- 11/01/2013 - 09:04 PM GMT+01:00
Many Muslim leaders have blamed Le Pen’s fiery rhetoric on Islam and immigration for a rise in Islamic intolerance and xenophobia in France. But she insists she is neither a racist nor xenophobic, but simply a patriot. "I want you to understand that there is no reason to ask the French to accept things that no other people in the world would accept. It's as simple as that,” she tells Al Jazeera's Folly Bah Thibault.
“I feel hatred towards nobody, but I have immense love for my people and for my country that I will defend in all circumstances."
And it is a discourse that is increasingly appealing to many French, especially during these tough economic times.
High unemployment, factory closures and rising food prices have given unexpected credibility to Le Pen’s anti-Europe, anti-immigration stance.
And her efforts to revamp the National Front’s previously overtly racist and fascist image has also led to a surge in public support.
Le Pen won 18 per cent of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential election in April, the party’s highest-ever score