Sunday, May 26, 2024

Headscarves enter French election fray as Muslim women confront Le Pen, Macron

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Muslim headscarves took centre stage in France’s presidential campaign on Friday as both finalists in a tightly contested April 24 run-off were confronted by women in headscarves who asked why their clothing choices should be caught up in politics.

France is home to western Europe’s largest Muslim population and many Muslims feel the presidential campaign has unfairly stigmatized their faith.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who trails the incumbent in the polls, has said she will ban headscarves in public and fine women who flout the ban.

President Emmanuel Macron has no such plans, but his government has ordered the closure of several mosques and Islamic groups it accused of fostering radical Islamist opinions.

Neither candidate fared well among Muslim voters in the first round on April 10, with around 70% backing third-placed Jean-Luc Mélenchon instead, according to pollsters.

French presidential election © France 24

At a farmers’ market in the southern town of Pertuis on Friday, a woman in a blue-and-white head covering approached Le Pen as the candidate weaved past fishmongers and vendors to greet supporters. 

“What is the headscarf doing in politics?” the woman asked.

Le Pen defended her position, calling the headscarf a “uniform imposed over time by people who have a radical vision of Islam.”

“That’s not true,” countered the woman. “I started to wear the veil when I was an older woman (…). For me it is a sign of being a grandmother.”

The woman noted that her father had served in the French military for 15 years.

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