Since its founding in 1972, France’s National Front, and the Le Pen dynasty that runs it, has always been vehemently xenophobic. Now, party head Marine Le Pen seems to think that French citizens who return to the country not looking adequately Anglo-Saxon have some “explaining to do” – even if they are returning from thirty-seven months in the captivity of Al-Qaida.
In September 2010, four French citizens — Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol, and Marc Féret – were kidnapped by al-Qaida’s North African branch, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, while working for a French nuclear conglomerate that managed a uranium mine in Arlit, Niger. They were taken to the northern desert of Mali and held there for thirty-seven months, until their release on Tuesday. (The French government asserts that their release was brokered by Nigerian president Mahamadou Issoufou, and denies paying any ransom, but sources close to the operation told Le Monde that up to 25 million euros had been paid for the hostages’ release.)
The four men was greeted by President François Hollande at the Villacoublay military airfield near Paris on Wednesday, looking like a group might after spending over three years in the captivity of Al-Qaida – gaunt, shaken, and subdued. Two sported the long beards sometimes worn by Islamic militants and one wore a chèche, a long cloak that can be draped like a veil and a turban in the Sahara to keep the ever-swirling desert sand at bay.
Marine Le Pen – who has never been a hostage to anything except a willing one to her surname – took it from there. “I found their dress surprising,” she told the Europe 1. “The two men had trimmed beards in a strange manner and their clothing was strange.” Despite the hostages’ past three years of likely constant scrutiny and fear, Le Pen piled it on. “I think perhaps they need to explain all of that, it gives an odd impression to French people.”
For more, read Elizabeth’s full article on the Huffington Post.