Éric Zemmour, a leading candidate in France's 2022 presidential elections. (Photo by Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images)
Paris, December 18, 2021. The Algerian national soccer team wins the Arab Cup in Qatar. Tens of thousands of Algerian supporters, waving Algerian flags, rush onto the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Shop windows are smashed. The unrest lasts until nightfall. Slogans are shouted: "Long live Algeria", "By Allah, the Koran!" -- and also "Fu*k France!" and "Fu*k Zemmour!" The police are ordered not to intervene. They are attacked anyway.
The next day, Jean Messiha, a former member of the National Rally Party, notes on television: "The great replacement and the ethnic hatred, we can see them".
Éric Zemmour, a Jewish candidate for the French presidency, does not comment. He simply states in an interview: "sadly banal scenes".
Ten days earlier, December 8, in Nanterre, a few miles east of Paris, a Catholic procession organized to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was assaulted by young Muslims, who shouted insults and threats. The Catholics were called kuffar ("infidels"). "Wallah [I swear] on the Koran, we will cut your throat", a young man shouted to a priest, then spat on him. "This is the land of Allah", others shouted; "go away."
Incidents such as these have become common in France. Even more violent ones have taken place in the recent past. France is the only country in Europe where a teacher on a street was beheaded with a butcher's knife because a student accused him of disrespecting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. France is also the only country in Europe where a priest was murdered in a church while saying mass. In the post-WWII era, France is the only country in Europe where Jewish children were murdered in the courtyard of a Jewish school. France also has the largest number of "no-go zones" (more than 750) in Europe.
France is now a country where Christians and Jews are insulted and assaulted so frequently that the newspapers only report it if someone is killed or wounded.
France's no-go zones should be called "shariah zones." They are ruled by radical imams, and Muslim gangs who live off theft and drug trafficking. Although most of the residents are French citizens, most do not define themselves as French, but as citizens of the Middle Eastern countries from which they come. They do not accept any Jewish or Christian presence, and most of the Jews and Christians who lived there left to live elsewhere years ago. The police do not enter, and the authorities even consider it dangerous when fire engines and ambulances enter.
For at least four decades, successive French governments have avoided talking about the situation or have said that the problem was poverty, which could be solved by welfare payments or sending in psychologists and sociologists. However, the situation has only gotten worse. Those in charge avoid talking about Islam or say that Islam "has its place" in France and is now a "French religion."
French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he wants to do more than his predecessors and has promised to fight what he calls "Islamic separatism". He says that all the troubles come from a small handful of Islamists, whom he defined as followers of "radical movements unrelated to Islam", and who have been incited to live apart from other French people by dangerous troublemakers who are betraying the Muslim faith. Macron therefore continues to refuse to face anything "inconvenient".
According to a poll published in September 2020, 74% of French Muslims under the age of 25 said the laws of Islam were more important than the laws of the French Republic. Another poll published two months later showed that 57% of French Muslims under the age of 25 wanted to live under Islamic sharia law.
The polls also showed that Muslim gangs who live in the no-go zones and engage in the drug trade also carry out theft and looting operations against businesses run by non-Muslims close to those zones. The lawlessness spurs these non-Muslims to sell their businesses to Muslims, who risk neither looting nor threats. The gang members say that when they steal and loot, they only "take the jizya", an Islamic "protection" tax levied on non-Muslims in territories ruled by Islamic law.
For years, those who dared explicitly to describe the situation have been taken to court, accused by anti-racist organizations of "Islamophobic racism", then sentenced to heavy fines. Ten years ago, in 2011, the author Renaud Camus published a book, Le grand remplacement ("The Great Replacement"), which said that Muslim civilization was replacing French civilization and that this substitution was accompanied, for non-Muslims, by violence and a lack of security. Camus did not just pay fines. He was no longer invited on radio or television, and all French publishers said they would no longer publish his books. He now self- publishes.
Another author and journalist, Éric Zemmour, also wrote the same thing and was often sentenced -- also for "Islamophobic racism" -- to heavy fines . His books, however, were best-sellers, and the talk shows that invited him had enormous success -- which protected him. Radio and television stations, and the newspaper that published his views, did not fire him.
This in the context in which Zemmour's decision to run for the presidency of France needs to be understood.
La France n'a pas dit son dernier mot ("France Has Not Said Its Last Word"), the book Zemmour published in September 2021, describes his disappointing conversations with French political leaders. No one has disputed a word he wrote. He organized meetings throughout the country to explain what he thought needed to be done and declared his candidacy on November 30, by posting a video on YouTube.
What Zemmour said contrasted sharply with that of his competitors. He did not try to please or water down any facts. He spoke of the destruction of France:
"France is no longer France, and everyone sees it... The third-worlding of our country and our people impoverishes as much as it disintegrates, ruins as much as it torments".
He emphasized the lack of courage of French politicians:
"I saw that no politician had the courage to save our country from the tragic fate that awaits it. I saw that all these supposed professionals were, above all, impotent".
Explaining his decision, he said:
"I have decided to ask for your vote to become your President of the Republic, so that our children and grandchildren do not know barbarism. So that our daughters are not veiled and our sons are not forced to submit".
Zemmour created a political party and called it Reconquest, seen by some as a reference to the Reconquista, the reconquest of Spain by Christians after centuries of Muslim occupation.
For a few weeks, he succeeded in placing the question of the survival of France and of its civilization at the center of every debate. Each time the media invited him to speak, he tirelessly repeated that what is at stake the survival of France, and that the election of 2022 could be the last chance to save the country. He spoke of the risk of a civil war: "I do not want France to become a Lebanon on a large scale", he said.
The other presidential candidates were then forced to raise the same questions he was asking but they did not answer them. Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally Party, said that Zemmour was too pessimistic and divided the French. Valerie Pecresse, the candidate chosen by the moderate right-wing party, The Republicans, simply said that "Éric Zemmour is an accomplice of the far right. I belong to a right which has built a dike against the far right". The left-wing candidates refused to answer altogether and said that Zemmour was a "fascist".
The French mainstream media who invited Zemmour also had to raise the questions he was asking; almost all said that he was excessive, obsessive, and that France was not in danger.
Today, "anti-racist" and French Muslim organizations continue to describe Zemmour as a racist. Francis Kalifat, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), said that no Jew should vote for Zemmour, and Yonathan Arfi, CRIF's vice-president, wrote, "As Jews, we are of course not responsible for what Éric Zemmour says. But we have a responsibility to stand in their way". Haim Korsia, the Chief Rabbi of France, even declared that Zemmour, who defines himself as a "Berber Jew", is an "anti-Semite".
President Macron never speaks of Zemmour, but members of the government and leaders of The Republic on the Move, the party created by Macron in 2017, do -- and in strong words. Minister of Health Olivier Veran said that "Éric Zemmour embodies rejection, racism and xenophobia", and is in a "permanent state of delirium". Former Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner said that Zemmour "insults the French people every day".
The presidential elections in France take place in two rounds. In the first round, there are many candidates -- officially 24 candidates for the presidential election of 2022, most of whom will get 1%-2% of the vote. In the second round, only the two leading candidates compete.
Until Zemmour declared his candidacy, the polls indicated that in the second round, President Macron would face Marine Le Pen, and easily win. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, was several times condemned for anti-Semitic remarks. Even though she has done her best to show that she is totally different from her father and not at all anti-Semitic, she still bears his name, which seems to be an insurmountable handicap. In an effort to change her image, she even watered down her positions, evidently to no avail.
From September to mid-December 2021, polls showed that in the second round of the election, Zemmour could well be Macron's opponent. Since mid-December, however, the polls have changed, and Marine Le Pen, Valerie Pecresse and Éric Zemmour are tied. It is therefore possible that Le Pen could make it to the second round. If that happens, the result is the same one expected before Zemmour's candidacy – and Macron will be re-elected. If Valerie Pecresse makes it to the second round, Macron will also be reelected: her positions are close to Macron's, meaning that the voters wishing a more conservative policy will probably not vote for her. "Valerie Pecresse has the same ideas as Emmanuel Macron and is unable to defeat him", said Guillaume Peltier, vice president of The Republicans Party on January 10. "Only Eric Zemmour has a chance". The day before, on January 9, Peltier left The Republicans to join the Zemmour campaign.
If Zemmour makes it to the second round, Macron still stands a good chance of being re-elected. Macron whips up the fear of Covid-19. The rules imposed on the French population are still extremely strict. France is in a state of "health emergency," and police who enforce compliance have extensive powers of control. A vaccination passport has been put in place; only fully vaccinated people can go to restaurants, cafes, movies or take a train. The police can ask for vaccination passports and identity documents everywhere, except in one's home. Every day, the front pages of newspapers are devoted to the pandemic and the number of cases. People hospitalized and deaths are shown in large print. Television news is also largely devoted to the pandemic. When Macron speaks, it is almost only about the pandemic. Political analysts apparently think that if he manages to avoid all other topics, his reelection will be a certainty. If he does not, everything could turn out any which way.
A recent poll shows that a large majority of French people -- 60% --approve of the use of the vaccine passport and the strict rules in place. The fear of illness and death remains intense.
The polls, however, also show that the ideas at the heart of Zemmour's campaign are widely shared by the French. One polling institute recently asked a sampling of French people:
"Some people speak of the great replacement, European, white and Christian populations being threatened with extinction following Muslim immigration from the Maghreb and black Africa. Do you think such a phenomenon will occur in France?"
67% of respondents answered: Yes. The poll then asked whether respondents worry about the possibility of a great replacement. 67% of people answered: Yes. 63% per cent responded that that they thought Islam was a danger for France.
Journalists who commented on the poll said, "The great replacement is a fantasy". Many French people clearly disagree.
"Four hundred thousand Muslim immigrants enter France each year. In five years, that makes two million more Muslims. These Muslims go to live in the Muslim areas and do not integrate... What do you think that means?"
Instead of answering, the journalists interviewing him changed the subject. The figures he gave are taken from official documents; they are exact.
He also spoke about his own experiences. On October 25, 2021, TV host Jean-Marc Morandini invited him to meet the inhabitants of Drancy, a small town in the eastern suburbs of Paris where Zemmour had spent his childhood. In the 1960s, Zemmour recalled, French middle-class people, and many Jews who had left Algeria in 1962 at the end of the French-Algerian War, had lived there. At the time, he continued, life in Drancy was calm and peaceful. Now, Morandini said, there is no longer a single Jewish family in Drancy; it is today a predominantly Muslim city, like many towns around, and that in 2017 there had been riots accompanied by claims of "police brutality". In Aulnay-sous-Bois a neighboring town of Drancy, a young criminal of African descent, Theodore Luhaka, had violently resisted the police officers arresting him and accused them of sexual assault. The entire eastern suburbs of Paris were on fire for a week. The police officers were fired, charged, then cleared by the judiciary. Then President François Hollande supported Luhaka, not the police.
Zemmour was only able to walk around the city protected by a dozen armed police officers. He met just a few people, all hostile. A crowd shouting "Zemmour go away" and "Allahu Akbar" followed him. When he entered a Muslim butcher shop and asked the butcher if there was a non-Muslim butcher shop in the city, the butcher replied: "A French butcher shop? I think there is one left in the French quarter". "There is still a French quarter in Drancy?" Zemmour said.
On November 26, 2021, Zemmour tried to visit Marseille. Everywhere he went he was greeted with cries of "Allahu Akbar". Young Muslims verbally threatened him. The restaurant where he was to have lunch was totally ransacked. The police did not try to protect it. Marseille's population is now 40% Muslim. Analysts predict that in less than a decade, Marseille -- the second-largest city in France -- will be predominantly Muslim.
The public meeting Zemmour organized to launch his campaign on December 5, 2021 was protected by hundreds of police officers. The people who came were greeted by groups shouting, "Allahu Akbar" and "Zemmour the fascist". A man in the large hall where the meeting took place assaulted Zemmour and tried to strangle him. Zemmour's bodyguards handed him over to the police; he was charged with intentional bodily harm. Thirteen thousand people were present. In his speech, Zemmour told them, "They hate me because they hate you".
Journalist Ivan Rioufol wrote in Le Figaro, "What is the candidate saying except that it is urgent to try to save dying France and listen to the concerns of the despised French people?"
"If Macron is re-elected," Zemmour said on television on January 13, "civil war is almost certain. Many French people know it".
On April 21, 2021, 1,200 professional soldiers, including 20 generals, published an open letter in the weekly Valeurs Actuelles, saying the same thing. Macron did not react, but Minister of Defense Florence Parly announced that the signatories were "irresponsible" and would be heavily sanctioned. Many of those still active were relieved of their duties. A month later, on May 11, Valeurs Actuelles published another open letter, signed this time by thousands of professional soldiers who asked that their names not be made public. The text is explicit:
"We see violence in our cities and towns. We see communitarianism taking hold in the public space, in public debate. We see hatred of France and its history becoming the norm... You abandon, without reacting, entire districts of our country to the law of the strongest... if a civil war breaks out, the army will maintain order on its own soil.... No one can want such a terrible situation... but yes, once again, civil war is brewing in France and you know it perfectly well".
Valeurs Actuelles made the open letter into a petition. Within a few hours, thousands of French people had signed it. Again, Macron did not react. To date, he has not changed his position. He does not speak of the crisis in France.
Mainstream media journalists and political enemies of Zemmour, however, scrutinize every word to find excuses to attack him. On January 15, during a meeting with teachers and students' parents, Zemmour said he thought that disabled children should be educated in special establishments and added: "these children are completely overwhelmed... So I think we need specialized teachers who take care of them". Rather than taking into account the real difficulties of which he was speaking, Sophie Cluzel, the Secretary of State in charge of People with Disabilities accused him of wanting to "remove disabled children from the schools of the republic" and to "reject differences". Marine Le Pen accused Zemmour of "attacking children weakened by a disability". Valerie Pecresse said: "my project is more inclusion for disabled children". Zemmour, on January 15, replied that he had received the support of thousands of parents of disabled children who said they had felt abandoned by the government. He accused his critics of hypocrisy and lies, and stressed that he intended to remedy the lack of schools specializing in the care of disabled children.
Other attacks will undoubtedly follow whatever statements he makes. On January 17, a judge sentenced Eric Zemmour to a fine (10,000 euros, $11,350) for "incitement to racial hatred" for having said on September 29, 2020, on a television talk show that foreign "unaccompanied minors" in France are neither isolated nor minors, and commit many crimes. Police reports show that to be correct. Zemmour had not talked about race. The sentence will doubtless be overturned, but for a few days France's mainstream media had the opportunity to say that Zemmour had been sentenced again for "racism".
When Zemmour was a journalist, he was universally hated by advocates of political correctness. They tried relentlessly to destroy him, without success. Now that he is a candidate for the presidency, those who hated him appear to hate him even more and are ready to redouble their efforts to destroy him. When the French presidential campaign begins in earnest in February, the attacks will most likely intensify.
Despite them, other serious politicians have been signing on. Guillaume Peltier was only the first: Jérôme Rivière head of the National Rally faction in the European Parliament came on board on January 19, as did Gilbert Collard, one of the leaders of the National Rally, on January 22. Perhaps a trend is taking shape?
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.