Photo Credit: Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS
Marine Le Pen and Russian President Vladimir Putin

By Yuval Canfi

The far right “Front Nationale” party headed by Marine Le Pen promises to wipe out terror. In fact it plays straight to the hands of the Islamic State, creating a fertile ground for new radicals.

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Marine Le Pen, the French far right leader who garnered over 21% of votes in the first round of election is, it seems, going to the bank. Aside from Emmanuel Macron who’s expected to win the presidency on May 7th she had surpassed all other candidates for presidency while putting forward a hardline nationalist agenda under the catchphrase “the very survival of France is at stake,” hinting blatantly to the alleged Islamization of France.

Le Pen is far from alone; nationalist and Eurosceptic parties have sprouted all across Europe gaining political thrust and constituencies, from the United Kingdom and Germany to the Netherlands and Sweden. However, France has been under a martial law decree ever since the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, carried out by ISIS recruits, which included the Bataclan bombing, and the continuous wave of terror that took over the country could somewhat account for Le Pen’s popularity. Experts have gone as far as speculating that the most recent stabbing in Paris just before the first round of elections in the country was a calculated move by ISIS to sway more voters in Le Pen’s direction. Why? Because every vote that goes the “Front Nationale” fringes more immigrants and refugees across the country. Every tilt of the French public right-ways entrenches the cleavage between Christians and Muslims in the country; and every decline in the social, economic and political living of five million Muslims in France plays straight into the open arms of ISIS.

It is well established that the Islamic State directs much of its resources to recruiting western activists and “lone wolves” to act as its perpetrators in shaking off the false idealism of the democratic world. It is also known that one of the most common motivations for young – mostly, but on only – Muslims to become religiously radicalized is institutionalized integration failure and inability to feel a part of the social and cultural collective in the country. Ironically, in many ways this is exactly the situation Le Pen is striving for; which in the eyes of ISIS means a much more effective greenhouse for growing new recruits.

As of 2016 France has been ISIS’s most successful recruiting ground and the only country who exported western terrorists in four digit numbers. And those are just the ones who travelled to fight with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Concrete numbers of Muslim radicals within France itself do not really exist and are very hard to obtain. What is certain is that France hosts the largest number of nationals of Muslim faith in Europe and should be wary of a large scale response to Muslim public sentiment.

Europe is waking up into a new era; more realistic and less idealistic. Le Pen’s “Front Nationale” is the most outstanding example for this somewhat radical shift in EU politics and it surfaces a dilemma: on the one side Le Pen owes her political capital to the public’s fear of terror; on the other side terror owes Le Pen just as much.

Before the people of France return to the ballots on May 7th they must ask themselves if they really want to play into the hands of terror, and what might come of this?

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