France presidential candidate Le Pen defends anti-Islam fight
PARIS – France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said Wednesday there's no shame in fighting so-called Islamization of France and insists it won't breed a mass killer like the anti-Muslim Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik.
Le Pen said that Islam is taking over French neighborhoods and fighting its spread must not stop "out of fear of a crazy man." Breivik, a far-right fanatic, is on trial in Norway over a massacre of 77 people.
"Is fighting Islamic fundamentalism reprehensible? Is fighting against the Sharia (Muslim law) reprehensible?," Le Pen said during an interview with The Associated Press. "I take responsibility."
Le Pen cites as proof of the Islamist threat in France the case of Mohamed Merah, a young Frenchman of Algerian origin who killed seven people around Toulouse last month -- three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish school children, before he was shot dead by police during a raid to capture him.
President Nicolas Sarkozy ordered a crackdown on Islamist networks, detaining members of a banned Islamist group and expelling a handful of radicals, including Muslim clerics.
The 43-year-old Le Pen, who is coming up third in the pre-election polls -- behind Socialist contender Francois Hollande and Sarkozy -- insists that the National Front is a populist party -- not an extremist one.
She presents herself as the "anti-system" candidate trying to protect French sovereignty and the national identity by taking France out of the euro zone, drastically cutting immigration and waging a war on what she claims is the Islamization of France.
Sarkozy, who banned burqa-style veils in France, took up themes dear to Le Pen even before the Merah affair with tough talk against immigration and radical Islamists in a bid to woo her voters -- as he did successfully in the 2007 election.
In an interview Wednesday on BFM-TV, he named her directly, asking "The vote for Marine Le Pen serves whom? Francois Hollande."
Le Pen says that Sarkozy is a has-been: "Nicolas Sarkozy has lost. He won't be re-elected."