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Abdel Rehim Ali, first Arab journalist to interview Le Pen’s family

Monday 24-04-2017 - 02:57 PM
Abdel Rehim Ali,
It is in a beautiful country mansion located in suburban Paris, where the family of far-Right Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, lives. 
A friend of mine told me that Jean-Marie Le Pen “Le président” - as he is dubbed by French Nationalists - had rented this house after extremists set ablaze his splendid home in downtown Paris some decades ago.
His daughter, Marine Le Pen, is the current leader of France’s National Front (FN). She took the helm after her father—the party’s founder—stepped down five years ago.
Being in France, and as a journalist, I decided to pay a visit to their mansion to conduct this interview, sharing with you the questions that I asked, and the answers I received from the father of the French candidate for presidency. 
Both Mr. Le Pen and his wife gave me a warm welcome in their lovely house. Mrs. Le Pen told me that she originally belongs to the Egyptian city of Alexandria where her great grandfathers had lived for so many years. To me, she looked like a lady in her forties, soft spoken with a gentle voice and a broad smile. By the end of the meeting she surprised me when she said that she was actually over 80 years old.
Abdel Rehim Ali,
Contrary to what a number of friends told me about him, Mr. Jean-Marie Le Pen, or 'Le president,' looks like a very nice, sophisticated, courteous and attractive person who knows how to make a conversation interesting. It is rumored that Mr. Le Pen and his daughter, the presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen, are now estranged, and have not spoken for two years or so. However, he assured me that no problems exist between him and his daughter. I saw him speaking to her and wishing her luck. He is confident that his daughter will win the French presidential race even though so many pundits have been saying this is not a possibility. 
Mr. Le Pen told me, "When my daughter, Marie, wins the elections, we will be building distinct relations with the Middle East, especially Egypt and the UAE, which are the only two countries standing up to the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world." 
In response to rumors of his hostility towards Islam, Le Pen related to me how he fought for many years in the Middle East region in the 1940s during World War II, and how he used to insist on burying French Muslim martyrs according to the Islamic Sharia.
My very first question to Mr. Le Pen was straightforward, asking him, “There is a negative image entrenched in many Arab circles about your hostility towards the Islamic religion in general, and not only to unfriendly Islamists. Is that true?" 
"Well, this is a very common mistake. When I fought in the 1940s in Egypt and Algeria, my responsibilities were mainly to carry out all the necessary procedures of burying fallen men among our French troops. I would always bury the bodies in the Islamic manner. Furthermore, I have always been an advocate of the rights of Arab and Islamic countries throughout my career in foreign policy. 

My second question to Le pen was, “What is your attitude towards the region now, especially after a chain of dramatic events that included the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, the recovery of the Egyptian nation, and the collapse of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ that had hit us [the region] really hard over the past period?"

"Frankly, I really gloated over the Brotherhood’s fall as much as I was happy to see Field Marshal el-Sisi in power. I said then, “Good for Egypt.” This, without a shadow of a doubt, has recovered the right balance of powers in the conflict-weary region. From the very onset of the Arab Spring, we knew that it aimed at fragmenting and dividing the Middle East, and we made every effort to warn our partners, especially Egypt, of its perils. Yet, the events took a sharp downturn that has negatively affected all Arab states, with particular reference to Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria. Personally, I always think of Egypt as the heart and putative leader of the Arab/Islamic world. Therefore, I hope Egypt will put its feet on the right track again."

"Does your daughter, Marin Le Pen, stand a high chance of winning the ongoing [French] presidential race?"
"Yes, she does stand a high chance of winning; 100%. I am very confident of her success."  

"If she wins, where will the Arab region be on her foreign policy agenda?"
"First, the National Front Party’s foreign policy has always been characterized by friendship with the Arab region as a whole. Marine Le Pen highly regards and appreciates that old and traditional friendship that binds France to Arab countries. We also realize that there are some policies, in the time being, that have negatively affected this friendly relationship. However, when our party is in power, we will restore our previous relationship at all levels, while aspiring for the best as well." 

"Pointing to the obvious fact that Egypt and the UAE are together fighting terrorism, will you be taking part in this ongoing war side by side with the two countries when your party is in power?" 
"We are against all those groups claiming that they only represent and speak for Islam, for Islam is nothing of the sort! We call them ‘political Islamists,’ who aim at obliterating values of freedom, democracy and human rights. Once in power, Marine Le Pen will be adopting the same vision and will be even tougher in the pursuit of combating those groups.  [And] of course, she will stand by Egypt and the UAE in their noble battle." 

Finally, as a former general, what message would you like to send to the Egyptian president and the Egyptian people?"
"I would like to remind you that the first foreign visit by Marine Le Pen was to Egypt where she met the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar. This indicates the high-level friendship between the two countries. We hope it will continue to be that way and become even stronger. We consider Egypt as the central axis of peace and stability in the Arab region. In the end, I extend fraternal greetings to the Arab and Egyptian people as well as to the President of Egypt, Mr. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.  

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