The ban on women football players wearing Islamic hijab headscarves in France was upheld by the country’s top administrative court on Thursday. This decision came after politicians raised concerns about the preservation of secularism.
According to a statement from the Constitutional Council, sporting federations have the authority to enforce a neutrality requirement on players during competitions and sporting events. This measure is aimed at ensuring the proper functioning of public services and preventing any conflicts or confrontations during matches.
The French Football Federation (FFF) rule against displaying any signs or clothing that indicate political, philosophical, religious, or union affiliation during play has been deemed “appropriate and proportionate.”
The FFF regulation faced legal action from a collective of Muslim women football players known as the “Hijabeuses.”
As the ruling approaches, judges are facing increasing political pressure due to the rise of far-right parties in the polls, which has prompted mainstream parties to take defensive measures.
The topic of secularism in France is a matter of sensitivity, with its proponents advocating for the state’s religious neutrality, while its critics view it as a subtle means of targeting ethnic and religious minorities, particularly Muslims.
The “Hijabeuses” received a Monday boost when the state’s legal advisor determined that the rule was unwarranted, leading to a surge of political criticism.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, known for his tough stance on law and order, expressed his strong desire for judges to maintain neutrality on sports fields, emphasizing the importance of this for the republic.
According to Darmanin, the “Hijabeuses” had intentions to strongly challenge the republic.
Playing sports is not the appropriate time to wear religious clothing… He stated that knowing the religion of the person in front of you is unnecessary when playing football.
Additional perspectives have been shared by members of the conservative Republicans party and the far-right National Rally.
Marine Le Pen, a prominent far-right figure, expressed her opposition to the use of hijab in sports through a tweet. Furthermore, we intend to enact legislation to ensure its proper enforcement.”
Eric Ciotti, the leader of the Republicans, expressed his party’s intention to propose a bill regarding the hijab if it is permitted by the court. The Republicans currently have 62 seats in France’s 577-seat parliament.
The possibility of legislation has been raised by Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, who stated that Macron’s government is not dismissing any options and recognizes the need for clarification.
On Wednesday, the Constitutional Council responded to what it perceived as “attacks targeting the administrative branch and, in particular, the legal advisor.”
The body emphasized that questioning the functioning of the courts was seen as a threat to democracy and could potentially lead to legal consequences for offenses such as insult, defamation, incitement to hatred, or threats.