France's Zemmour says delinquents 'same' as jihadists
French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour on Wednesday suggested criminals in high-rise housing estates are fighting alongside jihadists in a "civilisational battle" pitting immigrants against traditional French culture.
The 63-year-old, who has often used the hundreds of people killed by jihadists in attacks in France since 2015 as political ammunition, told police officers that they were "at the forefront of a civilisational battle which has spread out over our territory".
"There are two civilisations on our territory and they cannot co-exist peacefully... we need one civilisation to impose itself, and it's our own one," Zemmour told the audience at a campaign event organised by the Alliance police union at a cinema in Paris.
He suggested that there was a "continuum between everyday delinquents and jihadists".
"They're the same thing," he added, expanding on theories he has put forward in his books that religion rather than poverty or alienation spurs street crime in France's toughest neighbourhoods.
"You are attacked constantly because you represent the state and, as you represent the state, you represent France," he told the police attendees.
Zemmour, who has three convictions for hate speech, is decried by anti-racism groups and political opponents for stigmatising people from Muslim backgrounds in France, who are thought to number more than five million.
As well as claiming that white French people are being deliberately replaced with immigrants, he has previously said that Islam is incompatible with French values.
Violence against and by the police has become a deeply divisive political issue in France.
There have been a host of cases in recent years in which officers have been attacked and killed -- by Islamists as well as by common criminals.
Officers have themselves also been caught on camera using excessive force against members of the public.
Zemmour and others on the far-right and right deny the existence of police brutality.
Polls currently suggest Zemmour, a former TV pundit and best-selling author, would win 13 percent of the vote in the first round of April's election, putting him fourth.
Last month, a court convicted him again for racist hate speech over a televised tirade against unaccompanied child migrants in 2020.