France elections 2022: Macron condemns Marine Le Pen's proposed hijab ban as race tightens

France elections 2022: Macron condemns Marine Le Pen's proposed hijab ban as race tightens
Centrist incumbent Macron warned Le Pen's proposed ban on the Islamic headscarf 'would divide the country' - but said he hoped women would 'let go of the veil themselves'.
2 min read
09 April, 2022
According to a voting intention poll by Elabe, Macron leads by a single percentage point [AFP via Getty]

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday condemned a proposal by far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to ban the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public, two days before the first round of the election.

Le Pen, who has previously come under fire for her Islamophobic remarks, on Thursday called the hijab "an Islamist uniform" and compared a penalty for wearing the headscarf to a fine for not putting a seat belt on while travelling in a car.

Macron told viewers of a live stream by French digital media outlet Brut that Le Pen's comment showed that her attempts to make her far-right National Front party more palatable to the public had simply been an act to win votes.

"We had forgotten who she really was," Macron said.

"Banning all religious symbols in public, that isn't laïcité," he said, referencing France's brand of state secularism.

"If far-right candidate Marine Le Pen bans the veil, then according to our constitution she'll have to ban the kippah, she'll have to ban the crucifix."

Instead, he said he hoped women would "let go of the veil themselves".

Macron's comments came as the latest opinion polls show the gap between him and Le Pen is closing.

Friday's poll by research and consultancy firm Elabe found that 26% of voters planned to vote for Macron, down two percent on their 5 April poll.

Le Pen trailed by just 1 percent, with one-quarter of voters saying that they planned to vote for the National Front candidate.

Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon placed third with 17.5 percent.

The campaign trail has been marred by Islamophobia, with far-right candidate Eric Zemmour also having promised to put anti-Islam policies in place if elected.

In his five years as president, Macron has been accused of enacting Islamophobic policies in the name of French secularism, in part using an anti-separatism law approved last year.

France banned Muslim women and girls from wearing the headscarf at schools in 2004.

It banned the wearing of the niqab or burqa in public in 2011.