'I’m Arab, a Muslim, and I vote Marine Le Pen'
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If French Muslims are largely left-leaning in their voting preferences, there are exceptions. France24.com spoke to three French Muslims of Arab descent, all of whom vote for the far-right National Front party. Here are their testimonies.
Karima, policewoman: “Many of my colleagues of Arab descent vote far right, but don’t dare say so.”
A 33-year-old naturalised French citizen of Moroccan origin, Karima is a mother of three, married to a Frenchman. She arrived in France 15 years ago, and has a diploma in Computer Science from a French university. Now she works as a policewoman in Paris and declined to provide her last name.
Karima says she started becoming interested in the ideas of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the extreme-right National Front party, in 2002. That was almost a decade before Le Pen handed over the party leadership to his youngest daughter, Marine, in 2011. These days, Karima says she regularly attends party meetings and votes for National Front candidates whenever she can.
“My vote is an expression of my rejection of certain Muslim Arabs [in France], whom I personally consider ‘thugs’. They’ve destroyed French society. At least in the old days, they lived in the same suburbs,” said Karima, referring to the largely immigrant, impoverished “banlieues” of major French metropolises. “But for the last several years, the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, has done everything in his power to house them in nice neighbourhoods – like the 15th district, where I live.”
She says she is generally furious at these French-born citizens of North African origin who show no consideration for their country. If the National Front ever gets a candidate elected to the presidency, she would like to see people who “don’t deserve” their French nationality stripped of their citizenship.
According to Karima, many of her “colleagues of Arab descent vote far right, but don’t dare say so”.
Farid Smahi, former National Front office employee: “I’m Arab, I celebrate Ramadan, and I vote Le Pen”
Farid Smahi, 59, is a Frenchman of Algerian descent, a father of three children, and graduate of a French university with a degree in French literature. He currently works for an association that offers aid to people in need in the Paris area. His father fought in the French army during World War II, before becoming an activist for Algerian independence.
“You can’t be both Algerian and French,” Smahi noted. His conversion to far-right politics occurred when he returned from a trip to the Palestinian Territories, which he describes as a giant open-air prison. His opposition to French citizens having two passports, coupled with his appreciation for Jean-Marie Le Pen’s criticism of Israel, led Smahi to join the National Front. Though he was once employed by one of the National Front’s bureaus, Smahi no longer works for the party; he was asked to leave after publicly denouncing Marine Le Pen’s “closeness with Zionists”.
Before he joined the party, Smahi confronted then-leader Jean-Marie Le Pen over his stance toward France’s black and Arab residents. He says he wanted to make sure that Le Pen was not planning to expel them. “I looked him in the eye, and he told me that was not his plan,” Smahi recalled. “I saw that he was an experienced and free-thinking politican.”
According to Smahi, most of the Arabs and Muslims who voted for Marine Le Pen in the first round of this year’s presidential election are those who arrived in France recently: doctors and engineers, for example, who had good jobs in their native countries, but decided to flee the repressive dictatorships of these countries.
“These are people who suffered to become French,” Smahi said. “Unlike those others who were born here and continue to vote for the left, when they still don’t understand that it’s the left that dumped them in the ghettos to begin with.”
Smahi expressed his distaste for Arabs and Muslims who have not yet adopted the ways of their country of residence. “I’m Arab, I celebrate Ramadan, and I vote National Front. I don’t like halal meat anymore. I can’t stand women who wear the headscarf, and even less, women who wear the burqa. France is a beautiful country,” he said. “In France, we drink wine and we eat pork. My Muslim compatriots need to calm down, and stop imposing their religion on society.” His bottom line: “We’re in France: love it or leave it.”
Myriam, hotel maid: “The day the National Front is in power, things will be different.”
Myriam, aged 45, is a French woman of Tunisian origin who also declined to provide her last name. Married, with four children, she has lived in the Parisian suburb of Melun for the past 20 years. After dropping out of school because of “family problems”, she began working as a maid in a Parisian hotel.
Myriam does not have kind things to say about her black and Arab compatriots. In her view, they are the cause of all of France’s problems. “If I could change my origins, I’d do it with pleasure,” she admitted.
“The only concern of Blacks and Arabs is looking for a way to get around French law to profit from the social benefits offered here, and to make money without making any effort. They’ve ruined our reputation,” she said. “It’s true that some of them struggle and work hard, but many others…take advantage of the help offered by the government. The day the National Front is in power, things will be different.”