Meet Eric Zemmour – the Islamophobe riding high in France’s presidential race

Eric Zemmour. Editorial credit: Obatala-photography

Eric Zemmour, who is running in a strong third position ahead of next April’s French presidential election, has long been a household name in France because of his frequent attacks on Islam, Muslims and immigrants. 

poll released in October placed him in a second-round run-off against Emmanuel Macron to be France’s next president. The survey gave Zemmour a 17% to 18% vote share, ahead of Marine Le Pen’s 15% to 16%. However, his current vote share is 14% behind Macron and Le Pen.

Zemmour, 63, made his name as an outspoken journalist at Le Figaro and other newspapers, as well as a strident TV commentator famed for his provocations against Islam, immigrants and women.

In September 2011, in his book La France n’a pas dit son dernier mot, Zemmour said Seine-Saint-Denis – known for its large Muslim population – has become a “foreign enclave under the reign of Allah.”

In November 2015, four days after the 13 November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, Zemmour stated on RTL: “Instead of bombing Raqqa, France should bomb Molenbeek from which the Friday 13 commandos came.”

Zemmour has been convicted once in France for provocation to racial discrimination in 2011, and once for hate against Muslims in 2018.

Born in a Paris suburb to a Jewish family from Algeria that came to France during the 1954-62 Algerian War, Zemmour is a graduate of Sciences Po University. He became a journalist after failing twice to join the prestigious Ecole Nationale d’Administration – the school of government that has trained most of the French presidents, including Emmanuel Macron.

Zemmour’s latest show on CNews – a right-wing television network – drew hundreds of thousands of viewers on a daily basis. In one show last year, he called unaccompanied migrant children “robbers,” “murderers” and “rapists.” The comments led him to court over charges of incitement to hatred.

The place of Islam in France is another of Zemmour’s main themes. In a recent interview, he said “Islam is a civilisation incompatible with the principles of France,” and called to “frenchise the practice of Islam” in the country.

Capturing the vote of the working class will be central to Zemmour’s ability to shape the outcome of the election, and this could actually harm the cause of the far-right by splitting the vote with Marine Le Pen.

If he does this he could possibly prevent Marine Le Pen from qualifying for the second round, thus ensuring a Macron second term.

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