Macron’s Party Roiled by Row Over Candidate Wearing a Headscarf

French President Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party dropped its support for a candidate because she appeared on a local election campaign poster wearing a headscarf.

LREM chief Stanislas Guerini said earlier this week that Sara Zemmahi, the candidate running on a ticket in a southern French district, no longer had the backing of the party as its values are not compatible with the “ostentatious wearing of religious symbols.” That sparked a debate over the legality of the move and the values of Macron’s movement.

Macron’s Party Roiled by Row Over Candidate Wearing a Headscarf

“With party leadership I fix a political line,” Guerini said on RTL radio on Tuesday. “The law is not to be questioned, but the law also says political movements decide on the support they give to candidates.”

The dropping of Zemmahi from the LREM ticket comes at a difficult juncture for Macron as he tries to position himself in a perennial French debate over Islam with just a year to go to presidential elections. His main rival, the leader of anti-immigrant National Rally Party, Marine Le Pen, has taken a tough line with a call for an outright ban on the Muslim veil.

The situation is all the more problematic for Macron as Guerini first commented on the poster in response to a message posted on Twitter by Le Pen’s deputy, Jordan Bardella.

LREM lawmaker Naima Moutchou responded to Guerini’s Twitter comment saying that excluding Zemmahi would be “discrimination” as there were no legal grounds. Speaking on Radio J Tuesday, another party lawmaker, Coralie Dubost, said Zemmahi had shown great commitment to the progressive values of the French Republic and has her place in LREM, “whether or not she wears a veil.”

“I am in disagreement with my political party and the decision taken by the bureau and Stanislas Guerini,” Dubost said.

On RTL radio, Guerini said his only regret was to have responded to a tweet from Bardella.

“Not for a moment do I want to suggest there could any kind of collusion of thinking between what we defend and what is defended by the National Rally,” Guerini said.

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