The National Front, France's far-right, anti-immigrant party led by Marine Le Pen, is seeking Muslim votes in the Paris region of Île-de-France ahead of the December local elections. The party will send out specially tailored fliers aimed at appealing to the large Muslim constituencies who live in the suburbs of Paris, regional candidate Wallerand de Saint-Just told Reuters Thursday.
Party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen originally built the front's platform around anti-immigration policies and opposition to European integration in the 1970s. Le Pen and his daughter and successor Marine have often compared immigration to a form of invasion, and she is currently being tried for inciting racial hatred after comparing Muslims praying in the street to the 1940-44 Nazi occupation of France.
The National Front's bid for the Muslim vote seems like a complete turnaround. Under the leadership of Marine, it has looked to become more mainstream and move away from its reputation as a fringe party, though many of her speeches and comments on immigration and the refugee crisis in particularly have been perceived as racist by critics.
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France has nearly 5 million Muslim citizens, and in the Paris region in particular, where many Muslims and North African immigrants live, the community makes up an important constituency. The decision to seek support from this group was not hypocritical, according to Saint-Just, who said the party accepts Muslims who are fully integrated into French society. "We'll tell them that they are as French as the others," Saint-Just said, adding, "and that they must respect French-style secularism."
The mailer will be sent to Muslims in the low-income suburbs, or "banlieues," of Paris, according to Saint-Just. The flyer will highlight the National Front's policies on law and order and economic protectionism, interests that the party says the banlieue communities share.