Hijab banned for women in sports

Hijab is a head covering and is an integral part of Muslim women’s religious identity. It has been a topic of conflict in France for ages.
france women barred from wearing hijab in sports
Crédit d'image : viewpoint.net.in
Publié le 9 février 2022, par Samir | 6 h 34 min
Temps de lecture : 9 minutes

Muslim Women in France are certainly not happy with the recent Hijab ban for girls under 18 in competitive sports. As the French Senate approves a bill to ban women from wearing religious veils, called headscarves, thousands of Muslim women raised their concerns and recorded their displeased responses on the internet.

Hijab is a head covering and is an integral part of Muslim women’s religious identity. It has been a topic of conflict in France for ages.

Uproar On Hijab Ban Amendment

This uproar resulted in an organized social media campaign against the French legislators that proposed the ban on “the wearing of the veil in sports competitions”. French Muslim women from all walks of life, specifically those involved in sports were deeply agitated by this move.

As a result of which, a dedicated hashtag ‘HandsOffMyHijab’ has been making rounds on social media.

In October 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron while delivering a high-profile address on secularism said that “Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world”, and there was a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”.

Online Activists React to the Amendment

Netizens took to social media and under the hashtag #HandsOffMyHijab, #FranceHijabBan, thousands of tweets and disappointing tweets went viral that called this law unjust and against Islam.

@KhaledBeydoun, Law Professor and Author posted a rather sarcastic tweet on World Hijab Day:

« Happy World Hijab Day. »

~ Everybody*

(*except for France and Quebec)

Salma Zahid, Member of Parliament for Scarborough Centre shared her words in the House of Commons:

“A hijab doesn’t change the way a doctor cares for her patients or a teacher care for her students. Let’s stand with all that have had to face losing their jobs…because the hijab was their choice.”

Rep Iman Jodeh, State Representative for Colorado HD wished Muslim women on World Hijab Day and said:

“Happy #WorldHijabDay! This morning, I proudly honored a Muslim woman’s right to choose to wear the hijab & the rights of all women, everywhere – that we may be unapologetic about our birthright to enjoy the same freedoms & respect as men.”

On the other hand, right-wing politicians who approved the Hijab ban decision called this move in the interest of pseudo-religious neutrality.

« This measure aims to suppress all forms of Muslim subjectivity regarding faith and worship, culture and political expression, » said Maria De Cartena, Frech human rights activist.

This amendment to ban Hijab among sportswomen was signed by 160 Senate members while 143 turned it down. The French government did not vote in favor of the amendment.

“Les Hijabeuses” Begins on social media

In a series of backlash against the unfair law, French online activists initiated a digital media campaign where they insisted lawmakers stop the bill regarding the ban on women from putting on hijab in competitive sports.

The campaign, “Les Hijabeuses”, started by social justice group Citizen Alliance, released a petition on Saturday and demanded the controversial amendment to be taken back.

“My name is Founé, I am 22 years old and I live in the suburbs of Paris. I am passionate about football and I have been fighting for more than a year to allow all women, including those who wear the veil, to practice their favorite sport in official competitions.”

Foune is a member of the Hujabeuses union.

According to the petition, “This amendment, if passed by the National Assembly, would mean that thousands of women living in France who wear the veil will once again be excluded, sidelined, marginalized, and stigmatized.”

“For these women, sports represent not only a fundamental right but also, more concretely, an escape, a hobby, a form of well-being, a means of living their dreams and of realizing themselves.

These women, these young people, these sportswomen, these students, these mothers, who are reduced to their veils, will be forced to stop…because parliamentarians have decided to add sporting events to the long list of those who are already excluded.”

In the petition, Foune, a 22-year-old football player from Paris further added, “The French Football Federation (FFF), like the majority of national sports federations, forbids us to do so using fallacious arguments such as the supposed « neutrality » in sport or respect for the principles of hygiene and safety. While the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has allowed the wearing of head coverings in these statutes since 2014, France is one of the only countries that prohibit it. These arguments are therefore inadmissible and hide a measure that is simply discriminatory and exclusionary, it is incomprehensible for us because all we want is to play.”

Over 55,000 online activists have signed the petition launched on change.org and it is gaining huge momentum all over the internet.

History of Hijab Ban in France

According to a BBC News report, around only 2000 Muslim women out of the 5 million Muslim population in France take Hijab and hide their faces. This might be a possible reason the French government has been keen to ban the use of hijab in public spaces.

The government of France made a law in 2004 enforcing the ban on Muslim women to wear hijab. Besides hijab, other religious emblems like Sikh turbans are also impermissible in the state schools of France. However, this ban does not include that of Christians’ crucifix.

The approval of French law was deemed controversial as it was directed against the laws set by French courts. French then President, Jacques Chirac was ruling the government when the parliamentary vote was introduced and the hijab ban started. Nicolas Sarkozy, being Chirac’s inheritor and against the hijab-wearing supported the ban idea. He considered the hijab a danger to French values.

As a result, a controversial situation was created around the hijab ban, and Muslim and human rights activists came forward against the ban. One segment was in favor of the ban referring to it as a freedom from oppression for Muslim women. While the other segment went against this opinion and claimed that the hijab ban on French Muslim women was the enforcement of Western influence and it is an attempt to sideline Muslim traditions and values.

Why is Hijab Ban Happening

The actual reasons behind the French Muslim hijab ban are complicated but not too difficult to understand. France is a secular state and the constitution follows secularism since its inception in 1905. Due to this secularism, France puts certain bans on Muslims to follow their religious practices. There has been a series of hijab bans including a restriction of headscarves in French state schools in 2004 as well as a ban on wearing full-face hijab in public spaces.

Another strong reason France puts hijab bans is the increasing extremism and terrorist attacks during President Macron’s rule. However, it is against human rights law to claim all Muslims as a state threat by banning their religious rights.

In response to the French Senate’s preparation on the “anti-separatism” bill, Amnesty International, a leading human rights organization has put forward an appeal regarding “problematic provisions” and their amendment.

Amnesty holds its decision that the new rules as per the law would be a hindrance and further ignite the fire of discrimination against Muslim minorities in France.

“This proposed law would be a serious attack on rights and freedoms in France.” This has been said by Amnesty International’s Europe researcher, Marco Perolini.

“Time and again we have seen the French authorities use the vague and ill-defined concept of ‘radicalization’ or ‘radical Islam’ to justify the imposition of measures without valid grounds, which risks leading to discrimination in its application against Muslims and other minority groups,” Perolini said. “This stigmatization must end.”

The government officials from Macron’s rule said that the proposed bill will control the “Islamist separatism” as stated by the president. This would emphasize the term secularism prevailing in the country. However, according to several critics, this law violates freedom of religion and unjustly attacks the Muslim minority in France. The population of French Muslims is approximately 5.6 million which is the largest across Europe.

The said regulation, however, hides the term Islam, but Muslims in France have concerns and they consider these developments an act of sidelining the Muslim community.

Violating Rights and Freedoms

According to Amnesty International, the legislation highlights issues for the sanctity of liberty and freedom of expression as well as the French non-discrimination laws. It also mentioned multiple concerns in its articles, one of such is Article 6 according to which any organization that has appealed for a State-led grant should have a formal contract of “republican commitment”. Another article, called Article 8 allows the transfer of more power to officials in taking down institutions.

“It would allow public authorities to fund only organizations that sign a ‘contract of republican commitment’ – a vaguely defined concept which is wide open to abuse and threatens the very freedoms of expression and association the French authorities claim to stand for,” stated Perolini, while raising concern on Article 6.

For everywhere else, the legislation guarantees authorization of homeschool learning and foreign aid of religious entities. It also aims to demolish polygamy and illegal practices from medical doctors.

In July 2021, the Parliament of France (lower house) signed an unfair bill attacking freedom of faith and disapproving followers of Islam. It also restricted Muslims regarding the mosques’ funds, organizations, and NGOs associated with Muslims. The same bill also stigmatized minor girls belonging to Islam as they banned the hijab-wearing in social gatherings.

After a few months, President Macron had revealed his plan in defense of his statement of claiming secular principles of France against “Islamist radicalism”. He then stated that Islam was “in crisis.”

Two years back, 2 Muslim women wearing a hijab were attacked near Eiffel Tower, Paris during intense racist violence, but the national media stayed numb to this stabbing incident. It only spoke up when a French educationist was killed by an extremist individual upon showing disrespectful caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) during his session on freedom of speech.

As a result, the French president got a chance to support the caricatures and launched the law highlighting pseudo-Islamic extremism. The highly derogatory cartoons ignited people’s sentiments nationwide and resulted in huge protests. The Muslim minority had to go through an unjust shut down of mosques, including a ban on the nation’s leading Muslim charity and anti-Islamophobia NGO. Several people were taken into custody.

France will host the 2024 Summer Olympics, also termed Paris 2024, which aims to unite nations along the lines of inclusion to the world. An unfair and prejudiced Hijab restriction would only emphasize France’s poor role in establishing a diverse and inclusive nation.

The National Assembly will take the said law into consideration and leave a final decision. The hijab ban in sports means that France is adamant to disrespect Muslim women’s choice of dressing and their right to practice head covering.

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