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French far-right leader praises 'model' state Egypt for 'fighting radical Islam'

Le Pen has made headlines for her anti-Islam rhetoric [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 December, 2020

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Marine Le Pen praised 'model' state Egypt for its alleged fight against 'radical Islam' in an interview with Egyptian state media.
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen praised Egypt as an ideal model for "fighting radical Islam", in interview with Egyptian state media.

Le Pen said Cairo's "ability to separate extremist Islam from the religion sets an example to the rest of the world, including France, of how to deal with poisonous ideologies" without targeting the religion, she told Akhbar Elyom.

The fascist leader, who has made headlines for past comments deemed Islamophobic, also denounced the Muslim Brotherhood as an alleged terror organisation and urged the global community to "confront them and their ideas".

"I am fully aware of this group's attempt to impose extremism and their attempt to establish ideologies to attract youth, and we saw this in Egypt and the Emirates, both of which have been facing this extremism for a long time," she said.

The leader of the National Rally (formerly the National Front) also took aim at Turkey who she accused of seeking to reimpose "Ottoman hegemony" through force - rhetoric that has also been peddled by Ankara's regional rivals, such as Egypt.

"We have to develop an action plan to isolate and deter our enemies to thwart their plans," she said, noting Egypt, the UAE and Greece should participate in such a campaign.

Responding to a question about regional media outlets broadcasting from Europe, Le Pen took the opportunity to target Qatar, saying France's relationship with the Gulf state is "strange and pathetic".

"Qatar is the only country that enjoys tax concessions in France that allow them to make huge real estate investments. Why do we love Qatar so much despite its actions and despite its support for the terrorist attacks? I blame the French leaders for this," she said.

Such claims have been made by Qatar's regional rivals in the past, and strongly denied by Doha.

The remarks to Egyptian state media came just days after a visit to Paris by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, where he was met with a warm embrace by his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, and awarded him with the European country's highest award of merit, despite protests from global campaign groups over Egypt's numerous human rights abuses.

It also came after weeks of heightened tensions between France and the Muslim world.

Paris has faced criticism for draft legislation presented as clamping down on "Islamist radicalism" that tightens rules on religious-based education and polygamy following a spate of attacks blamed on extremists.

Egypt and France have enjoyed an increasingly close relationship under the secular rule of former army general Sisi, with common interests in the Middle East and a shared suspicion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A statement by a dozen rights groups ahead of the talks said France had "long indulged President al-Sisi's brutal repression of any form of dissent."

"We are amazed that France is rolling out the red carpet for a dictator when there are more than 60,000 prisoners of conscience today in Egypt," Antoine Madelin, international advocacy director of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), told AFP.

Macron reportedly refused to bring up the issue of Cairo's human rights violations during Sisi's visit to Paris, despite protests from rights groups.

Read more: I escaped Sisi's jails, but thousands of others haven't been as lucky

At a joint press conference with Sisi, Macron told reporters: "I don't take lessons in how to lead from any other leader, just as I don't give lessons myself."

Macron also said that he would not tie future French arms sales to Egypt to human rights reforms, justifying this by saying it would weaken the Sisi regime's ability to fight "terrorism".

"I will not condition matters of defence and economic cooperation on these disagreements [over human rights]," Reuters quoted the French leader as saying.

An estimated 60,000 political prisoners are held in Egyptian jails, where torture and ill-treatment of detainees is routine, according to human rights groups.

Egyptian authorities executed 49 prisoners over a ten day period last October, causing outrage worldwide.

In addition, three human rights activists from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) were arrested last month after meeting foreign diplomats. They were released shortly before Sisi's visit to France.

"It is more effective to have a policy of demanding dialogue than a boycott which would only reduce the effectiveness of one our partners in the fight against terrorism," Macron said.

Antoine Madelin from the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights told France 24 TV that French-made weapons had been used against protesters in Egypt.

"Our reports have shown how this equipment has been used by the Egyptian authorities to repress demonstrations," he claimed.

A number of human rights groups in Paris protested Macron's hosting of Sisi. Among the banners they held up was one that read: "Save Egyptian Journalists."

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