Anyone following the French presidential race will be familiar with far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen of the National Front party. Her policies and utterances closely mirror that of Donald Trump’s. The 48 year old cancelled a scheduled meeting with Lebanon’s most senior Islamic leader Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan after she was handed a headscarf, asking her to cover her hair. She objected to covering her hair and canceled the meeting.
Her ‘political gesture’ against the Sunni Grand Mufti was aimed at asserting French secular values in Lebanon, where the main religions are Islam and Christianity.
The visit had been planned in advance and the Sheikh’s people said she was informed of the traditional procedure of covering the head as a mark of respect.
Ms Le Pen who is on a tour of the middle east said she had visited Al-Azhar, the Egyptian centre of Sunni Islamic learning, in 2015, without covering up adding:
‘The highest Sunni authority in the world did not require wearing this, so I have no reason to.’ She told reporters: ‘But it doesn’t matter. You pass on my regards to the Grand Mufti, but I won’t veil myself’.
Praising the ‘political gesture’, Florian Philippot, one of Ms Le Pen’s closest aides, said it was ‘a beautiful message of emancipation and freedom sent to the women of France and the world’.
Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan is in charge of Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon.
In a statement, it said it had ‘informed the presidential candidate, through one of her assistants, of the need to cover her head when she meets his eminence, according to the protocol assumed by Dar al-Fatwa.’
The statement added that ‘the leaders of Dar al-Fatwa were surprised by her refusal to comply with this well-known rule.’
It is common practice for foreign politicians and diplomat to adopt local customs when visiting religious institutions abroad.