“YOU WANT TO BE THE FIRST?”
Visiting the eastern city of Strasbourg on Tuesday (Apr 12), Macron during a walkabout to meet voters asked a veiled women if she was wearing the headscarf by choice or obligation.
“It’s by choice. Totally by choice!” said the woman, who proudly declared that she was a feminist.
Macron replied, in clear reference to Le Pen’s plan: “This is the best response to the rubbish that I have been hearing.”
He went even further on Thursday during a visit to the northern port city of Le Havre: “There is not a single country in the world that bans the headscarf in public. Do you want to be the first?”
Macron is clearly aware of the importance of the votes of France’s roughly 5 million Muslims, who are estimated to make up almost 9 per cent of the population.
According to a survey by the Ifop pollster, 69 per cent of Muslim voters in the first round of the election opted for third-placed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Wooing the Melenchon vote is seen as crucial for Macron to be assured of victory in round two.
Macron has in the past himself run into controversy with Muslims and leaders of Islamic countries over his tough stance over what the government calls radical Islamism.
After a spate of attacks in late 2020 blamed on extremists, the president railed against what he called “Islamist separatism” in France and forced through a series of measures to limit its spread.
But two Muslim groups on Friday, the Grand Mosque of Paris and Rally of French Muslims, called on voters to choose Macron in the second round.
“Malicious forces today come out and call for the banishment of Muslims,” the rector of the Grand Mosque, Chems-Eddine Hafiz, said in a statement.
“Let’s vote for Emmanuel Macron,” he added.