France's far-right Front National party has been thrown into chaos by a video which equates Islam to Nazism.
The video was filmed by Aymeric Chauprade, an MEP in Brussels and international affairs advisor in Le Pen's Front National (FN) party. Chauprade filmed the video in Strasbourg and posted it under the title "France is at war."
In the video, Chauprade said that "Islam poses a very serious threat to France in the future", adding that "the roots of violence and totalitarianism are in Islam, even in its sacred texts".
He then drew parallels between Islam and the rise of Hitler in the 1930s, saying: "We are told that a majority of Muslims are peaceful, certainly, but a majority of Germans was before 1933 and German National Socialism."
Chauprade's comments are not permitted by French law. The MEP could be sued for racial defamation, and incitement to racial hatred, and if found guilty, he could face jail.
Le Pen distancing herself
Since the publication of the video, Le Pen has attempted to distance herself from Chauprade, even though he appeared smiling by her side on flyers for the May 2014 European elections, and was then filmed celebrating with Le Pen's party after they polled an historic 25% of the vote.
Almost immediately after the video was published, Le Pen sent a circular to her departmental secretaries asking them not to relay Chauprade's video "for judicial reasons".
On Tuesday (21 January), Le Pen appeared on France Inter, where she was questioned about the video, and reminded how close she has been to Chauprade , in his capacity of international affairs advisor.
"Yes, like 45 other people, yes", the FN leader responded, attempting to show that she was not the only one close to Chauprade.
When it was put to her that Chauprade was still the head of the NF delegation in the European Parliament, Le Pen insisted: "[He is] in the middle of 24 other European Deputies, [because] we needed one."
She added: "Aymeric Chauprade made a video, which is taking a personal position [...] So I leave him the responsibility for his remarks".
Schism within the NF
Despite Le Pen's attempts to sever her ties with Chauprade, the video could hinder her chances in France's presidential elections in 2017 - and it has already caused a rift within her party.
Five days later after Le Pen sent the letter to her departmental secretaries, her niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen reposted the video on her Twitter account on, writing: "'France is at war', Chauprade's analysis on the terrorist attacks", in what appeared to be an act of defiance.
Maréchal-Le Pen is a close friend of Chaurpade. Together they wrote an article for the Egyptian daily Al Akhbar Al Yawm, which asserted that "at the gates of power, the National Front is for Arab friends".
Chauprade has long been known for his violent rhetoric about French jihadists who join the fighting in Syria and Iraq, even calling for them to be "eliminated" in an editorial last summer.
He expounded his extreme views in an blog post entitled France and the Islamic question: credible choices for a French future, in which he wrote:
"We know that almost 1,000 jihadists with French nationality have joined the fighting in Syria and Iraq [...]. We should eliminate them in situ and our special services should start dealing with the matter now. We cannot run the risk of waiting for them to return."
At the time, some of the NF politicians at least partially rejected his words, but he was not disciplined for his blog post by the European Parliament, which has few tools at its disposal to punish an elected member for opinions expressed outside their parliamentary role.