Clearly, France is a peculiar place as far as multiculturalism is concerned. With its official ideology of egalitarianism, the "indivisible" Republic claims universal validity. As a consequence, the existence of different ethnic or cultural groups on the French territory is hardly recognized in legal terms and official rhetoric.
However, the social reality of poor and mostly ethnic ghettoes in all major French towns became eminently visible when the 2005 riots brought them to international media attention. Living conditions and economic opportunities for suburban ghetto-dwellers have not improved since, nor have majority attitudes towards them changed significantly. On the contrary, the perceived failure of the political establishment to discuss problems linked to immigration and xenophobia makes these topics a favourite hunting ground for the Far Right, which attracts increasing numbers of voters convinced of the impossibility of multiculturalism.
The paper examines closely the personal trajectories of voters who recently "converted" to xenophobic and far-right views. In what concepts and metaphors do they cast their "conversion experience"? What events, experiences, or encounters are seen as decisive? To what extent is religion (mis)used as an argument? Rather disturbingly, some of the new far-right discourses make "creative" use of anthropological thought, claiming a threatened indigenous people status for themselves. Is it thinkable at all that there might be any common ground between these extremist views and migrants' own critiques of multiculturalism?
A comparison with public discourse about cultural diversity in Germany and the UK will identify common patterns in European critiques of multicultural policies.