CAIRO – In a shocking decision to Marine Le Pen’s party, a French far-right councilor has reverted to Islam, sending a video message to officials of the anti-immigration party to praise the Muslims’ holy book, the Qur’an, and asking them to join him.
“Both are demonized and very far from the image portrayed in the media,” Maxence Buttey, a councilor in the eastern Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Grand, told Le Parisien newspaper, drawing up similarities between the Front National party and Islam, The Telegraph reported.
“Like Islam, the FN defends the weakest. The party denounces exorbitant interest rates charged on the debt of our country, and Islam is against the practice of usury.”
Buttey, 22, reverted to Islam recently.
Yet, his decision became known after he send officials of the anti-immigration FN party a video in which he praised the “visionary” virtues of the Qur’an and urged them to become Muslims.
The video was a shock to many members of the party, which announced suspending Buttey from a regional FN committee.
“Religion is a private choice which I respect but it must not enter into the sphere of our political activities,” Jordan Bardella, a local party secretary, said.
“The proselytizing video which Maxence sent out is unacceptable.”
France is home to a Muslim community of nearly 6.5 million, the largest in Europe.
Le Pan’s party has been adopting anti-Islam agenda for years. She took over the National Front from her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.
Le Pen has objected to schools serving Halal meat for Muslim pupils, a controversial issue in France, which has banned the wearing of the full-face veil in public and headscarves in state schools.
She also compared Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation in a speech given during a rally in 2010.
Buttey, who remains a party member and a councilor, said he found Islam after finding it difficult to believe the official version of 9/11 attacks.
Moreover, he had doubts about the “Merah affair”, referring to the al-Qaeda inspired French gunman, Mohammed Merah, who killed seven people in the south of France in 2012.
“Some of my voters will be disappointed by my choice,” Buttey admitted.
“But I’m ready to explain to them that Islam has a mission to unite all men and women.”
The new Muslim reverts defended Islam against false campaigns propagated about it.
“I am against the niqab [full-face veil],” he said, adding that Islam did not call for believers “to cut off heads as the Islamic State group does.”
Buttey said he had decided to revert after lengthy discussions with the local imam, whom he met while campaigning for election earlier this year.
“I was Catholic but when I reread the Bible I noticed all its inconsistencies,” he said.
“When I read the Qur’an thoroughly, I understood that this religion is more open.”
Buttey is not the first far-right politician who finds Islam after long study.
In 2013, Arnoud Van Doorn, a former member of the far-right Freedom Party (PVV), embraced Islam after an extensive study into the religion.
He was among party leaders who helped produce an offensive film titled Fitna in 2008 that linked Islam and the Qur’an to violence.
But after Muslim outcry at the movie, Doorn began to read more about Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), leading him to embrace Islam in 2013.