EU: Far-Right Parties Are Running Campaigns on “No to Islamism”
An extreme right-wing nationalist party ran a campaign on an anti-Islam message in November 2009 in Switzerland, now it is the turn of the French far-right party the Front National to play the same cards of racism and xenophobia. The Front National, which gained ground in the 2010 elections due to its strong anti-immigration agenda, is now targeting what European’s far-right parties at large are framing as “the threat of Islam taking over Europe.”
The poster for the Front National’s electoral campaign, which is already approved by the French electoral commission, has created some diplomatic problems with one of France’s former colonies: Algeria. The North-African country has filed an official protest arguing that the campaign poster represents an “abuse of the Algerian flag.”
The poster at the center of the controversy shows a woman wearing a Burka next to a map of France covered with an Algerian flag. Minarets are shown as missiles over France’s map, and a caption above it reads “Non A L’Islamism” ( No To Islamism). The Front National’s poster closely resembles a poster that a Swiss far-right Nationalist party (see photo) used in a November 2009 referendum to freeze Minaret construction in Switzerland. The Swiss advertisement agency that designed the poster says that it will sue the Front National for plagiarism.
The Algerian government was quick to react to the provocative poster.
“We need to respect the symbols of one another. This is the position of our country, and we will ensure that it will be respected,” said Mourad Medelci, Algeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister on Monday, March 8, 2010.
The next day, the French Foreign Ministry stated that Algeria’s official complaint was “legitimate.” Meanwhile, a Marseille court dismissed an attempt by the anti-racist group Licra to have the poster banned. Two more anti-racism organizations, MRAP and SOS Racism have also launched legal actions to get the controversial poster banned. The Front National’s reaction was to declare that “Paris is on its knees before Algiers.”
The core of the Front National’s political appeal is its stand as being against immigration and even in favor of expelling foreigners out of France. The Front National needs to be called what it is: a neo-fascist movement.
The Front National was founded in 1972 by Francois Duprat and Francois Brigneau, and Jean-Marie Le Pen began to lead it later the same year. After 10 years on the margins of French politics, the Front National began a period of spectacular growth in 1981, campaigning on the slogan “France for the French,” as French fascists had done in the 1930s, and linking high unemployment and crime to the presence of immigrants. By using such arguments against immigrants, the Front National and its founder Jean-Marie Le Pen have stirred up racism and xenophobia for years. In the 1930s, the party aligned with the fascist ideology of the current Front National was Action Francaise. Action Francaise then blamed France’s problem on Jews, just like Adolf Hitler was doing in Germany. The Front National’s attention is now focused on Muslims and North-African immigrants.
Algeria won its independence from France in 1962 after a nasty war that spanned eight years. France had almost 500,000 troops in Algeria at the darkest days of the conflict. Some of the torture exacted by the French forces in Algeria on the insurgents of the Algerian Front National de la Liberation (FNL) were so brutal that they still defy imagination.
An important turning point for Algeria’s war of independence, which started in 1954, was the massacre of civilians by the FNL insurgency near the town of Philippeville in August 1955. Before this operation, FNL’s policy was to attack only military and government targets. The killing by FNL of 123 people, including elderly women and babies, shocked Jacques Soustelle, the French Governor General, and made him called for massive retaliation against the rebels. Soustelle claimed that 1,273 guerrillas fighters were killed in retaliation, but according to the FNL, more than 12,000 Muslims were slaughtered by the armed forces, the police and colon gangs. After the grave incident in Philippeville, an all-out war broke out in Algeria.