France may have just celebrated its 226th anniversary of independence this past July, but the latest scandal surrounding Marine Le Pen, the president of the country’s conservative Front National party (FN), has made it clear that not every French citizen is treated fairly and respectfully.
Le Pen has been accused of spewing racial slurs at a party rally held in Lyon back in 2010. According to The Guardian and the International Business Times, she compared Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s.
She had been campaigning to be elected as FN Party President when she mentioned that the number of Muslims praying in the streets of major French cities began increasing as a result of too few mosques in the country.
“I’m sorry, but for those who like talking a lot about World War II, if it comes to talking about the [Nazi] occupation, we can talk about it, because that [Muslims praying in the street] is the occupation of territory,” Le Pen told the crowd gathered in Lyon. “”It is an occupation of part of the territory, suburbs where religious law is applied. Sure, there are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation nonetheless and it weighs on residents.”
The French government later made the practice of “street praying” illegal, and Le Pen may have made the remarks five years ago, but the country certainly hasn’t forgotten about it.
According to Yahoo! News, a complaint was registered against Le Pen after her remarks in Lyon. She was investigated for “inciting racial hatred” after French citizens responded to her Islamophobic comments with outrage. The investigation seems to have been dropped without any apparent verdict or explanation, but it was reopened in 2012 after another complaint was filed against Le Pen.
She was recently summoned on Sept. 22 to appear in court and address the allegations and, to use Le Pen’s own words regarding the impending October court summons, “Of course, [she’s] not going to miss such an occasion.”
Le Pen currently heads the far-right leaning FN party — in fact, she ended up winning that election back in 2010 and she succeeded her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011. Many have speculated that Le Pen’s racist sentiments were instilled by her father, who ironically was prosecuted for Holocaust denial — under the very same restricting legislation on free speech — after he stated that the Nazi gas chambers were just a minor “detail” of the second World War.
The FN party is notorious for its anti-immigrant stance, but it has begun to gain more support from French citizens who are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Socialist Party’s blasé response to the current refugee crisis in Europe.