Le Pen cancels meeting with cleric over headscarf

Ms Le Pen, the presidential candidate for France's National Front party, refused to wear a headscarf to meet Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan in Lebanon yesterday.
Ms Le Pen, the presidential candidate for France's National Front party, refused to wear a headscarf to meet Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan in Lebanon yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIRUT • Ms Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate for France's far- right National Front (FN) party, has cancelled a meeting with Lebanon's Grand Mufti after refusing to wear a headscarf for the encounter.

"You can pass on my respects to the Grand Mufti, but I will not cover myself up," Ms Le Pen said yesterday.

The press office for Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan, Lebanon's top Sunni Muslim cleric, said that Ms Le Pen's aides had been informed beforehand she should wear head covering, according to the protocol of Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon.

"The highest Sunni authority in the world had not had this requirement, so I have no reason to," Ms Le Pen said, referring to a 2015 visit to Al-Azhar, the prestigious Egyptian institution of Sunni Islamic learning.

It was Ms Le Pen's last day in Lebanon, where she met a foreign head of state for the first time - President Michel Aoun. Shunned by European leaders over her party's stance on immigration and its anti-European Union message, Ms Le Pen's meeting with Mr Aoun was aimed at boosting her international credibility. She also met Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

Ms Le Pen also pledged to restore ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad if elected. "With geopolitics, one must often make the choice in favour of the lesser evil and, for me, the lesser evil is Bashar al-Assad," the Lebanese newspaper L'Orient-Le Jour quoted her as saying. The French government insists Mr Assad must leave office to establish peace in Syria.

Opinion polls say Ms Le Pen is likely to get the highest score in the first round of voting in April but will then lose to a mainstream candidate in the decisive second round vote in May.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Le Pen cancels meeting with cleric over headscarf'. Print Edition | Subscribe