Les Hijabeuses: Women attack Western attitudes towards the ban on the hijab in football
Content Warning: Refers to negative treatment of the hijab and briefly mentions Islamophobia
France’s controversial âanti-separatism billâ and the ban on the hijab in public spaces are provoking more and more discussion. Now, the ban has spread to the sports field, as Muslim footballers who wear hijabs are excluded from the pitches. The French Football Federation, known as the FFF, is a governing body that prohibits Muslim women from wearing the hijab during matches at home and abroad.. In turn, it is implied that the hijab is treated as an accessory that can be easily removed, rather than as a legitimate expression of religious belief. This introduces familiar stereotypes of Islam as archaic and incredibly conservative.
The rise of Islamophobia and general intolerance towards Muslims in France is well documented. Since 2011 with the niqab ban and the 2016 âBurkini Banâ, which prohibited women from wearing Burkinis on French beaches, the right of Muslim women to choose how to represent themselves, especially through clothing, has largely been reduced. control. In fact, there are many limitations placed on women wearing the hijabi, such as running for office, organizing a student union, and even volunteering for charity.. Earlier this year, the anti-separatism bill saw an amendment added – a ban on the hijab in public for girls under the age of 18. In response, a hashtag titled #HandsOffMyHijab has exploded on social media, with Muslims and non-Muslims alike expressing outrage over hijab control.
Interestingly, France claims that the purpose of the hijab ban is to fight “separatism” and the oppression of women. During the debate on the amendment in March, officials approved the bill and said it was in the best interests to resist symbols that “Means the inferiority of women over men”, the hijab apparently belonging to this category. Moreover, despite claims that the legislation is not intended to targets Muslims but maintains neutrality in public places, ensures the emancipation of religious fanaticism and reflects an attachment to common French values, it is hard to believe that the bill does not cause further division and hostility towards Muslim communities.
By forcing Muslim female footballers to make a choice between their hijab and their love for the sport, there is a clear message of alienation, their very existence being incompatible with French society. They are also unable to speak for themselves, instead of being continually defended by self-proclaimed âheroâ characters who wish to free them from the so-called oppressive hijab. The irony is palpable. Speaking about her spiritual journey and her choice to wear the hijab, Leila Kellou expresses this contradiction, noting that some people believe that Islam forces women to wear the hijab and yet refuse to hear ‘real people wearing hijab. Many tweets demonstrate such inconsistencies with a user writing, “Forcing a woman to wear a hijab is wrong. Just like forcing her to take it off is wrong â(@najwazebian).
In response to the ban, a group of hijab-wearing footballers known as âLes Hijabeusesâ established themselves as an organization actively working against the principles of the FFF. The group formed a team of players, composed a Instagram page and network with other French teams to encourage young girls to get involved in football. Members also express how they wish to change perceptions of the woman wearing the hijab and aim to create a more inclusive environment on the ground. In addition, the group’s ambitions are modest: simply to share their love of football. It’s hard not to feel the enthusiasm that emanates from Hijabi women as they detail what football means to them. Karthoum Dembele explains how she likes âEverything about footballâ: âI love competition and I love to win. I like to share all of these emotions together. ‘
Seen this way, Les Hijabeuses are less of a politically organized group with a grandiose statement to make, but simply women who love football and wear the hijab. Bouchra Chaib explains it best: “I’m not a woman wearing a hijab playing soccer, just a woman who loves soccer.” This highlights how Muslim women shouldn’t be defined just by their hijab, nor forced to champion a big message. These women are not just “hijab-wearing players” but “players” in general, and this is just as significant as the struggle against narrow definitions of hijab and Islam. Their presence is enough. As a predominantly male sport, this development of female participation is positive and inspiring. The hijab ban is not only contradictory, restoring the risk to individual freedom, which society claims to defend, but also threatening individual citizenship and human rights. In this way, the Muslim people are not treated as a valid French citizen and do not have access to the central ethical values: autonomy and self-expression.
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