Beirut – French far-right National Front presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refused to wear a headscarf for a scheduled appointment with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti on Tuesday and walked away following a short discussion with the Mufti’s aides.
Le Pen, among the frontrunners for the presidency, concluded Tuesday a two-day visit to Lebanon to bolster her foreign policy credentials nine weeks from the April 23 first round.
Following a meeting with President Michel Aoun – her first public handshake with a head of state – and Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Monday, she had been scheduled to meet the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian.
“I met the grand mufti of Al-Azhar,” she told reporters, referring to a visit in 2015 to Cairo’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning.
“The highest Sunni authority didn’t have this requirement, but it doesn’t matter,” she added.
“You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up,” Le Pen continued.
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,” the statement said.
It added that 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 noted.
Meanwhile, Le Pen’s earlier remarks on Head of Syrian Regime Bashar al-Assad stirred a wave of angry reactions among Lebanese political leaders.
Democratic Gathering Leader MP Walid Jumblat tweeted on Tuesday: “Marine Le Pen statements in Lebanon are inappropriate and are considered insult to the Syrian people.”
Following her meeting with Hariri on Monday, Le Pen said Assad was “the most reassuring solution for France,” adding that the best way to protect minority Christians is to “eradicate” ISIS group preying on them — not turn them into refugees.
Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea said after meeting with Le Pen on Tuesday: “Terrorism has no religion.”
He also described Assad as “the biggest terrorist in Syria and the region.”