National Rally (RN) president Marine Le Pen came under harsh criticism from one of her party’s top members, Jean Messiha, who announced his decision to leave the organisation during an interview with Valeurs Actuelles magazine, amid his disagreement with the ex-presidential runner’s stance on Islam and failure to produce major election results.
Messiha, an economist, civil servant and one the party’s key intellectuals, described his disappointment with Le Pen’s leadership, as RN so far had failed to land any major victories in national and municipal elections despite having widespread support among the population.
“We have won the battle of ideas but we are not managing to stir a broad popular tide that is converted into victory at the polls. It’s like a football team which has lots of supporters and a manager full of goodwill but never wins or wins very rarely,” the politician explained.
“You can’t always say it’s the fault of the pitch, the referee, the ball or the journalists. There are undoubtedly other explanations and I feel more comfortable and freer to think about it outside the RN”.
Radical Islam and Attacks in France
But for the 50-year-old politician, one of Le Pen's major weaknesses was her stance on Islam, which he defines as not being strong enough. “She considers that Islam, as a religion, is not a problem for France whereas I think that Islam, as a religion, poses a problem for France. She dissociates the Muslim religion from radical Islamic ideology. I think that the latter draws from the very heart of the Koran,” the former RN member insisted.
“I am not demonising my dear fellow citizens and Muslim friends who live peacefully here,” he insisted. “I am simply saying that the more this religion develops in France through immigration, the less France will be France.”
Messiha’s comments come shortly after the stabbing attack in Nice on 29 October claimed the lives of three people, including one woman who was beheaded inside the Notre Dame Basilica. Less than two weeks before that, Paris teacher Samuel Paty was decapitated by an 18-year-old of Chechen origin in the north-west of the city after Paty showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during one of his classes on freedom of speech. Both acts were deemed Islamist terrorist attacks.
However, when Messiha, who is of Egyptian Copt origin, referred to the Paty killing as committed by an “angry Muslim” during one of his interviews, the RN president distanced herself from his comment, saying that his opinion was not shared either by her or by the National Assembly.
“I had to say he was an Islamist. In fact, I no longer want to use that term because it is too convenient a way to dissociate Islam from its radical fringe. It is not done by any other religion,” the politician added. He said he was surprised by Le Pen’s reaction.
In January, Marine Le Pen, who is the daughter of former president of National Rally (previously known as the National Front) Jean-Marie Le Pen, announced her intention to run in the 2022 presidential election against incumbent president Emmanuel Macron. In 2017, Le Pen lost the race to Macron in the second round, with analysts recently predicting that the 52-year-old politician could outrun the incumbent president in the first round of the elections if they were held now.