suggest, it is the pro-EU parties who have very largely won the elections in most countries  . The European Parliament will remain overwhelmingly dominated by the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the leftist Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). These two largest “old” ruling blocs still own nearly 54% of all seats, even without their traditional allies such as the center-left Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE, 8,66%) and the Greens (nearly 7%). This means that just with those four main blocs, nearly 70% of all seats remain firmly in the hands of resolutely pro-EU europhile parliamentarians.

The anti-EU parties, who will send to Brussels at most 140 MPs out of a total of 750, are therefore no match. They will not in any way be able to set the agenda. At best they can be a force of nuisance, intimidation regarding certain projects (such as the enlargement to other countries), and possibly, partial paralysis on some issues. That is, assuming they can present a united front, which they will most likely not be able to do either, considering the substantial differences of all sorts, from historical backgrounds and origins to political cultures and ideologies, that separate them and in many cases make alliances impossible. For example, Nigel Farage has already stated repeatedly he will never forge and alliance with France’s National Front  because of its roots in the antisemitic far-right. Right there, the main two populist nationalist forces within the European Parliament are already divided. Marine le Pen herself rejects the idea of a coalition with several other groups such as Hungary’s Jobbik and Greece’s Golden Dawn, accusing them of being too extremist and racist. Furthermore, the electorates of many of those nationalist europhobic parties do not see an alliance with certain other potential allies favorably at all. Thus, the poor results of Geert Wilder’s anti-immigration, anti-Islam Dutch Freedom Party (13% while he was hoping for the first position) are largely attributed to his siding with Marine le Pen, a move that has strongly displeased his ultra-liberal, pro-gay marriage, and largely libertarian electorate, often a polar opposite of le Pen’s far more conservative, anti-neoliberalism, and anti-gay marriage voters. The chances are thus slim to see a strong, unified anti-EU coalition emerging, except on the one issue common to all: immigration.

3. Contrasts. An examination of the results country by country reveals a great diversity of situations, showing the voters’ choices can not be explained entirely by European problematics but need to be understood largely, perhaps even essentially, through the prism of the national politics and situations of those nations. For example, if France’s ruling parties have all been severely punished by a disillusioned, bitter, and angry electorate who consider them complicit with a EU they hold responsible for the economic stagnation, impoverishment, and high unemployment, in Germany, the ruling CDU-CSU coalition of Angela Merkel has been reconducted and wins the election, due to a much better economic situation and voters’ satisfaction with her work at the national, far more than European level. In other words, people have turned those European elections into national ones. Furthermore, while many predicted the ruling parties would severely be sanctioned and rejected in those countries who have suffered the most from the economic crisis and the austerity measures imposed on them by the EU to redress the deficits and reduce the debts, this has not been the case everywhere: in Italy, it is the pro-European party of the current prime minister Matteo Renzi  who takes the first position, despite the fact Italy has enormously suffered from the crisis and the austerity cure that came with it. Finally, the notion that the economic crisis and impoverishment constitute a perfect terrain for the surge of ultra-nationalist, xenophobic, anti-immigration and anti-EU right-wing forces is to a large extent disproved by the case of Greece. No other country has been suffering so much and for so long from the crisis and the austerity cuts imposed by the EU, to the point a fifth of its population, 20% of all Greeks, now lives below the poverty level, with an unemployment rate above 27%, and a horrific youth unemployment rate at a staggering 57%  . Yet, last week, despite the breakthrough of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn at 9%, it was the radical left coalition of Syriza who won the day with 27%. In general, in the Southern states such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal, the economic pain has been translated as a vote for leftist parties, not for the nationalist and xenophobic far-right. There thus seems to be a regional logic to the vote as well as a national one, as confirmed also by the record abstention rates, which as noted earlier peak in the Eastern European states of the former Soviet Union.

4) Surge of anti-EU populisms. The gains made by the various europhobic/eurosceptic left and right populist parties may not be the continent-wide tsunami suggested by media headlines, yet there is no denying their breakthrough in most countries is spectacular, and as in France and the UK, historic. Furthermore, even in countries where the government parties continue to lead, the results show a significant regression from previous elections. For example, the score of Angela’s Merkel’s CDU is inferior to both the previous 2009 EU elections and the national legislative ones of 2013. In Spain, the two main Popular Party and Socialist Party also come ahead, but together they gather only 49% compared to 80% in 2009, a brutal loss of 5 million voters. All ruling government parties are severely weakened at both levels, national and European. In the case of France and the UK, it is clear that the bi-party system that had dominated their politics so far is now a tri-party system. In the new EU Parliament, the largest center-right PPE coalition loses no fewer than 60 MPs (213 now compared to 273 so far), while the second largest group (the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) loses 17 (189 as opposed to 196). And they will now have to compose with up to 140 anti-EU MPs determined to fight them tooth and nail.

What are the causes of this anti-EU populist vote, which at this point represents at least a good third of the electorate, more in certain nations?

First, it is obviously both a protest vote against “the system”, a punishment against the national governments who have proven unable to solve the extremely long and severe economic crisis that devastates much of the EU working and middle classes, as well as a rejection of the EU itself, held responsible for the crisis, the impoverishment of those populations, and a slew of other social ills of a more identitarian nature. The extra-European Muslim immigration, allegedly caused by a laxist EU immigration policy and perceived as a threat to the values and “national identities” of those countries (see the never-ending debates about Islamic outfits, “the rise of Islamism”, the “Islamization of Europe”, the “invasion” of halal, etc.)  looms large on that existential horizon.

More specifically, it is the austerity measures (budget cuts to curb deficits) as well as the un-democratic and for many, anti-democratic nature of the European construction, increasingly lived as a technocratic project imposed from the top (Brussels, the EU “Kommissars”, the “elites”, etc.) to the bottom (people and nations), which generate enormous frustration, resentment and rejection. For decades now, those sentiments have been exacerbated by both the crises themselves (there are many and not just economic) and the populist parties such as the National Front, who thrive on those crises. Leaders like Marine le Pen have skillfully managed to mobilize all that pain and anger, giving it an explanation, an outlet, and a scapegoat—giving it a name: “Brussels”, the “euro”, “Schengen”, the “EU technocratic caste”, now all dirty words, demonized entities in the very effective discourse of those populist parties, whose leaders (le Pen, Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, etc.) are often on top of that frighteningly brilliant orators, smart strategists, and charismatic leaders. In addition, they offer fresh faces and new political blood in a context marked by an immense fatigue with the “old” established parties and their tired, powerless, ineffective leaders, now largely discredited for having failed to bring growth to the eurozone, solve the crisis, and resist the ruthless financial markets by putting people first ahead of investors’ profits. In this process, for many, the whole EU dream is no longer credible, no longer a source of hope. Those two capital letters , instead of signifying prosperity, security, protection, growth, and progress both material and spiritual, are now largely synonymous with stagnant growth (at best) or recession, budget cuts, cruel austerity measures, impoverishment of those who already suffer the most, and loss of identity. The EU has become a sinister, desperate, and frightening horizon.

Those widespread popular sentiments are now being taken to their point of red-hot incandescence. The frustration, economic pain and social despair, which is real and can be observed everywhere in Europe even in the richest countries like France, have turned into boiling anger against “the elites” and seething rage, even hatred, against an EU increasingly lived as a nightmarish, evil, inhumane and cold megamachine that crushes nations and people in order to better serve the oligarchic global elites and the “financial markets”.

The protest vote is therefore also an act of resistance against what is lived by an increasing number as a new but real type of oppression and tyranny. It is a vote of rebellion. But it also a vote of adherence to the programs of those populist parties. The electorates of the National Front, UKIP, or the Freedom Party do not just vote against the EU, they vote for the political projects and visions those parties carry: a reassertion of national independence and sovereignty, reclaiming control of their countries borders, ending immigration, leaving the eurozone and going back to national currencies, stronger, more protective states, protectionist economic policies against Brussel’s deregulated “ultra-neoliberalism”, etc.

But what does all this mean for Turkey?

Clearly and sadly, no good news.

As explained above, many of those emergent or fully emerged parties are politically and ideologically incompatible with each other (i.e. Italy’s leftist Five Star Movement of iconoclastic comedian Beppe Grillo  has little to do with the racist Golden Dawn). It is not even certain Marine le Pen, who is actively seeking to federate those parties in order to constitute an official group within the EU Parliament, will manage to bring around her MPs from seven different countries, one of the conditions to have a group.

Yet, despite the fact it is quite an eclectic colorful bunch we have here, they are all united on one issue: immigration. Meaning, of course, the hatred and rejection of it. Their main target is the presence on European soil and in their nations of extra-European foreigners and immigrants. Especially the brown-skin and Muslim type. Geert Wilders publicly promised during this campaign that he will, quote, “take care of the Moroccans” present in the Netherlands; his co-lister, the party’s number two Anders Vistisen, swore to end specifically Muslim immigration; Jussi Halla-aho, the leader of Finland’s xenophobic True Finns Party which gathered over 12% of the votes, has been condemned for insults to Islam; several of Golden Dawn’s leaders are in jail for incitement to racist violence, and so on and so forth. With the one possible exception of the leftist-humanist Five Star Movement of the warm, jovial Italian comedian Beppe Grillo, they all agree on this. France’s National Front, the Dutch Freedom Party, Austria’s FPO, Italy’s Northern League of former PM Sylvio Berlusconi, the True Finns, Denmark’s Popular Party and more have even started to establish trans-national, inter-party contacts with the view of creating a united bloc and crafting common anti-immigration (and other) policy proposals and close the borders, their top priority.

Four facts need to be highlighted to get a better picture of how Turkey computes in all this: a) those parties now represent a real force within the EU Parliament b) immigration is the one issue on which they all profoundly agree and as such it is bound to become an even more important one, if only for strategic reasons c) most of those parties’ xenophobia translates first of all as an intense rejection of Islam d) many of those political forces are bound to do well too (or already do well) in the coming national elections and increase their presence in their domestic institutions, thus taking the anti-immigration fight at the national level as well. Granted these four facts, it is hard to see how the opposition to Turkey’s EU membership will not seriously increase in the years to come. Especially since the trends outlined here are structural, not merely related to the conjuncture. It would be wishful thinking or self-delusion to think all of this will evaporate, say, if the economic situation gets better. Which is not likely to happen anyway.

And now that the political establishment of the ruling governmental parties has seen beyond any doubt that at least a good third of the electorate violently rejects both extra-European Muslim immigration and further enlargement of the EU, it is very hard to see how they will be able to support bringing in a nation of nearly 80 million, 96% of whom are Muslims, furthermore a country located outside of what most EU people consider to be Europe. A politician with a death wish and willing to commit political suicide may want to advocate that, though.

As a matter of fact, anti-immigration sentiments have become so radical that increasingly, those electorates reject intra-EU immigration as well, feeling that the right given to the workers of the newer, poorer Eastern European countries to go work in any other EU member state undermines their social standards, threatens their jobs, creates unfair competition, and endangers their safety. (The semi-nomadic Romas are abundantly stigmatized and vilified as well, as is the archetypal “Polish plumber” or the Hungarian construction site worker who will supposedly work for a fraction of the natives’ salary.) Hence the will to abolish the “Schengen space”, the EU zone of free circulation.

In that context where even white, Christian, European immigrants from other EU nations are increasingly rejected too, let’s imagine how the idea of letting in 70 million Muslim Turks fares, and who will have the courage to defend it.

The second commonality in those parties’ ideological DNA, whether they are leftist like Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, far-right like Golden Dawn, or simply sovereignist like Britain’s UKIP, is the will to “defend” what they deem to be their nations’, and Europe’s, “traditional values” and “identity”. “Our” culture, “our lifestyles”, usually narrowly defined in an exclusionary manner—i.e. Christianity, laicity, gender equality, etc.—, professed values, lifestyles and identities that would be threatened by immigration, the invasion of Islam, capitalism, ultra-neoliberalism, open borders, multiculturalism leading to the dilution of national identities in a cosmopolitan magma, all things permitted by the EU. Needless to say, this now dominant structure of feelings, which has crystallized into a true European ideology as well, is absolutely inimical to a Turkish EU membership. With those elections, that horizon has receded much, much further.

Turks now have at least three more solid reasons to question further, as many are already doing, the value of pursuing EU membership.

First, clearly, sadly, they are not wanted by an increasing number there. Just follow the European political debates and see how attacking a politician on the ground (s)he supports Turkey’s membership has become a weapon of choice, and an effective one, to discredit her. Wanna kill your adversary in a debate? Just shout “(S)he wants Turkey to be part of the EU!!!” Second, Turks should wonder about the wisdom of having a eurozone that for decades has been utterly incapable of bringing growth to its own countries, enforce its failed economic model on a nation (Turkey) who has fared economically infinitely better than any EU country or the EU as a whole. While Turkey has had a growth rate between 5% and 8% for well over a decade, the pitiful eurozone has been either nearly stagnant, sluggish (during the better years), or in a recession,  as has again been the case for the past three years. Let’s not even mention their horrendous unemployment rates, especially for the youth. Logic and common sense should dictate it is the EU that should apply for membership in Turkey and take economic lessons from the AK Party, not the other way round!

Third and finally, Turkey seeks membership at a time when so many Europeans, and in increasing numbers as this election proves, desperately want to get out since the whole EU thing has turned for them into a nightmare of epic proportion. That odd situation of trying to get in when so many fight desperately to get out should also give pause for thought.

Far-Right Rise Unites Muslims, Jews

May 27, 2014

To the surprise of many, the far-right parties’ overwhelming success in the recent European Parliament elections has united European Muslims and Jews.

In response to such victories, notably the Front national’s, Imam Ahmed Miktar, president of the Association of the Imams of France, told Reuters, “We must learn to work together effectively on both the grass roots and leadership levels…Our communities can no longer afford the luxury of standing apart.”

His comments come in the wake of far-right victories throughout Europe, particularly Marine Le Pen’s Front national party, which garnered 25% of the total votes. The results have sparked worry among France’s religious minority groups who have since voiced the need to unite in face of the extreme parties.

Following the elections, the Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders has promised to “work closely together to fight Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and xenophobia and prevent the far right parties from realizing their goal of passing a common legislative agenda in the European parliament severely restricting the rights of religious minorities.”

The statement recognized the group’s previous successes by stating that, “Just as European Muslim and Jewish leaders joined forces in recent months in successfully combating an effort by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to outlaw circumcision and to protest Denmark’s new law banning kosher and halal slaughtering, we will now stand together and speak with one voice against efforts by the extremist parties to implement their hateful agenda.”

The Front national’s triumphs, along with those of other far-right groups, is expected to hinder Turkey’s EU bid. France and Germany have been the leading opponents of Turkey’s entrance into the EU. If the country’s bid is successful it will be the first major Muslim country in the EU. Many believe that the Front national fears a Muslim-majority country joining the EU, as this could lead to increased immigration into France.

The FN vote is “no longer one of protest but of adhesion”

May 26, 2014

Marine Cécile Naves, political scientist and director of Think Tank Different, discussed the Front national’s recent victories and how the media’s fascination with Islam may have bolstered the FN’s credibility. While the percentage of voter abstention was relatively consistent with that of the previous European Parliament elections in 2009, the FN’s success rose from 6% to 25%. Naves argues that it is therefore incorrect to argue that voter abstention is the reason for the FN’s victory. She believes that a vote for the FN “is no longer one of protest but of adhesion to values. More and more voters want the FN to be in power, which was not the case in the 1980s and 90s.”

The FN’s strategies were implemented by Marine Le Pen, whose goal is to continue to gain political power in France. This approach was seen in the 2014 municipal elections, where her goal was to gain power town by town. Such a strategy is in direct contrast to that of her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who did not seek overwhelming political victories.

Naves explains that one reason for the FN’s appeal may be that the party represents a rejection of political elites who are disconnected from the public. She contends that “an identity crisis is apparent in all of Western Europe, but also in the United States and elsewhere, concerning the opening of borders, cultural exchanges with other religions such as Islam, and the manner in which the media presents Islam…There is a fear of modernity, of a society that is more and more open. There is an idea of reversed colonization.”

Islam certainly played a part in Le Pen’s discourse. She has openly voiced discontent with France’s current immigration policies and Muslims’ presence in France. Many Muslims are worried about what the FN’s victory might mean for them. However, before the victory’s implications become apparent, Naves discusses how the French media’s fascination with Islam may have contributed to the FN’s success.

When asked if the mediatization of Islam in France favors FN ideology, Naves replied, “The manner in which Islam is treated by most media is Manichean. There is a lot of attention given to those who are openly anti-Islam and who have a harsh discourse concerning Islam.” Naves argues that in France it is difficult to speak calmly of Islam. Those who do are often confined to spheres that the media ignores, such as the research world. She contends that there is a “dramatization of Islam in France so that the problems related to Islam, such as the veil or halal meat in cafeterias, are relatively minor. Yet they are exaggerated because it attracts an audience.”

What European allies can Marine Le Pen count on?

May 28, 2014

Despite an elevated voter participation rate compared to the 2009 elections, (42.5% in 2014 versus 40.5% in 2009), the Front national dominated the recent May 2014 European Parliament elections. Front national leader Marine Le Pen garnered 24.9% of the total French vote, beating out the UMP (20.3%) and the Parti socialiste (13.9%).

The FN has quadrupled its success since the 2009 elections and will now have 24 representatives in the European Parliament, where Marine Le Pen and her father, Jean Marie Le Pen both hold seats. The party’s success worries many French Muslims, as Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric is often anti-immigration.

“Too anti-Islam…too extreme” explains why other far-right parties in Europe refuse to ally with the FN in Parliament. Among such parties are the United Kingdom’s UKIP, Denmark’s UF, and the PS in Finland.

The party’s success puts it at the threshold for the number of seats required to form a parliamentary group, which requires 25 seats. However, in order to do so the elected leaders must come from at least seven countries. For the moment, the FN only has four allies: Italy’s LN, Austria’s FPO, Belgium’s VB and PVV in the Netherlands.

France’s far-right party: No funds for religious groups

March 3, 2014

 

Marine Le Pen, whose party is riding a wave of anti-immigration and anti-Muslim voter sentiment around Europe, says it will cut public funds to religious groups in towns where it wins municipal elections this month.

Le Pen told The Associated Press in an interview that secularism will be strictly applied in towns where her far-right National Front prevails on March 23 and 30, and that referendums will be held on major issues. Le Pen, 45, praised the recent Swiss decision, in a referendum, to cap immigration, saying countries have an “inalienable right” to control their borders.

The National Front reached a high in 2012 when Le Pen scored 18 percent in presidential elections. But the party wants to establish itself in towns around France with the municipal vote. Le Pen, who wants France to abandon the euro currency and leave the European Union, also hopes to boost her party’s strength in European Parliament elections in May. She contends the EU, along with immigration and global financing, are crushing the values of French civilization. Le Pen claimed the Swiss decision, passed by a razor-thin 50.3 percent “yes” vote, would have sailed through France with a 65 percent approval rating if such a referendum held here.

Le Pen has worked to remove the stigma that has kept the party out of mainstream politics by giving it a kinder, more politically correct face. But the National Front has forged ahead with its anti-immigrant stance, especially regarding Muslims. That theme is reflected in other European far-right parties that she hopes will have resonance among voters choosing who runs their daily lives. In towns the National Front might win, Le Pen said that local taxes would be lowered and public funds would be denied to any association with a religious character.

Current law forbids funding religious organizations, but they can receive money if their work also addresses the general interest. In reality, that means many associations would risk losing public funds. A strict application of the principle of secularism could mean removing halal food in school cafeterias, forbidding Muslim women in scarves to accompany children on class trips, and prevent Muslim women from renting public swimming pools after hours. “I’m absolutely not afraid to be called anti-Muslim because I’m not,” Le Pen said.

Le Pen — who calls herself a “patriot” rather than a member of the extreme right — claims that her party neither deals in nor encourages the rising Islamophobia in France. She blames “political-religious groups” who want to install Muslim Sharia law in France and use “massive immigration” to do so. “We don’t have problems with Islam,” she said. But “France has Christian roots. They (the French) want to recognize their own country, recognize their lifestyle, their habits, their traditions.’’

 

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/french-far-right-no-funds-for-religious-groups/2014/03/03/569fa4d2-a2e7-11e3-b865-38b254d92063_story.html