Q&A: Marine Le Pen on France and Islam

Leader of far-right National Front discusses her party's position on security issues following the Charlie Hebdo attack

As has been the case in several European countries in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, France has witnessed a steady rise in the political fortunes of the far-right, which has rode an increasingly popular wave of anti-immigration and anti-European Union sentiments.

With last week's deadly attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the subsequent attack on a French kosher market, many analysts have wondered if the National Front, the French party which has made its name in part by being critical of political Islam and Muslim immigration, will see an even greater uptick in its popularity.

A week on, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front Party, sat down with Al Jazeera to discuss French politics, immigration and how Paris should respond to political Islam. 

Al Jazeera: There was a security meeting here in Paris. In your opinion what should the French government be doing now to ensure French people they are safe.

Le Pen: The first priority is the immediate removal of Schengen [visa-free regime], because you can't have security and control in a country without having any powers over our borders. It's impossible to stop illegal arms trade.

AJ: But you are talking about the European level. What in your opinion should be done here in France to increase security?

Le Pen: We have to go into fundamentalist mosques. We have to stop foreign financing of Islamist groups. We have to review our foreign policy and stop rolling out the red carpet for countries we know to be funding fundamentalism, countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

AJ: What you are describing sounds almost like a purge against mosques all over France.

Le Pen: You are mixing them up. You believe that all mosques are fundamentalist.

AJ: But you are talking about going into mosques ...

Le Pen: Mosques where sharia law prevails. They exist in France. Refusing to see that means that we do equate Islam with Islamic fundamentalism. We have to denounce and eradicate it.

AJ: Do you believe then that, at a certain level, Islam as a religion is in some way incompatible with French values? 

Le Pen: There are some who believe that secularism and Islam are not compatible. But Muslims should show everyone that this is not the case. It's up to them to show that you can be French and Muslim and still respect secular rules.

And for that we have to oppose all demands that aim to shatter secularism - demands for different clothes, demands for special food, demands for prayer rooms. Demands that create special rules that would allow Muslims to behave differently. 

AJ: There were some suggestions that the Front National does not represent Republican values. What is your reaction to that kind of criticism?

Le Pen: The president of the Republic called for national unity and several political parties immediately expressed a will to alienate the National Front. Why? Because they are thinking of their electoral interests.

That is the first thing they thought. It was not how to improve security for France and the French, it was to stop the National Front from benefiting from this attack. It was a shabby reaction and I deplore it.

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