Oxford

Marion Marechal-Le Pen: Oxford Union criticised for invitation

Marion Marechal-Le Pen Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Far-right French activist Marion Marechal-Le Pen has spoken against gay marriage, and has demanded Muslims in France adopt values rooted in Christianity

The Oxford Union has been criticised for inviting far-right French activist Marion Marechal-Le Pen to speak.

Oxford East MP Annaliese Dodds said the debating society seemed "determined to invite very controversial figures".

Ms Marechal-Le Pen was an MP for the National Front (FN) and had a leading role in anti-gay marriage rallies.

Labour MP Ms Dodds said it would be "sensible" if the Oxford Union, which has been approached for comment, uninvited the controversial activist.

She said the Oxford Union, one of the country's oldest debating societies, was inviting "people from movements who most commentators would view as racist".

In November last year the union was criticised for inviting controversial former adviser to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon.

In the same month, the leader of far-right German party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Alice Weidel, pulled out of an Oxford Union debate due to concerns about security.

Ms Dodds added the latest "stunt" on 22 January, which she described as "an attempt to garner publicity", would stretch police resources in the city.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Oxford Union debating society has a long history of inviting controversial figures to speak, including co-founder of the English Defence League (EDL) Tommy Robinson

"Yet again the police will have to expend resources on this because there will be a reaction against it, I already know that they're stretched," she said.

Campaign group Oxford Stand Up To Racism said it was intending to protest against the event.

In an open letter it said it was "appalled that the Oxford Union has once again shown its willingness to invite extreme right-wing racist politicians to speak".

It added: "The invitation to Marion [Marechal-]Le Pen is especially disgusting since it is scheduled during the run up to Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.

"The National Rally party in France is well-known for its extreme anti-Semitism.

"Founding member and beloved grandfather of Marion Maréchal, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has stated on many occasions that the Holocaust was just an insignificant detail of the Second World War."

It also called her a "vicious Islamophobe [who] believes that Muslims can only be regarded as French if they follow a Christian culture".

In 2015, more than 200 people protested against a speech given by Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front and the aunt of Ms Marechal-Le Pen.

Who is Marion Marechal-Le Pen?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Marion Marechal-Le Pen quit frontline politics after Marine Le Pen lost the 2017 presidential election to Emmanuel Macron

Ms Marechal-Le Pen is the granddaughter of the founder of the French National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen.

She was elected to the French National Assembly in 2012 at the age of 22, and at the time she was France's youngest parliamentarian in modern history.

She was seen by some as a future leader of the far-right party, but after Marine Le Pen lost the 2017 presidential election to Emmanuel Macron, she quit frontline politics for "personal and political reasons".

The 29-year-old is a conservative Catholic and played a leading role in anti-gay marriage rallies, favouring what she called the "traditional family".

She has repeatedly spoken of the "true French" identity, demanding Muslims in France adopt values rooted in Christianity.

And one phrase she has repeatedly used about herself is that she is a "Francaise de souche" - of native French stock.

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