- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

PARIS — A small but significant minority of French Muslims intend to vote for Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right National Front leader in this month’s presidential elections — a remarkable achievement for the politician known for his anti-immigrant stance.

Some of the country’s 5 million Muslims do not want a new wave of immigrants to arrive. They also support Mr. Le Pen’s anti-American rhetoric and his publicized “friendship” with the people of Iraq. Others are attracted by his traditional stand on moral issues such as abortion, family and the death penalty.

Abdallah Bourakba, 54, is a divorced father of three whose parents came to Paris in the 1950s from Algeria. He is unemployed and looking for a job as a salesman. He said he will vote for Mr. Le Pen on April 22.

“When my father came here, he knew he had to work … hard. New immigrants think France is an El Dorado. They are parasites, want everything on a plate and are costing us a billion euros a year,” he said.

Murad Asfoure is a 25-year-old history student with Moroccan parents. Married with a baby daughter and living in Dijon, capital of the Burgundy region, he works at an international courier company. He said he plans to join the National Front.

“Le Pen has a moral conception of politics. He wants to restore the importance of the family. He wants to bang the table and say no to the licentiousness. France is in a dire state. Look at the porn on television; look at the drugs,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest Le Pen vote from “beurs” — slang for French people with North African parents — will come from a sense of betrayal by the current government, a deep hatred of the mainstream right-wing candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, and a desire to “smash the system” in which they do not feel represented.

“In 2002, I voted Chirac against Le Pen. We were called in like cannon fodder with the warning: ‘Quick, blacks and Arabs, Le Pen wants to get rid of you.’ Since then, we’ve been pushed down even further,” said Ahmad Moualek, 40, a graphic designer, who runs a radical Web site.

“It is the system that is racist, and Le Pen is the only one capable of smashing the system,” he said.

The influx of new voters has been “overwhelming,” said Farid Smahi, a Paris regional council member and, for years, the National Front’s only prominent Muslim. He said he has registered 3,500 new Muslim members and, while it is unlikely to have much effect on the election, even opponents agree there is a shift.

Sophia Chikirou, a member of the Socialist Party’s National Council, lamented that in one district of Paris, several Muslim businessmen have come out in support for Mr. Le Pen.

“They want to punish those who give a bad name to other immigrants, to distance themselves at all costs from illegal immigrants or squatters or drug dealers.”

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