French leader Marine Le Pen proposed a ban on Muslim hijabs in all public places last week, despite the high likelihood that such a move would ultimately be found unconstitutional.
A top contender in France’s 2022 presidential election, Le Pen suggested the ban citing “Islamist ideologies” that she called “totalitarian and murderous,” France 24 reported.
“I consider that the headscarf is an Islamist item of clothing,” Le Pen told reporters at a press conference.
With the presidential election just 15 months away, Le Pen is seeking to capitalize on recent record poll numbers that puts her on an almost even footing with President Emmanuel Macron.
In fact, an online poll by Harris Interactive found that Le Pen would win 48 percent of the vote to Macron’s 52 percent if the election had been held on January 29, Le Parisian reported. The margin is the narrowest on record.
According to French political scientist Jean-Yves Camus, Le Pen has benefited from the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but more so from the beheading of a French teacher by an Islamist late last year.
“It had a major impact on public opinion,” Camus said. “And in this area, Marine Le Pen has an advantage: her party is well known for its position denouncing Islamism.”
In October, a teacher was beheaded in Paris after reportedly showing a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Mohammad to students in a college class. The attacker was shot dead after shouting “Allah Akbar” and advancing on police with a knife.
Samuel Paty, a history professor, was found beheaded near a college in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb in northwestern Paris, according to French newspaper Le Parisien. He had reportedly given a lesson on freedom of expression, during which he displayed cartoons of Mohammad to students, French news site ACTU17 also reported.
The attacker later claimed responsibility in a Twitter post, ACTU17 said. The post reportedly included a photo of the victim and a message to French President Emmanuel Macron, saying he had executed the victim for belittling Mohammad.
Later that same month, a mayor in Paris received federal protection after messages threatening to behead him were painted on walls.
The messages very clearly stated: “Jeremy Breaud we will behead you!” French news magazine Paris Match reported that the graffiti message was discovered in three different locations around a Lyon suburb late last week. While they misspelled Mayor Jeremie Breaud’s name, the target and intent was still clear.
According to Match, the recently-elected mayor’s first reaction to the death threat was “a feeling of amazement and bewilderment.”
“I am not afraid and I will not give up anything,” Breaud said. “In Bron, we have increased the number of municipal police by 70 percent, reinforced video protection … we are fighting against drug trafficking…I think we are disturbing [the criminal activity].”