Istanbul - In the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 extreme nationalism in the form of terrorist attacks rose in France just like in the rest of Europe. Followed by the 2008 economic crisis that caused unemployment and a fall in the general level of prosperity, social fears triggered by refugees fleeing from the war zones also added to the increase in protectionist tendencies. Thus France became suitable grounds for extremist tendencies such as xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments and anti-Semitism.
Istanbul – In the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 extreme nationalism in the form of terrorist attacks rose in France just like in the rest of Europe. Followed by the 2008 economic crisis that caused unemployment and a fall in the general level of prosperity, social fears triggered by refugees fleeing from the war zones also added to the increase in protectionist tendencies. Thus France became suitable grounds for extremist tendencies such as xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiments and anti-Semitism.
The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination announced that there has been a remarkable increase in racism and xenophobia in France. According to data provided by human rights organization CCIF, racist/discriminatory attacks against Muslims in France during the first nine months of 2015 has increased three times compared to last year (110 versus 330). It is not hard to guess that these attacks will accelerate after the November 13 terror attacks.
The rise of racism and Islamophobia is seen in all sections of society. Recently, former French Labor Minister Nadine Morano on the France 2 TV channel stated that “France is a Christian country belonging to people of white ethnicity”.
Last May, the Mayor of Venelle, Robert Chardon, asked for “the prohibition of Islam” on his Facebook account, while the National Front Party’s second top figure, Florian Philippot, said that he “would fight to prevent Islam in France.”
Racial discrimination can also be seen in official practices for some time now. For example, in 2008, 3,000 migrants were deported in violation of international laws. In 2010, 300 gypsy camps were destroyed and 3,000 gypsies were deported. Nicolas Sarkozy, President at the time (who is also a member of an immigrant family) blamed migrants – and gypsies in particular – for France’s woes with a very harsh tone.
The fact is that the extreme right-wing party Front National came first during the European Parliament elections in 2014 with 25.24 percentage of votes. – Front National managed to get 28% of the all the votes in the first round of the regional elections in December 2015 and came first in 6 out of the 13 regions. That was definitely an important achievement. However, it failed in all the regions in the second round, as other parties formed various alliances. Although the international media seems to be relieved with this result, it just proves that national elections are interpreted incorrectly. The fact is National Front never hoped to be successful in the second round as there were no allies, yet it doesn’t change the fact that National Front is still supported by a third of the people in France.
All the polls in relation to the Presidential elections to be held in April 2017, reveal that FN leader Marine Le Pen’s votes for the first round will likely be over 30 percent and may go up to 40 percent in the second round.
More importantly, 54 percent of the French regard FN as a “patriotic party” championing national values instead of an extreme right-wing party. The fact that 54 percent of the people consider the FN “an ordinary party” indicates that votes may incline towards the FN, according to the circumstances of the time.
One can’t help but get a sense of “déjà vu” in the face of all these facts. In a historical context, an economic crisis, widespread societal paranoia and the rise of the extreme right resulted in Fascism in Germany and Italy in the not so distant past. In order to objectify this with facts and figures, let’s take a walk down the memory lane: With the economic crisis of 1929, unemployment had reached 30 percent in Germany; Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party obtained 33 percent of the votes in the 1932 elections and 44 percent of the votes in the 1933 elections, making the Nazis the biggest party in the Reichstag. The economy in Italy had deteriorated dramatically during the First World War and with the general strike crisis in 1920, Benito Mussolini decided to stage the March on Rome in 1922; after his impromptu coup d’Etat and establishing himself as Italy’s leader (‘Il Duce’) he went on to win 61 percent of the votes in the 1924 elections. Once the other political parties were banned in 1928, Mussolini racked up 98 percent of the votes in 1929 and 99 percent of the votes in 1934 and thus Fascism came to Italy..
Now we are seeing the same developments step-by-step in France. This is not entirely unlikely or alarmist; the working poor and middle class who propelled Hitler and Mussolini into power are now becoming a source of votes for the FN in France. According to figures given by FN leader Marine Le Pen, 600 people are joining the FN’s ranks every day.
Let’s assume for a second that the extreme right came to power in France. What will happen then?
An ideology based on xenophobia, an anti-immigrant narrative, Islamophobia and an authoritarian approach being in charge in France, will, before everything else, mean the end of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (liberty, equality, fraternity), the slogan that outlines the values of their republic. It is not difficult to imagine how the hostility towards the seven million Muslims and immigrants, who are close to 30% of the population together with the refugees, could hurt France.
A quasi-fascist France would also most likely cut the ties of France with the rest of Europe. It is a known fact that countries that wish to become a member of the EU must agree to respect minority rights and are required to act in accordance with the ECHR, the European Social Charter and the Copenhagen criteria. Yet it is quite clear that a country marginalizing its citizens and discriminating against its allies will not find a place within the EU, which is built on the values described in the aforementioned documents.
A far-right France also means France breaking away from NATO. Indeed, the FN has announced this on their official website. France will certainly not be safer if they break off from NATO. It is evident that such a step will be beneficial neither for this country nor for world peace.
The French are no strangers to Fascism. During World War II, Fascism killed 530,000 French, divided the country into two and razed cities and villages to the ground. For this reason, Article I of the French Constitution states “France… ensures the equality of all its citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs” and has organized all types discrimination as a crime (the French Penal Code, article 225). It would not be rational for the French people to forget all of this and suddenly go on to embrace a far-right ideology like Fascism.
It is a regrettable sociological reality that citizens turn to extremism in countries when issues remain unsolved and turn into crises. The reactions French people give to the November 13 attacks take its course compatible with this thesis. But I believe that the French are equipped with the good common sense which will prevent them from making the same mistake twice. On behalf of world peace, and for the sake of the French people, I hope history will not repeat itself.
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