"Yes, France's Jews – as the interior minister is doing today – can wear their kippah with pride," Interior Minister Valls said at a traditional Jewish New Year ceremony at a Paris synagogue.
Le Pen had in a Friday interview with the newspaper Le Monde called for religious headwear to be banned in public, making reference to both Muslim veils and the Jewish skullcap, known as the kippah or yarmulke.
Valls denounced the statement by Le Pen, who heads the anti-immigration National Front party and who shocked the French elite by winning almost 18% in the first round of this year's presidential vote.
"The hateful, rejecting speech cannot be tolerated and reflects who Le Pen and the National Front are, a party that is very far, so far, from the Republic's values," Valls said.
Le Pen's comments added to religious tensions after the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of a naked Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday and worldwide protests continued against an anti-Islam film made in the US.
Valls also commended the leaders of France's large Muslim community for their "wisdom" after they issued a call for calm Friday in the face of anger over the cartoons and the film, "Innocence of Muslims". – Sapa-AFP