Following its significant gains in last month's local elections, the French Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, swiftly announced that school cafeterias would no longer serve non-pork substitution meals to children living in towns won by FN candidates. Targeting Muslims for another ritual round of public humiliation, while also excluding Jewish children, Le Pen declared: "There is no reason for religion to enter the public sphere."
While Le Pen framed this fixation on the dietary requirements of her fellow citizens as a defence of state secularism, the FN mayor of the south-western town of Arveyres, Benoit Gheysens, suggested the move was simply to cut costs and to prevent "staff being distressed" by excessive food waste. This mix of environmental concern and secular commitment illustrates just how eclectic the far right can be in its defence of order, and Le Pen's conversion to republican values is shaped by this strategic elasticity.
As recently as 2011, Le Pen was threatened with prosecution for describing Muslims praying in the streets as comparable to the Nazi occupation of France, rather than opting to oppose it as an assault on the neutrality of public space. Her subsequent cultivation of a rightwing defence of secularism is based on the realisation that the supposedly universal values of the republic can be appropriated as a productive front in the struggle for national identity.