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Marine Le Pen refuses to wear headscarf to meet Lebanese mufti

French National Front candidate was offered a shawl to cover her hair during visit to meet Sunni cleric in Beirut
Marine Le Pen (C) reacts upon being handed a headscarf ahead of her meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, in Beirut on 21 February (AFP)

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refused on Tuesday to wear a head scarf to meet with Lebanon's top Sunni Muslim cleric.

When she arrived at Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan's office in Beirut, the National Front candidate was offered a shawl to cover her hair. 

But she promptly refused and made a brief statement to journalists before leaving. 

"The highest Sunni authority in the world had not had this requirement, so I have no reason to," Le Pen said, referring to her 2015 visit to Al-Azhar, the prestigious Egyptian institution of Sunni Islamic learning.

"But it does not matter. You will pass on to the grand mufti my consideration but I will not veil myself," the candidate said. 

Video of Marine Le Pen refusing to wear a head scarf  (French)

Deryan heads Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon. 

In a statement on Tuesday, the body said "its press office had informed the presidential candidate, through one of her assistants, of the need to cover her head when she meets his eminence, according to the protocol assumed by Dar al-Fatwa." 

Tuesday is Le Pen's last day in Lebanon, where she met a foreign head of state for the first time - President Michel Aoun. 

The FN leader, whose party takes an hardline anti-immigrant stance, also met Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. 

Islamic dress is a hot-button issue in France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places.

Shunned by European leaders over her party's stance on immigration and its anti-EU message, Le Pen's meeting with Aoun aimed to boost her international credibility.