The French and representatives from dozens of countries protested in Paris in January – without Barack Obama – in what was one of the largest ever held there. It was for the cause of free speech in the wake of the murders at Charlie Hebdo which has since been shuttered. It was a complete farce because free speech is very limited in France and many of the people who protested were leaders from dictatorships.
Marine Le Pen is the president of the National Front, the largest political party in France. She was ranked the 71st most influential person in the 2011 Time 100, and again in the top 100 in 2015, according to the NY Times.
She is on trial and faces a year in jail and a $50,000 fine. Why? Because of alleged hate speech.
She is being tried under tough French hate speech laws which many in the United States like Sen. Dianne Feinstein would like to see enacted in the United States.
In April, 2014, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014 (S.2219), which is an update to a two-decades old report on the role of telecommunications—the Internet, radio and TV—”in encouraging hate crimes based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.” It’s companion bill, HR 3878, was introduced by Rep. Hakeem Jefferies. Under these bills, the Obama administration gets to decide the definition of hate speech in the media.
Elections are coming up and Ms. LePen’s party, which is largely based on anti-immigrant sentiments will probably be successful.
She attended a brief hearing on the indictment against her last week in which she addressed a 2010 speech that brought her to where she is now.
Five years ago, she compared Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation as an “exhortation to respect the law” on behalf of “those who have been abandoned, the forgotten ones.”
“There are people with police-style armbands at these prayers,” Ms. Le Pen continued. “I’m scandalized. This is an abandonment by the state.”
“If you want to talk about the occupation, let’s talk about that, by the way, because here we are talking about the occupation of our space,” she said in 2010. “It’s an occupation of entire stretches of territory, of neighborhoods where religious law is applied. This is an occupation. Sure, there are no armored vehicles, no soldiers, but it’s still an occupation, and it weighs on the inhabitants.”
Those are the words that landed her in her current predicament.
Muslim groups went after her and she was indicted. She insists she was only referring to a small group of Muslims.
The state prosecutor recommended during the hearing that Ms. Le Pen be acquitted, saying she was simply exercising her right to free speech. She was not speaking “of the whole Muslim community” in her 2010 speech, the prosecutor, Bernard Reynaud, said, “but only a minority.”
It’s up to three judges to make the decision, however, not the prosecutor who spoke on her behalf.
Muslim groups said there are “candidates who are basing their electoral campaign wholly on stigmatizing the Muslim community.”
Human rights lawyers were allowed to question her during the hearing but LePen, a lawyer herself, swatted away their criticisms. “What you are doing is trying to prevent people from expressing themselves freely,” LePen said.
“I am the spirit of resistance, against what I consider to be the collapse of the state,” she said at the hearing.
Ms. LePen’s supporters cheered her on in court. She is thought to be charismatic and highly intelligent.
What do you think? Is she a bigot or is she trying to save French culture? Is she engaged in hate speech or simply expressing dissent?
You can get a good idea of what she stands for in this next video address:
Source: NY Times