Racism and Islamophobia in France: the far Right and the grassroots


Racism and Islamophobia in France: the far Right and the grassroots

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Written by: Tim Cleary


In debates surrounding the complex social, political and economic situation that France is facing, the far Right has continued to exercise its political voice. Yet young people from the banlieues (suburbs), many of whom are affected by racism and discrimination as part of their everyday lives, suffer from a dearth of political representation and are depicted as anomic, apolitical ‘casseurs’ – thugs intent on destroying the very fabric of French society rather than developing their own political voice.

The negative media portrayal of young French citizens from the banlieues has often failed to see how political activism is growing at grassroots level in order to fill the void of political representation. In their activism, people are continuing a long tradition of anti-racism, demanding long-overdue equal rights and equal treatment for all citizens, whatever their colour, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.

The far Right’s racism and Islamophobia

The far Right’s anti-immigrant and Islamophobic discourse has been at the fore in recent months. While the Front National (FN) has continued its attack on all forms of immigration, Philippe de Villiers, leader of the Mouvement pour la France (MPF) party, has, in his bid to capture the Islamophobic vote, decided to court marginal, right-wing elements in French Jewish communities with talk of the ‘Islamisation of France’.

In April 2006, Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen and Vice-President of the FN, launched her autobiography in an attempt to gain support for the party for France’s 2007 presidential election. In the book, entitled A Contre Flots (Against the Tide), she tells of her ‘persecution’ growing up with the Le Pen family surname and inexplicably counters claims that her father is racist.[1] A few weeks after the publication of her autobiography, her father lost his appeal against a 10,000-euro fine for incitement to racial hatred for comments he made to Le Monde in April 2003 about a France of the future with ‘twenty-five million Muslims … in command’ and French people having to ‘leave … or get a walloping’.[2]

The political tone of Marine Le Pen’s publicity tour was as one might have expected: she criticised the construction of mosques and rejected giving financial aid to irregular migrants who were forced to leave the country.[3] Meanwhile, her father launched a campaign calling for the reintroduction of the death penalty.[4]

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Download a copy of Racism and Islamophobia in France by Tim Cleary (pdf file, 91kb)

European Race Bulletin


[1] Guardian, 25.4.06.
[2] Nouvel Observateur, 11.5.06. (my translation; all subsequent translations from French publications are my own)
[3] Nouvel Observateur, 23.5.06.
[4] Le Monde, 21.5.06.


The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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