PARIS - The French have had two months to sort out the lessons of last fall's riots in predominately Muslim neighborhoods. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin says the rioting was caused by racial bias, lack of business opportunity and insufficient education for immigrant children. He vows tax breaks for business, better education for immigrant children and tougher enforcement of anti-bias laws. For this conclusion, the French media, which is more left wing than the American press, praised him.
The founder and leader of France's Front National (FN) party, 77-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen, has reached the opposite conclusion, as might be expected of a man who has warned for decades about the dangers of unrestrained immigration.
Le Pen claims that the French media marginalized him, even during the riots, though FN has made immigration the center of its platform. During a recent interview with me at his home, Le Pen said, "The politically correct forbids any link be established between immigration and the riots. Everybody knows it, but you can't say it."
To Le Pen, the facts are indisputable. The migration of Muslims to France since the 1950s from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Senegal is larger than any other influx in France's history. New immigrants are young and have a higher birth rate than the French. There are about 200,000 abortions a year in France and the government has begun offering to pay French women to have more babies. At current rates, the Muslim population in France will grow from its current 8 percent - that's about 5 million of France's 60 million people - to a majority in 25 years. French culture, possibly French secularism and liberty, cannot be sustained in the face of such demographic facts.
I asked Le Pen what he would do should he become president in next year's election. He told me he would immediately stop all immigration and "change the law of nationality" so that being born in France does not automatically make one a French citizen. He also would make it more difficult for an immigrant to bring all of his or her relatives to France, as is now allowed.
Le Pen, who has been called a fascist, racist, xenophobe and other things that cannot be printed here, says, "We are currently subsidizing everybody, including the illegals. It is costing us the equivalent of $500 billion annually."
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