The Front National has been enjoying a surge in popularity with a poll suggesting 24% of the French populace backs the fascist party.
That may change however after the leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen, remarked that a group of freed French hostages have “astonishing beards” and could have “Stockholm syndrome,” i.e. they may be secret Muslims.
Clearly she’s been watching too much Homeland, a show that paints every Muslim as a “fifth columnist” and terrorist threat.
Thierry Dol, Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand and Marc Féret were given a heroes’ welcome when they returned to France on Wednesday after being freed from a three-year hostage ordeal at the hands of al Qaeda-linked militants in Africa’s desert Sahel region.
President François Hollande was on hand to greet the four men, kidnapped in Niger in 2010, as they arrived at Villacoublay military airfield near Paris.
But it seems not all French politicians were so eager to welcome the freed hostages back to France.
In an interview with French radio on Thursday, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front party, appeared to hint that she fears the men may have become radicalised by their captors while in Africa, in a theory reminiscent of the plot of the US TV series Homeland.
Beards, clothes ’require some explanation’
Le Pen said the men’s manner and appearance – including their clothing and facial hair – had left her “sceptical”.
“I felt uncomfortable seeing those images,” she told Europe 1. “I think I wasn’t the only one. I found their extremely reserved manner astonishing, I found their clothing astonishing.”
Pressed to explain, she continued: “They seemed to be images of men who were very reserved, two with beards cut in an astonishing manner, the clothing was strange. And the hostage with the scarf on his face … All this requires some explanation on their part.”
The interviewer then asks if she is suggesting the men may have been Islamicised during their three years as hostages.
“I’m not a psychiatrist,” she replied. “I am expressing the feelings I had, which I think were shared by a lot of the French public. I’m not going to make theories, it would not be my place.”
All four men were working at a uranium mine in Arlit, in the north of Niger, when they were taken hostage. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility for their kidnapping.
Another two French citizens are still being held hostage in the Sahel.