The French Senate has suggested in favour of banning the wearing of hijabs in sports competitions, arguing that impartiality is a demand on the field of play.
The French upper legislative house suggested late on Tuesday in favour of amending a proposed law stipulating that the wearing “ of conspicuous religious symbols is banned” to take part in events and competitions organised by sports coalitions.
In their textbook, legislators easily said the correction aims at banning “ the wearing of the robe in sports competitions”. They added that headscarves can put at threat the safety of athletes wearing them when they exercise their discipline.
The correction, proposed by the right- sect group Les Republicains and opposed by the French government, was espoused with 160 votes in favour and 143 against. A commission composed of members from the Senate and the lower house should now gather to find a concession on the textbook before it’s published, meaning the correction can still be canceled.
It’s unclear whether the ban would be enforced for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Olympic organising commission didn’t incontinently answer a request for comment.
The vote came a year after legislators in the French Parliament’s lower house approved a bill to strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs in a bid to safeguard France from “radical Islamists” and to promote “respect for French values” – one of President Emmanuel Macron’s landmark projects.
France has been hit by several attacks in recent years. But critics also see the law as a political ploy to lure the right wing to Macron’s centrist party ahead of this year’s presidential election.
In their amendment, senators said every citizen is free to exercise his or her religion, but insisted that one should refrain from putting forward their differences.
“Today, there is legal uncertainty about the wearing of religious symbols, and it is necessary for the state to clearly define the rules,” the amendment voted by senators read. “If the wearing of the veil is not explicitly forbidden, we could see the emergence of community sports clubs promoting certain religious signs.”
The French football federation already bans women from wearing the hijab in official matches, as well as at competitions it organises.
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Les Hijabeuses – fighting for inclusivity
There is growing pressure on the FFF to change its rules, amid calls for more representation on the pitch.
The movement is symbolised by a collective called Les Hijabeuses, led by Dembelé and other young hijab-wearing female footballers around Paris.
Last year, a group of researchers and community organisers from the Citizen’s Alliance, who campaign against social injustices in France, founded the collective.
More than a year later, Les Hijabeuses has around 150 members and nearly 5,000 followers on Instagram. They staged a protest at the FFF headquarters on July 23 and have written several letters to FFF President Noël Le Graët, demanding an end to the exclusion of Muslim women – but are yet to receive a reply.
“We are all fighting for more inclusive football, which would integrate all women,” Dembelé told Al Jazeera. “We are trying to make people understand that we are female athletes. It’s not because we wear the hijab that we should be excluded from the pitch.
In a similar manner, the “anti-separatism” bill is filled with “fuzzy terms to justify the restriction of a liberty”, she said.
Authorities “always see Muslims and Islam through the prism of security”, she said – and the hijab is weaponised as a symbolic enemy.
“In France, we still consider diversity a threat, even though football precisely shows that diversity makes us stronger.”
Islamophobia as a gender, race, and class issue
Though the hijab ban may appear solely Islamophobic, experts say that it intersects gender, race, and class issues.
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