The French Football Federation now prohibits players from wearing “ostentatious” religious insignia such as Muslim headscarves or the Jewish kippa during competitive matches.
In November of last year, the women’s collective known as “les Hijabeuses” filed a judicial challenge to the laws, arguing that they were discriminatory and infringed on their ability to practice their faith.
What does the law say?
“The law says that these young women can wear a headscarf and play football. On football pitches today, headscarves are not forbidden. I want the law to be respected,” Equality Minister Elisabeth Moreno told LCI television on Thursday.
“Women should be allowed to choose to dress as they please,” she later told AFP.
Anne-Claire Boux, who works for the mayor of Paris on social justice issues insisted that the veil “is not a synonyme of radicalisation. Just let them play football!” she wrote on Twitter.
She offered her support to the “les Hijabeuses” collective after the Prefecture of Police banned their planned demonstration in front of the French parliament on Wednesday on security grounds.
What is the status of secularism in France?
The issue has become a talking point two months before the French presidential elections in a country that adheres to a stringent type of secularism that aims to keep the state and religion distinct.
The right-wing Republicans in the French Senate proposed a measure in January that would have prohibited the wearing of visible religious symbols in all competitive sports.
On Wednesday, it was defeated in the lower chamber, where President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move party and its allies had a majority.
With the exception of full-face coverings, which were outlawed in 2010, France’s secular laws guarantee religious freedom to all people and contain no prohibitions prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols in public settings.
Employees of state institutions are also forbidden from displaying their religion, as are school children.
Many right-wing politicians in France want to widen restrictions on the headscarf, seeing it as a political statement in support of Islamism and an affront to French values.
In recent years, they have proposed banning mothers accompanying children on school trips from wearing headscarves, and have sought to proscribe the full-body swimsuit known as the burkini
The cultural symbol
“Women can dress as they please in public space,” Moreno stated Thursday, before adding, “My struggle is to safeguard those who are forced to wear the veil.”
In a January interview with AFP, Foune Diawara, a co-founder, said, “We feel all of this is a big injustice.” “All we want to do is play football.” We’re not; we’re just soccer enthusiasts.
In 2014, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) authorised women to wear headscarves in games after deciding that the hijab was a cultural rather than a religious symbol.
The French Football Federation argues that it is simply following French law, with the country’s top constitutional court set to rule on the issue following the appeal from “les Hijabeuses”.