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Marine Le Pen, France's Far Right Extremist Front National Party President, To Speak At Cambridge Union

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Marine Le Pen, president of France's far right Front National party, is to speak at Cambridge Union on Tuesday but will be greeted by students protesting at her controversial appearance.

The Unite Against Fascism (UAF) group has arranged a demonstration outside the university's debating society, arguing the National Front (NF) is a "modern fascist party" and "deeply racist".

marine le pen

Marine Le Pen, who leads France's third-largest political party, is to speak at Cambridge Union

Le Pen has previously compared the holding of Islamic prayers on French streets to the Nazi occupation. In 2012, she said: "For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it's about occupation, then we could also talk about it [Muslim prayers in the streets], because that is occupation of territory."

The UAF, whose demonstration is supported by the NUS and Cambridge's student society, says legitimising the FN "breeds racist discrimination". So far, the group has rallied more than 140 people to attend the protest against Le Pen, which takes place only a few days before the English Defence League's planned march through the historic university town.

Sabby Dhalu, a member of Unite Against Facism, told HuffPost UK: "It is a shame Britain's intelligentsia have not learnt the lessons of history. Cambridge Union's decision to invite Marine Le Pen is giving her and the Front National a platform and publicity.

"Irrespective of what the union's intentions are, giving preachers of hate a platform encourages and emboldens fascists on the street, especially in Cambridge where the EDL will be demonstrating on Saturday."

Rosalyn Old, president of Cambridge University's Student Union (CUSU), has voiced her opposition to the debating society's decision to invite Le Pen to speak. Old withdrew from speaking at a previous union event in protest, saying: "The invitation by the Union Society to Marine LePen is more than just insensitive, it will have a direct effect on the safety of many of our students. It disregards the realities of fascism and the current context of Cambridge."

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In a blog for The Huffington Post UK, Cambridge international student Jinho Clement said despite finding her views "repulsive", he believed "the best way to address this problem is to engage with it".

"For the sake of people like me who don't know much about people like Le Pen, it makes a lot of sense to invite her to Cambridge. 'Free speech' ensures that societies like the Union can provide a forum for discussions like these."

Read Jinho Clement's 'Why We Might Want to Invite Marine Le Pen to Cambridge' Blog Here

The university's Black and Minority Ethnic Campaign society added: "One of our main aims as the BME SC is to fight racism, reduce xenophobia and create a cultural environment in which students from minority backgrounds thrive and feel valued.

"Whilst we recognise the value of free speech, we feel it is a retrogressive step for the Cambridge Union to provide platforms to speakers, like Marine Le Pen, who promotes hatred and discord between communities.

"The Cambridge Union, of which many BME students are members, should consider the message it sends to all member of Britain's Black and Minority Ethnic communities when it affords unapologetic racists an opportunity to promote their hatred in our communities."

Le Pen took over from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the NF, in 2011. Jean-Marie, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism, shocked Europe after he came second in the 2002 French presidential elections.

The Cambridge Union has been contacted for comment but has yet to reply.

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