French president Emmanuel Macron’s party has barred a Muslim woman from running as a local election candidate on its ticket because she wore an Islamic headscarf for a photograph on a campaign flier.
Le Republique en Marche said the party line was that there should be no place for the overt display of religious symbols on electoral campaign documents in secular France.
"This woman will not be an En Marche candidate," Stanislas Guerini, the party's general secretary, told RTL radio while discussing the candidate, Sara Zemmahi.
French law does not prohibit the wearing of the hijab or other religious symbols in images that appear on campaign fliers.
It illustrates how the place of Islam in French society has become a sensitive subject ahead of next year’s presidential vote, where the main challenge to Mr Macron’s re-election will come from the far right.
Mr Macron, who prided himself on the multi-cultural, ethnically-diverse make-up of his party after his 2017 election victory, has warned of the growing threat of Islamist separatism to France's core values and the republic's unity.
But critics have accused the president of seeking the far right vote, ahead of next year’s presidential election.
Issues over the poster began when Jordan Bardella, the number two in the far-right Rassemblement National party of Marine Le Pen, tweeted a copy of the flier with the question: "Is this how you fight separatism?"
Mr Guerini responded directly on Twitter, demanding either the flier be withdrawn or Ms Zemmahi lose the party's support.
The party's response opened bitter internal divisions, with Caroline Janvier tweeting: "Undignified. Running after (far-right) votes will only allow their ideas to prevail. Enough is enough.”
Additional reporting by Reuters
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