French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refused to wear a headscarf for a meeting with the grand mufti of Lebanon.
The candidate for the far-right National Front in the upcoming elections canceled the meeting with Sheikh Abdellatif Deryan, Reuters reported.
The office of the grand mufti released a statement saying it was "surprised by her refusal," because Le Pen's aides had been told in advance that a headscarf would be a requirement for the meeting.
But Le Pen responded by referring to a 2015 visit she made to Egypt.
"I met the grand mufti of Al-Azhar," Le Pen said in a statement. "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 added.
In France, the wearing of headscarves by public servants is prohibited. Le Pen, whose party is associated with anti-immigrant and nationalist positions, supports a total ban of the headscarf.
But the Dar el-Fatwa organization, which Deryan heads, described Le Pen's behavior as "improper," according to The Local France.
Some reports in the French media suggested the incident may have been premeditated to boost Le Pen's appeal in the presidential election.
Florian Philipot, deputy leader of the National Front, said Le Pen's action represented "a beautiful message of emancipation and freedom sent to the women of France and the world."
While in Lebanon, Le Pen also stated that if she is elected, she will restore relations with Syrian President Bashar Assad. She described Assad as the "only viable solution" to get rid of ISIS.
"I explained clearly that ... Bashar Assad was obviously today a much more reassuring solution for France than [ISIS] would be if it came to power in Syria," Le Pen added, according to Reuters.
Le Pen's comments provoked criticism on the issue of her support for Assad.
"I hope France will make a better choice than this fascist right. We cannot ask the Lebanese people to forget the crimes of the Syrian regime against it and we cannot return en masse [Syrians] while there is the Syrian regime. It's a double insult," said Walid Jumblatt, the political leader of the minority Druze community.