Marine Le Pen to speak at Cambridge University..
The Cambridge News reported yesterday that Marine Le Pen MEP, leader of the French Front National and former French presidential candidate, will be speaking at an event held by the University of Cambridge Debating Society at 4pm on the 19th February.
Le Pen is due to address the chamber on topics including the future of the European Union and French politics, and a spokesman for the Cambridge Union Society said they welcomed the opportunity to “discuss, debate and challenge” her views.
He continued by saying that:
“Whether you agree with her politics or not, this event represents one of the very few opportunities a British audience has had to directly engage with Mme Le Pen, who finished third in the last French presidential election, behind Hollande and Sarkozy, and currently sits in the European Parliament as a democratically elected representative".
No information has yet been given as to whether Le Pen will be debated against, or handed an unchallenged platform at Cambridge, and here at Student Rights we find this deeply concerning.
Marine Le Pen has regularly attacked France's large Muslim population, and in a speech following the shootings carried out by Mohamed Merah asked "how many Mohamed Merah's arrive in France in boats, planes, full of immigrants" and stated that “prayers in mosques should be automatically under surveillance”.
She also suggested that foreigners coming from “countries where they train terrorists should be systematically expelled from France. And for French citizens it will be wearing permanent electronic tags".
In addition to this, prior to her election as leader of the Front National both Le Pen's father Jean-Marie and another senior member of the party called Bruno Gollnisch were fined after they were found to have trivialised the Holocaust.
Jean Marie Le Pen claimed several times that the gas chambers were “a mere detail in the history of the Second World War”, whilst Gollnisch was found guilty of “disputing a crime against humanity” after suggesting that the number of those killed during the Holocaust had been exaggerated.
The National Union of Students' (NUS) 'No Platform' policy prohibits NUS members from sharing a platform with both the British National Party (BNP) and the British National Front for good reason, highlighting the legitimacy that this gives fascist views.
Whilst the University of Cambridge Student Union has had a 'No-Platform' policy in the past, it is unclear if Le Pen would be covered by this, or if it even still applies, and Student Rights are currently attempting to uncover the extent of any 'No Platform' policy's power.
The use of anti-Muslim rhetoric by Le Pen is similar to that being adopted by the far-right in Britain, and as founding members of the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM), of which the BNP is now part, the Front National should certainly be seen as an ideological bed-fellow with British fascists and treated as such, even if it has since left this grouping.
Universities do have a duty to uphold freedom of speech, but they are no place for the promotion of fascist views, and university authorities have a duty of care to their students to protect them from those who would promote hatred.
The level of hate crimes on campuses, recorded by the NUS between 2010 and 2011, is already too high, with 18% of black students surveyed reporting that they had been the victim of a racially prejudiced incident.
Compounding this, 31% of Jewish respondents and 17% of Muslim respondents also reported being victims of religiously motivated hate incidents.
Here at Student Rights we feel that students have a right to study in an environment which does not put them at risk of attacks such as these, and inviting speakers like Marine Le Pen legitimises the prejudices of those who might target minority groups.
We will therefore be calling on the university to investigate the process that led to Le Pen being booked to speak, and hope that other groups including the NUS will work with us on this to ensure that she is prevented from speaking.