Marine Le Pen Proposes Ban on Muslim Women Wearing Head Scarves

Marine Le Pen Proposes Ban on Muslim Girls Sporting Head Scarves

PARIS — A Muslim lady in a blue and white hijab confronted Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, as she made her means by way of a crowd within the southern city of Pertuis final week. “What’s the head scarf doing in politics?” the lady demanded.

Ms. Le Pen, a nationalist with an anti-immigrant agenda, has vowed to ban the sporting of the pinnacle scarf in public if she is elected within the second spherical of voting subsequent Sunday. She says that it’s “an Islamist uniform,” or an indication of adherence to an extremist, anti-Western interpretation of the Muslim religion.

The lady who argued with Ms. Le Pen was having none of this. Her option to put on a head scarf was made, she mentioned, “after I was an older lady,” as an indication of “being a grandmother.” Ms. Le Pen insisted that in lots of French neighborhoods ladies who don’t put on a veil are “separated, remoted and judged.”

Within the nation with the most important Muslim inhabitants in western Europe, what a lady wears on her head issues. France has a troubled relationship with Islam due to its colonial historical past in Algeria and several other jihadist terror assaults in recent times. As Ms. Le Pen and President Emmanuel Macron confront one another in a decent race, non secular freedom, notably for the Muslims who make up about 8 p.c of the inhabitants, has emerged as a pivotal concern.

Mr. Macron, who has referred to as Ms. Le Pen’s plan “an extremist undertaking,” has however angered some members of the Muslim neighborhood, primarily by way of laws designed to fight what he calls “Islamist separatism.” That legislation, handed final 12 months, has been used to shut some mosques and Islamic associations accused of fostering radicalism. It was designed partly to attract right-wing voters to his centrist camp.

Mr. Macron, whose lead in polls has widened barely over the previous week to 53.5 p.c in opposition to Ms. Le Pen’s 46.5 p.c, had his personal confrontation with a younger French lady sporting a hijab throughout a marketing campaign cease in Strasbourg final week.

“Are you a feminist?” he requested. “Are you for the equality of ladies and men?”

When the lady answered sure to each questions, and mentioned her head scarf was chosen, not imposed, Mr. Macron, clearly alluding to Ms. Le Pen, mentioned this was “the very best reply to all of the stupidity I maintain listening to.”

It was one other instance of Mr. Macron, who scarcely campaigned earlier than the primary spherical of voting on April 10, adjusting his message to enchantment to blocs of voters who’ve felt betrayed by him over the previous 5 years — the Muslim neighborhood and the left.

Within the first spherical, about 70 p.c of French Muslims voted for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left candidate who was narrowly eradicated, in response to a study by the Ifop polling institute. The place these votes now go issues.

France is a secular republic and in idea a nondiscriminatory society the place persons are free to consider, or not, in any god they need. But it surely finds itself in a fracturing debate over Islam. A rising Muslim presence is seen by the extreme-right as a mortal menace to French identification, and this view has gained a foothold within the political mainstream.

Intensely connected to its mannequin of a secular society, often known as laïcité, which is meant to subsume all women and men into the rights and tasks of French citizenship, France has been reluctant to acknowledge failures which have left many Muslim immigrants and their descendants in dismal housing initiatives on the periphery of massive cities, feeling no viable French identification or future.

Since 2011 it has been unlawful to put on a face-covering niqab, or a burqa protecting the complete physique, in public. However there isn’t a ban on the pinnacle scarf.

French legal guidelines prohibit sporting ostentatious non secular symbols — the pinnacle scarf is taken into account one — in faculties. Civil servants are additionally barred from doing so on the job. Debate has raged over whether or not dad and mom accompanying faculty journeys ought to be allowed to put on head scarves, however makes an attempt to cease them have failed.

Strongly held French emotions in regards to the equality of women and men, about secularism, and about its supposedly colorblind society lie behind the virulence of the dialogue of those points. So does unacknowledged or overt prejudice.

Mr. Macron has accused Ms. Le Pen of undermining the ideas of laïcité and the Structure itself with the proposed head scarf ban. In an interview with Franceinfo radio final week, he mentioned she would additionally need to ban using the “kippa, the cross and different non secular symbols” in public or she could be discriminating amongst believers.

Not so, Ms. Le Pen retorted in an interview with France Inter radio. “The top scarf is in actuality an Islamist uniform, it’s not a Muslim uniform, and that makes all of the distinction. It’s the uniform of an ideology, not of a faith.”

She continued: “This ban just isn’t based mostly on the idea of laïcité. It’s based mostly on the battle in opposition to Islamist ideologies.”

Nonetheless, Ms. Le Pen appeared to hedge a bit of on Sunday, saying that the problem is a “advanced downside” and that her proposed ban could be debated within the Nationwide Meeting.

Whether or not the ban would additionally apply to ladies selecting head scarves as style statements à la Audrey Hepburn is unclear.

Ms. Le Pen has mentioned there could be no extra issue in making use of the ban, and fining ladies who put on head scarves, than there may be imposing using seatbelts.

If such feedback drive Muslim voters away from Ms. Le Pen, it’s removed from clear that they will even drive them to help Mr. Macron within the second spherical. Many first-round voters for Mr. Mélenchon, Muslims amongst them, have mentioned they are going to abstain on April 24.

In a radio debate final week with Mr. Macron, Sara El Attar, the founding father of Hashtag Ambition and a communication coach, mentioned feedback by Mr. Macron suggesting head scarves injury relations between women and men had angered her as a Muslim lady who chooses to put on a head scarf.

French ladies “have been punished in recent times for a easy scarf, with none chief deigning to denounce this injustice,” she mentioned.

Additional envenoming the talk on non secular freedom, Ms. Le Pen has promised to ban the ritual slaughter of animals required for the manufacturing of halal and kosher meat, a place rejected by Mr. Macron as heralding a France the place “Muslims and Jews could be unable to eat as their faith instructs.”

In a joint assertion final week, Haïm Korsia, the chief rabbi of France, and Élie Korchia, the president of the Israelite Central Consistory, mentioned such a measure would, for Jews and Muslims alike, be “a critical assault on the free observe of faith that may be a basis of our Structure.” They urged voters to again Mr. Macron.

Mohammed Moussaoui, the president of the Union of French Mosques, mentioned ritual slaughter was “a facet of the non secular freedom” assured by the Structure. Whereas condemning Ms. Le Pen, he didn’t say which means Muslims ought to vote.

The lady who confronted Ms. Le Pen in Pertuis famous that her father had served within the French navy for 15 years. The large cemetery at Verdun, scene of probably the most devastating battles of World Battle I, has a complete part for French Muslims who died preventing for France.

As the talk over Islam’s place in France rages, this navy service is seldom recalled, to the purpose that the place of Éric Zemmour — the now-eliminated hard-right candidate who held that Islam and France have been merely “incompatible” — drew nearly 2.5 million votes within the first spherical.

He has urged his followers to vote for Ms. Le Pen within the second spherical.

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.