February 21, 2017

GOOD OPTICS: France’s Le Pen cancels meet with Lebanon grand mufti over headscarf.

Le Pen, among the frontrunners for the presidency, is using a two-day visit to Lebanon to bolster her foreign policy credentials nine weeks from the April 23 first round, and may be partly targeting potential Franco-Lebanese votes.

Many Lebanese fled to France, Lebanon’s former colonial power, during their country’s 1975-1990 civil war and became French citizens.

After meeting Christian President Michel Aoun – her first public handshake with a head of state – and Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Monday, she had been scheduled to meet the Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian

He heads the Dar al-Fatwa, the top religious authority for Sunni Muslims in the multireligious country.

“I met the grand mufti of Al-Azhar,” she told reporters, referring to a visit in 2015 to Cairo’s 1,000-year-old center of Islamic learning. “The highest Sunni authority didn’t have this requirement, but it doesn’t matter.

“You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up,” she said.

The whole thing feels about as spontaneous as kabuki, but will likely play well with French voters.