‘Us v. Them’: the Strategic Use of Religion in Far-right Parties

How is the Migration Crisis Linked to the Success of the Rassemblement National?

The importance of France

The rise of the far-right has been present in many European countries and it is becoming an increasing problem. Throughout the years, right-wing parties have gained more and more support. This is also the case in significant states, like France.

Located in the center of Western Europe, France has been of important influence in shaping the European identity. In terms of religion, France has been a catholic country throughout history and it has obtained a significant relation with the Church, which made it even more powerful. Furthermore, many significant events that greatly affected Europe and the world, took place in France, for example, the French Revolution and its consequences.

Nowadays, France plays a big role in world politics since it is one of the most important member states of the EU and it is one of the permanent members of the UNSC.

Nonetheless, even though the state has a considerable role in international politics, it has recognized an increase of far-right support as well. The Rassemblement National, the main far-right party in France, has become one of the biggest parties over the years. Many scholars have examined the success of far-right parties in Europe in general and found many reasons for this increase of voters. Next to rapid globalization and the economic crisis of 2008, the migration crisis has been considered one of the major causes, since during this crisis the increase of support for the party was visible.

In France, the migration crisis’ consequences, both economically and socially, have been perceptible. The results of these outcomes of the crisis made people frustrated and dissatisfied. This feeling was further strengthened after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015.

Ph Gauthier Bouchet – Front national. 1 June 2012. Found on Wikimedia Commons. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The migration crisis and the success of the Rassemblement National

Now, you may ask yourself: how has the migration crisis been linked to the success of the Rassemblement National?

The right-wing party uses the ‘us against them‘ strategy. This strategy is part of the ‘othering’ process, which has been used by the Catholic church for years against its counterpart, Islam. This phenomenon started already when the Arabians conquered parts of Spain in 622. The aim of this strategy is to create fear and anger within the French citizens and to make a clear distinction between the French citizens and the immigrants.

The Rassemblement National has used this approach on the migration crisis to blame the decline of France, saying that national identity and sovereignty are being disrespected. Moreover, the far-right party used to warn the French citizens that these migrants would destroy their culture, steal their jobs, and other threats. Marine Le Penn, the leader of the Rassemblement National, uses this strategy also in her speeches, as she makes a clear distinction between the French citizens, who adore their country, and the migrants, who will destroy it.

This strong sentiment of hatred and fear was further exploited after the terrorist attacks in Paris on the 13th of November, 2015. The Rassemblement National linked the terrorist attacks to the migration crisis and, again, fomented a sentiment of fear. Therefore, the party tried to assimilate the fear of terrorism to the fear of immigration. In addition, in the case of France, Islamophobia plays an important role too. 

This creation of fear and hatred and the use of Islamophobia was further fostered by the right-wing party’s use of social media. As it can be seen in the video she posted on Twitter to remember the Paris terrorist attacks, Marine Le Penn speaks of “le combat contre l’Islamisme” (the war against Islam). She calls Islam an ideology of death. According to Le Penn, to stop this “war”, the Western countries should make a coalition. The West against the Orient. This video can therefore be seen as an example of the Rassemblement National using this strategy.

However, even though the Rassemblement National’s use of the ‘us against them’ strategy can be compared to the ‘othering’ process used by the Church, there is no clear link between the far-right party and the Christian Religion. Unlike Salvini, Marine Le Penn does not use Christianity in her speeches. She does not quote the Bible, she does not pose with the crucifix. Thus, the party does not make a clear distinction between Christianity and Islam. They make a distinction between Islam and European and French values.

“With Marine Le Pen, let us apply the firm measures that will bring radical Islam to its knees: this is the best tribute we can pay to the victims of Islamist terrorism.”

Conclusion

To conclude, the success of the Rassemblement National has been linked to their use of the ‘us against them’ strategy. The approach has been used by the far-right party against Islam, with the aim to create fear and hatred within the French citizens towards the incoming immigrants. After the terrorist attacks in Paris, these feelings were strengthened. Furthermore, Le Penn uses social media as a tool to exploit these sentiments. Most of her messages can be perceived as Islamophobic. I believe this strategy has been effective since there is a clear rise in voters of the Rassemblement National. In contrast with Islam, the use of Christianity by the far-right party is rather minimal. Yet, I believe that the Christian core values are rooted strongly in the European cultures. Therefore, I find the distinction made by the far-right party between the French culture and Islam culture similar to the distinction made between Christianity and Islam.

Photo by Anthony Choren on Unsplash
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15 thoughts on “How is the Migration Crisis Linked to the Success of the Rassemblement National?

  1. The language used is both informal and formal, you could be more consistent with the styles and if you choose to use them both make sure they blend in easily. Furthermore, the first geographical explanation seems unnecessary. However, interesting topic and good start!

    1. Thank you for this comment. I agree with you that my use of language has to improve. The reason for the geographical explanation was to indicate that we as a group use the geographical approach. I also wanted to make the importance of France clear. With this information, do you still think it is unnecessary or do you still recommend deleting this part?

      1. Dear Ine, now that you have explained the reasoning behind the geographical explanation, because it corresponds to your topic, it already makes more sense and indeed adds value to your article.

  2. Catchy and really well-written blog post! However, a few sentences could be polished, but in the big lines, this article is, in our opinion, well-done. However, don’t forget to hyperlink sources, and more importantly, to argument and answer the question of your post. The introduction paragraph contains good knowledge about France’s political historic background, which shows your knowledge and involvement towards the topic. We can’t wait to see the final draft of this blog!

    1. Thank you for your comment! Because this was a quick draft, I did not pay too much attention to the use of language. I also want to thank you for calling attention to hyperlinks. I will not forget them!

  3. We really like that you connect your blog entry with the previous ones. Maybe you could push that a little back or reformulate it, so that the first sentence is more attracting. We also appreciate that you name some of the highlights in the french history, to point out the importance this country has. Also the connection that you draw between today, where immigrants are excluded based on their religion and the past, where it was the same is very interesting and we are curious to read more about that. In your last paragraph you write “it will be interesting to examine the Rassemblement National and their use of religious rhetoric”. Since, this is what you’re doing in your blog post, maybe you can reformulate it. Did the strategy of the Rassemblement National work? Are people scared of immigrants? Is the reason why people vote for the Rassemblement national the fear of immigrants (and the religious aspect) or is it more a protest vote, because people are disappointed by the current government?

  4. While your style of writing is a bit too informal, the topic itself is fascinating!
    Your way of connecting to the other posts of the blog is very good, but make sure not to lose the thread of the post as you try to connect the rest to yours.
    Subheadings and hyperlinks, maybe even a few more pictures, would greatly improve your post, but as this is a draft I am sure they will be there soon enough.
    All in all, it is a quality post and will without a doubt become even better soon!

    1. Thank you for your comment. As you can see, I improved my draft added more pictures and hyperlinks. While writing, I followed your feedback to not lose the thread of the post. Hopefully, I accomplished this. If you have more advice, please comment!

  5. This is an interesting draft. My main suggestion would just be to add an engaging image towards the middle of the text. Maybe a picture of Marine Le Pen?
    Content wise, I particularly notice some overlap between RN and UKIP in the UK. Both for example used terror attacks as a narrative to portray muslims as ‘evil’. Lastly, I’m interested to know your opinion: Do you think Rassemblement National gains most of its voters through the ‘us against them strategy’, or how would you rank this portrayal amongst their other methods of gaining voters?

    1. Thank you for your comment. I have followed your advice and added more pictures to my post. To answer your question about whether the RN gains voters through the strategy, my answer is yes. The strategy is very manipulative. When something bad happens, people need a scapegoat. The RN gives the French this by blaming migrants, EU,… I think nowadays, it is even more effective because of social media. With short but strong messages they convince people to support their party. Even though this is a rather short explanation, does this answer your question? Please comment if you have any further suggestions, advice, questions,…

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