Marine Le Pen backed out of a meeting with the religious leader of Sunni Muslims in Lebanon on Tuesday while refusing to don a headscarf, Reuters reports. According to CNN, the French far-right presidential candidate showed up to the meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian but left without meeting him after refusing to put on the white headscarf she was given. "You can pass on my respects to the grand mufti, but I will not cover myself up," she said. Le Pen says she was caught off guard by the headscarf requirement, but a spokesperson for the grand mufti says she was told about it beforehand. The grand mufti's office says it was "surprised by her refusal."
France has banned the headscarf in some instances, including in public schools, and Le Pen has said she wants to ban it—as well as other religious symbols—in all public spaces. Her running mate in the National Front party says her refusal to wear a headscarf Tuesday was a "beautiful message of freedom and emancipation." Le Pen is on a two-day trip to Lebanon to bolster her foreign policy experience and perhaps try to appeal to voters who fled Lebanon during its civil war and became French citizens, the Christian Science Monitor reports. It's unclear how her refusal to wear the headscarf will impact the latter goal. (Read more Marine Le Pen stories.)