On Friday, we reported that Marine Le Pen, daughter of convicted racist and anti-Semite Jean-Marie Le Pen, had endorsed a ban on religious headwear in public. She also called for bans on public prayer and access to kosher and halal food in schools.
Le Pen, who netted nearly 18% of the vote in the French presidential elections back in April as the leader of the Front National Party, clarified her remarks over the weekend and, in doing so, only made herself more ridiculous than before.
“Jewish skullcaps are obviously not a problem in our country,” she said, insisting nevertheless that France has to “ban them in the name of equality.”
So because Muslim religious expression is causing the problems in France, according to Le Pen, this means that Jews ought to take one for the team and simply forsake their practice? She must have misspoken, there’s no way she really mean that, right?
“What would people say if I had only asked to ban Muslim clothing? They would burn me as a Muslim hater.”
Le Pen is picking a pretty horrific moment to trade on the divisions within her country, in Europe, and the world. While there is righteous frustration and anguish at the recent horrific violence perpetuated by Muslim fanatics (including the fire-bombing of a kosher grocery store in the suburbs of Paris last week), banning religious expression only gives the forces of extremism something it wants–an enemy that will fight on the same deranged, absolutist terms. To put the squeeze on freedoms only makes communities on the margins feel more hemmed in.
And for European Jewish communities, which are already being subjected to alienating public discourse in the form of proposed bans on circumcision and ritual slaughter in places like Germany, The Netherlands, Scandinavia, and elsewhere, Le Pen is only narrowing the space between those who mean to do Jews real harm and those who simply don’t know better.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.