French President Emmanuel Macron’s party has barred a Muslim woman candidate Sara Zemmahi from running in a local elections because she was pictured in a poster wearing hijab — a headscarf. Zemmahi, who is an engineer, was spotted in a campaign poster with a white headscarf ahead of the June elections. Stanislas Guerini, a leader of Macron’s La Republique en Marche party, told radio station RTL on May 11 that the party wouldn’t back Sara Zemmahi. Guerini added that “ostentatious religious signs” don’t have their place on posters. 

“We consider that ostentatious religious signs don’t have their place on posters, whatever the religion,” Guerini said.

Aurore Bergé, another close ally of President Macron, who is also a leading En Marche MP for the Paris region, said when a person is a candidate for election, he/she “represent all the French”, “not just a community or religious opinions”. The move to pull support from Zemmah has been criticised – even by some members of Macron’s own party. It has highlighted France’s long-standing debate on headscarves. It is worth mentioning that France has banned Muslim headscarves in classrooms but they aren’t forbidden in the public space or on campaign posters. 

‘I’m frankly pained…’

Th issue came into light when Jordan Bardella, the number two in the far-right Rassemblement National party of Marine Le Pen, tweeted the poster with a note targeting Macron: “That’s the fight against separatism.” In another tweet, Bardella said the Muslim headscarf is “contrary to all our values” and his National Rally party “will forbid it in public”. Macron preparing his possible campaign for a second term, a year before the next presidential election. If so, he could find himself in a repeat of the 2017 race, facing off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The election poster for the June 20 and 27 local elections shows two men and two female candidates, including Zemmahi, under the sign “Different But United For You”. On the bottom, it notes the candidates stand for the “presidential majority”. Mahfoud Benali, the lead candidate on the list for a district in the southern city of Montpellier, said on a TV talk show on Channel 8 that he was ‘frankly pained by the decision’. Benali added that Zemmahi was on a work trip and not immediately available to comment. 


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