Marine Le Pen at the European Parliament, July 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Marine Le Pen at the European Parliament, July 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On Remembrance Sunday, Andrew Marr and the BBC decided to air an interview with Marine Le Pen reports Shabbir Lakha

The BBC yesterday aired a pre-recorded interview with French politician Marine Le Pen on the Andrew Marr Show. The decision to air the interview with the leader of France’s fascist Front National Party on Remembrance Sunday has been met with an angry backlash on social media as well as protests outside the BBC headquarters on Portland Place yesterday morning.

Rob Burley, a BBC editor, took to Twitter on Saturday to defend the BBC’s decision, saying that she is a “serious contender for French Presidency” and that “we either treat her seriously or censor her”. But despite the truth in saying that Le Pen has had increased popularity in France, the BBC refuse to acknowledge that providing her a platform legitimises her politics and creates the image – true or false – of her being a serious contender.

Le Pen’s politics is based on racist and xenophobic rhetoric that makes Farage look relatively moderate. After the destruction of the refugee camp in Calais at the end of October, members of the Front National and their supporters reportedly went to some of the CAOs (Welcome and assessment centres) with all-pork food parcels, telling Muslim refugees they can either abandon their religion or starve.

Despite Marine Le Pen today saying that she does not judge people by their religion and has nothing against Muslims, Islamophobia has been put at the front and centre of the Front National’s rhetoric. Le Pen has used the Paris and Nice attacks in the last two years to fuel hatred against Muslims and advance a brand of secularism that doesn’t mean tolerating all religions, but rather forcing people to disassociate from their religious identities.

Of course when it comes to definitions, Marine Le Pen denies that her policies are racist in any way, as she did yesterday morning on the Andrew Marr show. The BBC don’t seem to realise that by allowing a person to say that the biggest threat to secular France is multiculturalism which has given rise to Islamic fundamentalism, and then carry on the interview as a casual conversation, it normalises the ideas being discussed as if there is nothing wrong with them.

The reason for having this interview is very clearly in relation to the election of Donald Trump as the next US President, which Burley claims now makes a Le Pen Presidency a “possibility”. Marine Le Pen has been vocally supportive of Trump’s campaign and she described his win on Tuesday as “good news”. It is worrying that the BBC can be so callous in pushing this narrative that empowers racists and bigots in thinking that their ideologies are gaining popularity. A banner held by a protester standing outside the BBC yesterday read: “There is no such thing as bad publicity”.

The BBC have consistently been proven for having a bias whether it was the Iraq War, Israeli ‘offensives’ in Gaza or Jeremy Corbyn. They have also had no issues in providing a platform for neo-fascists like Le Pen. Racist ideas are given legitimacy when they are normalised in the media and we must continue to oppose the editorial decisions of the mainstream media that give a voice to hate.

Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.

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