Beirut, February 22: The France’s populist candidate for President, Marine Le Pen on Tuesday straight away refused to wear a headscarf for a meeting with Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim cleric and walked away without meeting him after a brief argue at the entrance.
Notably, Le Pen was scheduled to meet Sheikh Abdellatif Deriane, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, in his office in Beirut but she was asked to wear a headscarf, however, she refused. The refusal of Le Pen led the argument between her staff and the sheikh’s, abruptly called off the audience and left.
“I consider the headscarf a symbol of a woman’s submission,” she said afterward. “I will not put on the veil.” Le Pen further said, “You can pass on my respects to the Grand Mufti, but I will not cover myself up.” Le Pen also compared her refusal to wear the headscarf to the decision by former US First Lady Michelle Obama to decline wearing one during her state visit to Saudi Arabia.
“I note that when Marine Le Pen refuses to don the headscarf, it is criticized, but when Michelle Obama refused to do it in Saudi Arabia, it was considered admirable,” she said, soliciting applause from the accompanying delegation. Journalists shouted back that the two situations were not comparable because one is a state visit while the other is to a religious body. Le Pen dismissed the criticism.
SEE HOW FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MARINE LE PEN SETS AN EXAMPLE FOR WOMEN BY CANCELING MEETING WITH LEBANON’S GRAND MUFTI, TOP CLERIC FOR SUNNI MUSLIMS!
Meanwhile, the office of Lebanon’s mufti issued a statement saying that Le Pen was told in advance through one of her aides that she would have to put on a headscarf during the meeting with the mufti. “This is the protocol” at the mufti’s office, the statement said. It said the mufti’s aides tried to give her the headscarf and that Le Pen refused to take it. “The mufti’s office regrets this inappropriate behavior in such meetings,” the statement said.
Notably, Le Pen, 48, is on course to win the first round of the French presidential election but will be defeated in the second round unless she boosts her standing among centrist voters, according to the polls. Le Pen by refusing to wear a headscarf is also trying to gain a political mileage ahead of the presidential elections in France. Interestingly, Le Pen has tried to raise her international profile and press her pro-Christian stance with her visit to Lebanon.
Indeed, America’s former first lady, Michelle Obama, was credited with making “a bold political statement” when she declined the veil during her husband’s visit to the kingdom in 2015. Another former first lady, Laura Bush, also appeared with then-King Abdullah without head covering in 2006.