Toulouse Killings Illuminate Salafist-Far Right Alliance in France
As I write this, the standoff continues in Toulouse, France between French police and Mohammed Merah, the alleged murderer of several Muslim French soldiers and Jews. One of the most salient facts about the killer, a professed Islamic radical seeking to avenge various indignities committed against Muslims by the West, is that he was a member of an outlawed French Salafist group named Forsanne Alizza, or the Knights of Pride. The group, which has expressed sympathy for Al-Qaeda’s cause, was banned in January after its leadership was accused of training members “for armed combat.”
Now that the Toulouse killer has been unmasked as a radical Muslim, and not a white Christian Islamophobe like Anders Behring Breivik, the French extreme right can breathe a sigh of relief. And Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front leader vying for the French presidency, is apparently seeking to ride the tragedy all the way to victory. Today, she declared, “The Islamic fundamentalist threat has been underestimated in our country and political-religious groups are developing due to a certain laxism.”
But a glance into the recent activities of Forsanne Alizza exposes the irony of Le Pen’s words. Indeed, Forsanne Alizza has been engaged in an open alliance with neo-fascist figures and extreme right-wing Catholic groups who emerged from the core of Le Pen’s National Front party and who comprise some of her most loyal supporters.
The de facto Salafist-neo-fascist alliance was forged in October 2011 when two right-wing Catholic groups, Action Francaise (French Action) and Renouveau Francais (French Renewal) staged a morality crusade against a performance in Paris of Romeo Castallucci’s play, “On the Concept of the Face of God." At first, the rightists tried to halt the performance of the play on the anti-religious discrimination grounds. Their grievances focused on a scene of a son cleaning his father’s feces off the floor while images of Jesus Christ flashed on a projection screen. After failing to stop the play, the groups organized a 10-day protest vigil outside Theatre de la Ville, attempting to stop ticket holders from entering through various means of intimidation. Before one performance, seven far-right activists were arrested while attempting to enter the theater with concealed knives, teargas, and stones.
At the 29 October 2011 demonstration against “Christianophobia” outside Theatre de la Ville, Catholic right activists chanted “France, Youth, Christianity." See the footage here.
Among the demonstrators at the Theatre de la Ville was Xavier Beauvais, a schismatic ultra-conservative Catholic priest with pronounced anti-Semitic tendencies. As the blog Culture Bot noted, Beauvais has lionized Leon Degrelle, a Belgian extremist who joined the Nazi SS during World War II then led various neo-Nazi outfits in the decades after. Filling out the protest ranks were members of Renouveau Francais, a far-right group that endorsed Marine Le Pen for President in 2007, and which earned an important show of support from Bruno Gollnisch for its campaign against Castalluci’s play.
Who is Gollnisch? He was the closest ally of Marine Le Pen’s father, Jean Marie, and unsuccessfully challenged Le Pen fille for the National Front’s leadership position in 2011. Gollnisch is also a Holocaust revisionist who was placed on probation and slapped with a hefty fine by a Lyon court for denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, among other specious claims. Gollnisch has been a regular speaker at conferences of American Renaissance, an American white nationalist group that brings an assortment of extreme racialist figures from Jared Taylor to Sam Dickson to Philip Rushton together each year to promote biological determinist theories about the genetic superiority of Anglo-Saxon whites (read my report from the 2006 gathering of AmRen here).
Another key supporter of Renouveau Francais’ crusade against Castalluci’s play was Alexandre Gabriac. Gabriac served as a central committee member and regional councilor in Le Pen’s National Front until photos emerged showing him delivering a Nazi sieg heil salute, prompting Le Pen to expel him from the party. Despite calls from National Front cadres to forgive Gabriac, Le Pen was in the process of an intensive image makeover designed to increase her appeal among Jewish voters inclined toward the National Front’s anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant positions. Since embarking on her campaign for the presidency, Le Pen has taken a stridently pro-Israel line, earning her a 20-minute meeting last November with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor. She was not going to let a mid-level Nazi sympathizer stand in the way of her ambitions.
Gabriac was present along with 300 Catholic rightists at the October 29 protest at Theatre de la Ville. There and during a march earlier that day in Paris, the right-wing Catholics were joined by members of the Salafist splinter group Forsanne Alizza. According to the French blog, Poisson Rouge, Forsanne Alizza issued a press release on its website calling for members to protest with the Catholic fundamentalists. And so Forsanne Alizza activists marched side-by-side with members of Renouveau Francais and Action Francaise, echoed their chants, and expressed solidarity against “Christianophobia.”
At 1:03 in a video interview that can be seen here, a Forzanne Alizza leader explains (in French – translation coming soon) why his group joined the protests against Castalluci’s play.
Though Le Pen will spend the coming weeks holding forth about the supposed failure of the French government to crush Forzanne Alizza, there was a time when some of her most committed political-religious partisans allied with the group that allegedly helped inspire the Toulouse killer against the thing they hated more than anything else – more than Islam or even mass immigration. That thing was liberalism itself.