Le Pen's controversial headscarf refusal
Front National president Marine Le Pen cancelled a meeting with Lebanon's grand mufti on Tuesday after refusing to wear a headscarf. The French presidential candidate said later that she had been surprised to learn that wearing the headscarf was a condition for meeting the Muslim spiritual leader. The mufti's office, by contrast, stated that it had informed Le Pen on all matters of protocol. Was the incident just a clever stunt?
Le Pen picking up the slack
The president of the Front National is now casting herself as the defender of Christian values, La Repubblica comments:
“Marine le Pen not only returns from Beirut wrapped in the French flag, but also shrouded in the aura of the guardian of Christendom under threat. Moreover, by refusing to wear a headscarf for a meeting with the grand mufti she has secured the backing not only of supporters of the Front National but also of all passionate defenders of secularism. A clever tactic the strength of which is inversely proportional to the weakness of others. If she can manage to take on the role of the defender of Christians in the Orient, it's because her opponents have failed to do so. ... Intimidated by the fear of appearing hostile to Islam, we have failed to fulfil what is first and foremost a moral duty and left it to those who exploit such Islamophobia.”
An embarassing spectacle
Le Pen's curt refusal to wear the headscarf was anything but professional, author Jean-Pierre Lenoir writes in Boulevard Voltaire:
“In times when religions are being used for political purposes, the respect for religious dignitaries and their traditions must be the top priority in the context of this struggle. From the moment when the president of the Front National expressed the wish to meet Lebanon's grand mufti in his country, she was obliged to respect this rule. ... The whole affair was arranged mano a mano, if one may say so, with Marine Le Pen pointedly turning her back on the official who presented the scarf to her and the whole scene playing out in an atmosphere of last-minute haggling more suited to an Arab souk than to a well-organised official visit.”