A local councillor representing Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, the Front National, has announced he has converted to Islam – and has urged fellow party members to do the same.
Maxence Buttey, 22, has been suspended from a regional Front National committee after he went public with his decision and sent out a “proselytising video” to the party in which he praised the “visionary virtues of the Koran and urged them to convert, the Telegraph reported.
Mr Buttey, who is a councillor in the eastern Paris suburb, Noisy-le-grand, said the Front National and Islam had a lot in common.
He told French newspaper, Le Parisien: “Like Islam, the FN defends the weakest. The party denounces exorbitant interest rates charged on the debt of our country, and Islam is against the practice of usury.”
Jordan Bardella, a local party secretary, said: “Religion is a private choice which I respect but it must not enter into the sphere of our political activities. The proselytising video which Maxence sent out is unacceptable.”
The party, which runs on an anti-immigration policy line, has no power to sack him from the post and he remains a councillor and a party member.
Mr Buttey explained to Le Parisien that he had decided to convert after lengthy discussions with the local imam after they met while he was campaigning for election.
"Some of my voters will be disappointed by my choice” he said. “But I'm ready to explain to them that Islam has a mission to unite all men and women."
"I was Catholic but when I reread the Bible I noticed all its inconsistencies. When I read the Koran thoroughly, I understood that this religion is more open,” he said.
He added that he was against the niqab (full-face veil) and said that Islam did not call for believers "to cut off heads as the Islamic State group does."
In April the Front National harnessed anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment in France to win control of 11 towns and more than 1,400 municipal seats nationwide in local elections - more than double its record from the 1990s.
Ms Le Pen later said she would ban schools from offering Muslim and Jewish pupils pork-free lunches in the towns where it won in recent local elections. "We will not accept any religious demands in school menus,” Le Pen told RTL radio. “There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere, that's the law.”
The country has Europe’s largest Muslim population, estimated at six million. France has banned the wearing of the niqab in public and headscarves in state schools.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies