Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate for the National Front party, a right-wing party which has not been in power since its founding in the 1960s, has caused endless controversy with her campaign. She has stated that she is opposed to a multicultural France and in similar words to Trump’s during his presidential campaign. that she wants to place “France first”.
Inevitably, Nigel Farage, one of the pioneers of the ‘Brexit movement’, supports the election of Marine Le Pen, signifying the political stance that Le Pen takes. Like Farage she is also calling to leave the European Union, so that, in her view, France would have more control over its borders and is able to lower immigration levels. In 2015 she appeared in court for inciting hate speech when, in 2010, she compared Muslims praying in the street to a Nazi occupation. Her father, founder and previous leader of the National Front, was fined in 2016 for denying that the Holocaust during the Nazi era ever occurred.
Similarly to many right-wing movements in Europe and the US, her focus is now largely on the so-called “threat” of Islam. She has stated: “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 street, huge mosques... or the submission of women”.
Regarding immigration, she suggested that future generations of children will not speak French as immigration will dominate and change French culture. She has said that “Every minute, every instant, from Brittany to Corsica and from Lille to Strasbourg, the French look around them, and ask themselves: Where am I?”. Unsurprisingly, her policies are highly nationalist. She has stated that French nationals would have to renounce dual citizenship if their second nationality is from outside Europe. Her views coincide strongly with President Trump’s, she advocated support for his travel ban, stating that people who opposed it did so in “bad faith.” One of her senior aides argued that a Muslim travel ban, like the one introduced in the US recently, would work in France.
Fortunately, while Le Pen is en route to winning the first round of voting in France, she is unlikely to become President of France according to predictions. Polls show her to be 20-30% behind the other candidates in the last round of voting in May. Then again, polls failed to predict both the outcome of the EU referendum in the UK and of the US presidential election.
Whatever the outcome, Le Pen’s vitriolic campaign has furthered division and exacerbated support for xenophobic sentiments. She is a xenophobic and discriminatory politician who is preying on the fears of voters by using immigrants as scapegoats. She is taking advantage of populist sentiment across Europe and the US. The current political climate of hatred is worrying for charities like JAN Trust which aim to promote inclusivity and integration.
For more information on the work we do to fight racism and Islamophobia, visit our website: www.jantrust.org
June 8th has finally come – Election day. After an intensive six-week General Election campaign, we now have a chance to go to the polls and have our voices heard.
This election will decide who holds power for the next five years. Today is the single opportunity to influence this. We have a chance to make decisions over so many vital issues: how our NHS will be funded, how our schools are run, how Brexit negotiations will be carried out. Politics matters as it can alter every aspect of life.
The importance of this election is only highlighted further by the particularly contrasting nature of the policy promises made by the two leading parties, the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. The course of the UK over the next five years will differ greatly depending on this election result. It is therefore of the upmost importance that everyone can have their voices heard today to influence the direction the UK will take.
It is particularly important for ethnic minorities to vote. Historically, the BAME community have had a very low voter turnout. The interests of ethnic minorities will only be most accurately and strongly represented through the ballot box.
Through simply marking a cross on a ballot paper at your local polling station today, we can influence the laws and policies that will affect us for the next five years. At JAN Trust we believe that voting is an important way to make your voice heard and represented in British society.
The triggering of Article 50 on 29th of March which signalled the start of the two-year long process of the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU has been met with hugely differing reactions. From those in the Leave camp who want the country’s national sovereignty restored, it is hard to remember a time in recent history when the UK has felt so divided. This feeling has only been exacerbated by Scotland’s decision to hold a second independence referendum.
While many people across the country - and indeed the whole EU - are feeling uncertain and even scared, for some communities this worry is stronger than others.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum for the UK to leave the EU it was recorded that there was a 41% increase in hate crimes, which includes racially or religiously aggravated crimes. And Muslim women, in particular those who openly express their faith by wearing the hijab or the burqa, are more vulnerable to attacks than men. Tell MAMA, an organisation that measures anti-Muslim attacks, noted that “women were more likely to be attacked or abused while travelling on public transport to town and city centres or when shopping.”
This is a consequence of a Leave campaign which relied on anti-immigrant rhetoric to gain votes. The issue of high levels of immigration has been an issue for the British electorate for many years now, as they fear the rising population to be a strain on public services. Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP, took advantage of this fear by unveiling a highly controversial poster during the campaign which was of a queue of immigrants, largely from the Middle East, with the words “Breaking point: the EU has failed us all.”
However, this increase in hate crime – and especially Islamophobia - did not begin with the referendum. The far-right in the UK has been growing in recent years, with groups taking advantage of the internet and social media to reach more people. Tommy Robinson, co-founder of the English Defence League, has a large following on Twitter which he uses as a platform.
The political climate of Brexit, along with the US election of Donald Trump, has marginalised many ethnic minorities in both the UK and the US. Prime Minister Theresa May failed to condemn President Trump’s policy of a travel ban for some majority-Muslim countries. This has led to many ethnic minorities, especially Muslims, feeling isolated and stigmatised as ‘terrorists’.
Another issue that Brexit brings is whether citizens’ rights will still be protected. Currently the UK abides to the European Court of Human Rights and its rulings, where families and individuals are protected. Leaving the EU will mean that a new set of rights will be drawn up, which could affect the rights of many citizens, especially immigrants, in the UK.
Despite these numerous causes for concern, the attack in Westminster on March 22nd, rather than inciting racism and Islamophobia led instead to an outpouring of solidarity. London, being the second most culturally diverse city in the world, united in the face of terrorism.
Islam as a religion should not be smeared by horrific individual acts. The recent news of a Kurdish-Iranian 17 year old asylum seeker being attacked in Croydon is shocking, yet in a way unsurprising. Unfortunately, there is now an unjustified fear of immigrants, which means that in the UK, Muslims and other ethnic minorities have to be careful whilst in public. Muslim women should be especially careful as their headwear is indicative of their faith. Until the process of Brexit is settled and an immigration policy is decided, the far right will use the platform of social media to make immigrants the enemy.
At JAN Trust, we believe that this climate of fear is counter-productive in creating tolerance in a British society which takes pride in multiculturalism. The UK must remain tolerant of other communities if we are to progress and improve as a society.