Immigration/Social Policy

The anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant backlash: how the radical right seeks to take advantage of the Paris attacks

November 16, 2015 - by Dr. Oliver Schmidtke, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

After the horrific attacks in Paris, France is in a state of shock. French President Hollande has said that France stands united; yet any sense of unity seems to be fading fast. While the country is still in mourning, first statements by France’s leading politicians provide a sense of how the issue of the attacks and the threat by ISIS will become a central issue in electoral politics. In particular the radical right in Europe is poised to benefit from the Paris attacks. In France Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right Front National, has declared that the country needs to "annihilate" Islamist radicals, expel dangerous “foreigners” and “illegal migrants”, close “radical mosques”, ban Islamist organization and regain control of its borders “for good” (challenging core policies of the European Union).

It is not surprising that Le Pen has linked the response to the terrorist attacks directly to the current refugee crisis. The Front National tries to use the national outrage over Friday’s events to bolster its anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric. Jointly with other leaders of the populist right in Europe Marine Le Pen blames Islam, open borders and migrants as being responsible for the vulnerability of the country. The first test for how successful this strategy will be is coming soon: regional elections will be held in northern France in December. More decisive for the future of the country will be the presidential election in 2017. Many commentators of French politics consider that Marine has a good chance of making it to the second round and being a veritable contender for the presidency. The Paris attacks might be a decisive element in boosting the electoral fortune of the radical right in France and in other European countries.  

Dr. Oliver Schmidtke is Director of the Centre for Global Studies and Professor in Political Science at the University of Victoria. He is also part of a pan-Canada network of experts working on European policy issues, the Strategic Knowledge Cluster Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue.