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Marine Le Pen says French headscarf ban ‘no longer main priority’

The once key campaign proposal would now be addressed after other measures such as cutting off Islamist funding, and would reportedly not target regular headscarf wearers 

Marine Le Pen during a presidential campaign rally

Members of Marine Le Pen’s presidential campaign have said that banning the veil will be just one aim after several other anti-Islamicist measures Pic: Victor Joly / Shutterstock

Banning the Islamic headscarf is no longer a “major priority” for far-right presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen, a member of her team said yesterday, in a U-turn on previous campaign pledges.

“Banning the headscarf” was one of Ms Le Pen’s key campaign proposals in her initial campaign, but the candidate has already admitted that the headscarf is a “complex issue” and that she will not be “narrow-minded” on the subject. It will no longer be a “priority” but an “objective”, her campaign said.

On Sunday (April 17), her spokesperson, Sébastien Chenu, said on Sunday that “the fight against Islamism” and the banning of the veil would only “come after the closure of [extreme] mosques, the banning of fundamentalist [Islam], and the cutting off of Islamist funding”.

He added that if Ms Le Pen were to be elected next Sunday, she would discuss the limitations of a ban on the headscarf via debates in Parliament. It would target Islamist fundamentalists rather than regular headscarf wearers, he said.

He said: "Parliament will take up this issue and will provide practical answers, so that the 70-year-old grandmother who has been wearing her headscarf for years will not be affected, because she is not the target. The target is the Islamists.”

Vice president of the Rassemblement national (RN), Jordan Bardella, specified on France Inter-Franceinfo-Le Monde that the headscarf would be “banned in all public buildings and among the administration, and of course, company managers will be given the opportunity to ban politico-religious claims.”

Louis Aliot, RN mayor of Perpignan, repeated the idea that other anti-Islam policies would effectively reduce the veil by default. He said: “If we put pressure on radical Islamism, there will be fewer veiled women in the streets.”

If France did ban the veil in public places and in public streets, it would be the first country ever to do so. In 1980, the Tunisian president banned the headscarf in public buildings, but not in the street.

It is not the first time that Ms Le Pen has used the words “objective” but not “a priority” in such a way. In her 2017 campaign, she said the same thing about pulling France out of the euro.

‘Not information…propaganda’

It comes as a row erupts after the businessman, former editor and former president of RC Toulon, Mourad Boudjellal, qualified Marine Le Pen’s supporters as “racist” at a rally in favour of Emmanuel Macron in Marseille on Saturday, April 16. 

He added that “people who think there is a link between genetics and attitude are racist”.

The video of Mr Boudjellal – filmed on purpose, with his knowledge – was retweeted by Ms Le Pen herself, and she demanded that Mr Macron condemn his words.

But Ms Le Pen only tweeted a clip of a short section of Mr Boudjellal’s words, making it appear as though Mr Boudjellal had simply repeated “You are racist, you are racist, you are racist.”

He said: “[Their video] isn’t information. It’s propaganda.”

He added: “When I attack the left, I get bashed on social networks. They call me “bourgeois” and “millionaire”, but never [say anything] about my origins. [But] when Marine Le Pen drops the ‘facist-o-sphere’ on me, I’ll be calling my lawyers, because she allows herself – using fake news, using a montage – to question the president of the Republic.”

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