National Front candidate for the French presidency Marine Le Pen refused to wear a required headscarf to meet the grand mufti of Lebanon during a tour of the country. In an exchange caught on video in front of the mufti’s office, Le Pen can be seen talking to reporters, telling them she will forgo the meeting instead.
“You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up,” she can be heard saying.
Noting that in her meeting in Egypt with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, considered the highest Sunni Muslim authority in the world, she had not been required to veil herself, Le Pen explains, “He did not have this demand.”
“But it’s not a problem,” she adds. “You can pass on to the grand mufti my considerations, but I am not putting the veil on.”
After being informed that the requirements are different in Lebanon than Egypt, Le Pen says to her entourage, “Allez! (Let’s go!),” and gets into her waiting car (see video below).
Le Pen is a candidate from a nationalistic, anti-immigration party. Her actions were in sync with the French doctrine of laicite, the principle of absolute secularism in public life instituted after the French Revolution (1789). This principle is affirmed by the first article in the French Constitution.
Laicite came in response to the interference in politics by the Catholic church, which had been tremendously powerful at the time. It mandates politicians, teachers, doctors, professors and all others in public life keep their religion a private matter.
It is a law that is taken very seriously in France. A number of Muslim communities, who have agitated for the right to wearing the hijab in public professions or serve halal food in public schools, have angered the greater French public who view this as attempt to undermine what is viewed as a basic French principle.
Le Pen’s actions contrast with those of the self-declared “feminist government” of Sweden, whose all-female ministers and staff on a recent trade mission to Iran veiled themselves and donned long coats and pants when meeting the Iranian president and his staff.
After taking massive heat in the press for what was viewed as their submissive acquiescence to radical Islam’s oppressive treatment of women, the signing of the trade agreement was made inside the Swedish embassy in Teheran with the Swedish ministers unveiled.
That second decision was heavily criticized by Iranian hardliners.
One might be tempted to argue that, for a woman, donning a headscarf when in the presence of religious Muslim authorities is simply a matter cultural courtesy, much like Christian male politicians put on skullcaps when entering a Jewish synagogue. However, the analogy is mistaken.
The forced veiling of women by radical Islamist regimes as well as these regime’s stated goal of world domination takes any such action out of the realm of courtesy and into that of submission.
That is why the refusal of Le Pen to veil herself, as opposed to the Sweden’s “feminists,” is one to be commended.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org