Le Pen provokes indignation by implying four French hostages might have converted to Islam

Three of th four men released after three years in the Sahara wore beards

In Paris

The far right leader Marine Le Pen has provoked widespread indignation yesterday by implying that four French hostages released in the Sahara might have been converted to radical Islam during their three years in captivity.

Ms Le Pen told a radio interviewer that she was “uneasy” about the “astonishing” beards and “strange” clothes worn by three of the men when they arrived back in Paris on Wednesday. She also complained that the hostages had been oddly silent since their release.

The president of the National Front, who has tried to launder her party’s xenophobic image, was accused by mainstream politicians of “coming out in her true colours” and making “indecent” and “unpatriotic” remarks. One senior Socialist politician suggested in a tweet that Ms Le Pen was “writing the script for Homeland 4” – the American TV drama series about a captured US marine sergeant brainwashed by Islamist militants.

Ms Le Pen is soaring in the opinion polls after walking a tight-rope between populism and Islam-baiting since she replaced her father as the NF leader in January 2011. She seemed to be aware yesterday that she had committed a potentially serious blunder.

In a second statement, she said that she had expressed herself “clumsily”. She tried to steer the debate back towards reports that the French government had paid around €25m to ransom the four men – breaking a solemn pledge by President François Hollande.

Pierre Legrand, Daniel Larribe, Thierry Dol and Marc Féret were kidnapped by Islamist rebels from uranium mining camp in Niger in September 2010. When they arrived back in France on Wednesday, three of them wore the kind of beards sometimes worn by Islamic militants and typically Saharan cloaks or “cheches”.

In a radio interview, Ms Le Pen said; “They were very uncommunicative to say the least. Two of them were wearing quite astonishing beards. Their clothing was strange…They owe us an explanation.”

Asked to state clearly whether she was alleging that the quartet had been “Islamised”, Ms Le Pen said. “I am not a psychiatrist. I’m not going to theorise. That’s not my role,” she said.

The spokesman for the ruling Socialist Party, Eduardo Rihan Cypel, said: “It seems that Ms Le Pen is so blinded by her hatred of Muslims that she cannot share in the whole nation’s joy at the release of our hostages.”

Pascale Robert, the mother of one of the released men, Pierre Legrand, said she hoped that Ms Le Pen would never have to “live through” what she had endured in the last three years. Wearing beards and Saharan clothes was “a form of solidarity with the remaining hostages out there,” she said. “It’s their decision and we find it very touching.”

French diplomats said that, judging by initial debriefing of the quartet, there could be no question of them having been “turned” or brainwashed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk