Excerpt:

Marine Le Pen's public relations efforts to soften the image of the far-right Front National were dented this week after she caused outrage by questioning the beards and scarves worn by returning French hostages.

Le Pen, whose party's trademark is speaking out against immigration and public displays of Islam, said the appearance of the four men who had been held captive by for three years by Islamist militants in the Sahel desert was "troubling".

She told Europe 1 radio: "Two of them had beards cut in a rather strange way. Their clothing was strange. One hostage had a scarf on his face. That all calls for some explanation on their part."


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