Macron clashes with Le Pen over Islamic headscarf ban

Marine Le Pen
French far-right Rassemblement National (RN) party Member of Parliament and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (center) poses for photos with a members of the public during a campaign visit to Saint-Remy-sur-Avre, northwestern France, on April 16, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron has clashed with his rival Marine Le Pen over her plan to ban women from wearing the Islamic headscarf in public, with an eye on the votes of Muslims in the second round of elections.اضافة اعلان

Le Pen on April 24 will seek to cause the greatest upset in modern French political history by defeating Macron in a run-off in presidential elections. While polls indicate Macron is ahead, they also point to a far tighter race between the centrist and the far-right leader than in their 2017 run-off.

Analysts say one reason for her advance is Le Pen’s success in cultivating a more moderate image and portraying herself as the candidate best equipped to deal with problems like rising prices.

But one signature hard-liner policy the anti-immigration Le Pen has not dropped is her opposition to the Islamic headscarf, saying women who wear the hijab in public in France will be fined if she wins power.

Macron meanwhile presented himself as a defender of religious freedom, insisting that any ban on the veil would constitutionally mean that all religious signs must be banned including the kippa and the cross.

‘You want to be the first?’

Visiting the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday, Macron during a walkabout to meet voters asked a veiled women if she was wearing the headscarf by choice or obligation.

“It’s by choice. Totally by choice!” said the woman, who proudly declared she was a feminist.

Macron replied, in clear reference to Le Pen’s plan: “This is the best response to the rubbish that I have been hearing.”

He went even further on Thursday during a visit to the northern port city of Le Havre: “There is not a single country in the world that bans the headscarf in public. Do you want to be the first?”

Macron has in the past himself run into controversy from Muslims and leaders of Islamic countries over his tough stance over what the government calls radical Islamism.

But two Muslim groups on Friday, the Grand Mosque of Paris and Rally of French Muslims, called on voters to choose Macron in the second round.

Le Pen has said that wearing the Islamic headscarf in public in France should be an offence punishable by a fine issued by the police, like a traffic infraction.

Even within her own camp, the hard-liner stance has caused controversy.

“It’s an error,” said Robert Menard, mayor of the town of Beziers and a supporter of Le Pen in the second round. “It’s not possible to put in place.”

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