French Muslim footballers gathered to discuss implications of France’s hijab ban

Photography by Lynda Temtem, Ethical Minds

Women Win join forces with Dr Haifa Tlili and Fare network to give voice to French Muslim footballers who have been kept away from the playing field

More than 50 Muslim and non-Muslim female footballers participated at the event Football Pour Toutes on Saturday 25 January 2020 in Paris. Organised by Dr Haifa Tlili, with support from Women Win and Fare network, Football Pour Toutes gave French Muslim footballers and allies an opportunity to have their voices heard and to participate on a tournament. Recommendations from the footballers will be shared with Human Rights defenders, the French Football Federation, French football managers and other French key actors.

Participants debate how, using the pretext of neutrality, sports structures (gymnasiums, sports venues, swimming pools, federations) refuse access to women wearing a hijab. Some also shared how vulnerable they feel at competitions and matches, with discrimination coming from referees, opponent teams or spectators. Several young sportswomen report how they have been prohibited to enjoy the sports they love, while men were using non-conforming apparel and still allowed to do so.

The ban on hijab use was initially based on religious grounds. This argument was torn apart by Muslim women and Human Right defenders who pointed out that many players have visible religious symbols (crosses, for instance) on their bodies and are still allow to play. The argument evolved towards safety without proof of any accident involving a hijab. FIFA and many other federations finally allowed the use of hijab, with the French Football Federation sustaining the ban at every level (from grassroots to professional). Experts point out to that neutrality applies to the State, its public services and public workers, but not to the recipients of these services. This creates confusion. In the case of the FFF, a public service, neutrality applies to its 660 employees, but should not to its beneficiaries and users.

Women Win strongly believes that girls and women should be able to play in whatever outfit they want as long as they give them comfort and confidence. The ban on hijab is just another attempt at controlling girls’ and women’s bodies, and deny their universal right to play.

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