Right-wing French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen canceled a meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Sunni Muslim Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian. Le Pen arrived, prepared to meet with the Grand Mufti, when she was presented with a headscarf that she was expected to wear to the meeting.
Upon being asked to wear the headscarf, Le Pen responded with “You can pass on to the Grand Mufti my considerations, but I will not cover myself up.” Le Pen then canceled the meeting and walked back to her car.
Le Pen had informed the Grand Mufti that she would not wear a headscarf during the meeting, yet he did not cancel the meeting and she was still presented with a headscarf upon her arrival.
This appears to be a power play on the Grand Mufti’s part. The Grand Mufti may have assumed that once Le Pen was in the situation, she would back down and don the headscarf for the meeting.
The Grand Mufti was evidently wrong. When presented with the headscarf, Le Pen stood her ground and did exactly as she said she would, which was to refuse to cover herself.
It was not a religious ceremony, nor was it located in a sacred place. For a secular, political meeting, Le Pen should neither have been forced to nor expected to wear a headscarf to meet with the Grand Mufti.
Since the cancelation of the meeting, Le Pen has come under scrutiny for refusing to wear the headscarf presented to her.
However, she is not the first woman to refuse to wear a headscarf to a meeting—Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama all refused to wear a headscarf to political meetings.
Instead of facing criticism like Le Pen, all of these women were praised and rightfully so. It is one thing to be asked to wear a headscarf in a place of worship, like in a mosque or during sacred ceremonies, but non-Islamic women should never be forced to cover themselves up in a secular place.
Women have worked for centuries to be regarded as equals and, in many ways, women are still not there. There are many hurdles, especially in politics, that women have yet to clear.
In meetings with officials and heads of state, all of these women, Le Pen included, want to be looked upon as equals and treated with the same respect that any man would get. Wearing a headscarf at a man’s demand directly goes against that fight for equality and respect.
Had Le Pen given in and worn the headscarf for the meeting, she would have accepted a position as a subordinate figure who is not to be taken seriously.
It was more effective for her to refuse the meeting, proving her ability to stand by her beliefs, than to have given in to the Grand Mufti’s demand of her covering herself up.
It is necessary to respect all of the women who choose to wear a headscarf of their own volition due to their religious beliefs.
They must wear their headscarves with pride and let nobody tell them that they are oppressed. The decision that they made when they put on that headscarf in the morning is theirs and only theirs.
However, no woman should be forced to cover herself up in front of a man because of his religious beliefs. Oppression begins when there is no longer a choice.
Le Pen did the right thing when she stood by her choice. In the decision between covering herself up and meeting with the Grand Mufti as a subordinate or refusing altogether, Le Pen chose to stick to her guns and her decision should be respected rather than ripped apart.
As an individual, Le Pen should be commended for her decision. Women should never be subjected to do something they do not want to do on their own. Women should also not be expected to do things that are outside of their interests. By being resolute, Le Pen demonstrated a strong stance that emphasized her strong personality and leadership tactics.