The French Senate’s vote this month to amend the country’s “separatism” bill aims to ban the wearing of the hijab in athletic competitions, which many say risks further excluding Muslim girls from sports practice. EURACTIV France reports.
The French upper legislative chamber voted in favor of amending the bill strengthening respect for the principles of the Republic include the following sentence: “The wearing of conspicuous religious symbols is prohibited for participation in sports events and competitions organized by sports federations and affiliated associations.
According to Faduma Olow Telegraph Columnist, this can be considered the death knell of athletic competition for young Muslim women wearing the hijab. While the ban is justified as a measure to advance women’s rights, it will have the opposite effect, Olow warned. “Thanks to the new French law, girls across the country will be even more excluded from all sports,” she said.
“France believes it is liberating Muslim women from a life of oppression,” said Olow, adding that “this inferiority complex that Muslim women are supposed to suffer from is absurd, insulting and the complete opposite of the empowerment “.
“Forcing women to wear certain clothes is an abuse of power,” but so is wanting to “regulate women’s bodies” by forbidding them to wear certain clothes, she added.
The veil ban, a step back for Muslim athletes
Allowing the wearing of the hijab in sport would in part facilitate the emancipation of Muslim women by allowing them to reconcile the practice of sport with their personal beliefs, Olow explained.
A few have already worn the hijab in competition. This includes American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who in 2016 became the first American Muslim woman wearing the hijab to compete and win a medal at the Olympics, and Britain’s Khadijah Mellah, who in 2019 was the first to win a race. of horses in the country. On World Hijab Day, February 1, Muhammad praised on Twitter the “hijab-wearing athletes who break down barriers and reach their full potential through sport”.
In football, on the other hand, while the International Football Federation (FIFA) has allowed Muslim female footballers to wear the hijab since 2014, the French Football Federation (FFF) continues to ban the hijab for secular reasons, thus remaining “the the only international body to exclude women wearing the hijab from sport, ”said Olow.
“No one will force us to remove it”
French footballers had already protested against the ban last year by creating a collective called The Hijabeuses, stressing that “secularism is not intolerance” and demanding “football for all”. “Do I have to choose between my religious beliefs and the right to practice my sport? One of them asked in a video posted on Youtube.
“No one has forced us to wear our headscarves, no one will force us to take it off,” an activist from the Citizens’ Alliance, an association that supports the group, told EURACTIV in reaction to the Senate vote. The ban on the French football federation would be “discriminatory, intolerant and unfair” and would deprive “hundreds of people of the practice of their favorite sport in competition”, lamented the collective.
However, the tightening of the rules by the French Senate – described as Islamophobic by Ibtihaj Muhammad – risks worsening the situation. “Girls will be excluded and their participation in sport – already at a great disadvantage compared to Muslim boys – will suffer from this regulation,” Olow warned.
“The message is clear,” she continued, asserting that “Muslims are welcome, but their visibility is not. And again, it is women who will be the most affected. “
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]