Martine Aubry, the chair of the French Socialist Party and a leading contender for the party’s presidential nomination, went on the offensive over the weekend against what her camp and the mainstream French press have described as “rumors” concerning her husband’s closeness to Islamist circles. Aubry also took the opportunity to hit out at longstanding rumors regarding a drinking problem, as well as supposed rumors about her sexual orientation and state of health. But it is clear that the focus of the highly-publicized offensive were not the latter rumors, but rather what are in fact detailed reports concerning the defense of Islamist causes by Aubry’s husband, the lawyer Jean-Louis Brochen.

An article published on Friday evening on the website of the French daily Le Parisien ascribes the alleged rumor-mongering to internet sites that are close to Marine Le Pen’s National Front or to “ultra-Zionist groups.” “For some time now,” the paper writes,

internet sites suspected of being close to the National Front or to ultra-Zionist splinter groups have been conducting a fierce campaign of denigration on the web, accusing the Socialist’s husband of being an “Islamist” lawyer, a “lawyer for the bearded guys [barbus – a colloquial allusion to Islamists],” or a “halal lawyer.”

In a similar vein — although without the allusion to “ultra-Zionists” — the website of the weekly Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) wrote already on June 28 of “attacks” on Brochen’s professional activities emanating from “various sites that are close to the Far Right.” The JDD returned to the theme in a front page story this weekend, adding that Aubry and her camp suspect members of Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential majority of spreading some or all of the “rumors.”

As an example of the attacks from websites “close to the Far Right,” the JDD links a nearly year-old post on the Observatoire de l’islamisation or “Islamization Monitor” blog. Much of the post in question, however, consists of a lengthy citation from Caroline Fourest’s 2005 book La tentation obscurantiste [The Obscurantist Temptation]. Far from being “close to” the National Front or the “Far Right,” Fourest is in fact a left-wing feminist critic of Islamic fundamentalism whose latest book is a would-be exposé of Marine Le Pen. The book (which is co-authored by Fiammetta Venner) has been described by France Inter radio as a “combat manual” for fighting against the National Front. Fourest and her anti-Le Pen “combat” were recently the subject of a glowing profile in the pages of none other than the JDD.