Posted on February 13, 2022

France Is on a Dangerous Collision Course With Its Muslim Population

Shaista Aziz, CNN, February 5, 2022

French lawmakers last month voted to ban women and girls from wearing hijab while playing sports — showing the world once again that when it comes to further politicizing, targeting and policing European Muslim women, our clothing choices and bodies, France is in a league of its own.

The French Senate voted 160 to 143 in favor of the ban on wearing the hijab and other “conspicuous religious symbols” in sports competitions. The amendment was proposed by the right-wing Les Républicains, which argued the hijab could risk the safety of athletes wearing it while playing sports.

{snip} France’s attempt to apparently liberate and save Muslim women from ourselves and our headscarves is a racist and colonial project dressed up as upholding the country’s secular values. The project heaps Islamophobic harm on Muslim women.

Indeed, it is misogynistic and hateful to force women to remove hijab — as much as it is misogynistic and hateful to force women to wear hijab.

The proposed ban is opposed by Emmanuel Macron’s government and French lawmakers expressed “regret” over the government’s “lack of will” to put a stop to what they describe as the “development of Islamism in sport,” CNN reported. It comes against the backdrop of a forthcoming presidential election in April, where France’s domestic politics continue to lurch further to the right, and many Muslim residents and communities of color are being subjected to divisive and toxic political rhetoric on Islam, immigration and race.

In just two years, France is also hosting the Olympics, meant to bring nations together in a united show of inclusivity on the world stage. A divisive and discriminatory hijab ban only shines a further spotlight on how ill at ease France is with building a modern multiculturalism state.

The proposed law will now be revised by the National Assembly, which is expected to have the final word. All of which means that, for now, Muslim women playing sports in hijab have been given extra time to do so with the bill prevented from being passed in its current state.

France is home to roughly 5.7 million Muslims and the largest Muslim population in Europe, according to the Pew Research Center. As of 2019, 31% of French Muslim women were wearing hijab, according to Statista, so this sports ban will have a profound impact on many women. Yet again, French lawmakers have chosen to continue on a dangerous collision course with the country’s Muslim population and especially French Muslim women.


I’m one of three British Muslim women campaigners and passionate football fans calling ourselves “The Three Hijabis.” Last summer, alongside Amna Abdullatif and Huda Jawad, I launched a viral petition calling on England’s Football Association, the British government and tech companies, to work on banning racists from football for life, following the abuse inflicted on three young Black England players after the Euro finals at Wembley against Italy.

The campaign has garnered 1.2 million signatures. Within 48 hours of our petition launching, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood in parliament committing his government to working on delivering our demands.


In Europe, there is a tried-and-tested winning formula for politicians hoping to appeal to voters on the right-wing fringes ahead of national elections. And that involves turning Muslim women and our clothing choices into a political football. Many a populist European politician in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland, and of course France, has used this tactic as a way of attracting voters. {snip}

In France, we have of course been here before. Multiple times. In 2004, France banned the wearing of hijab in schools alongside Christian crosses and the yarmulkes, worn by observant Jews. The ban was imposed, so the state said, on the grounds that state institutions are supposed to be “religiously neutral.”

Then in 2010, France became the first country in Europe to impose a ban on full face veils, known as the niqab, in public spaces including public transport and parks, streets and administrative buildings. Women caught wearing a niqab in public space face a 150 euro fine and being arrested by the police.