French Soccer Authority Bans Hijab

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of,

Elham Seyed Javad shows how to wear her design for a sports hijab in Montreal, May 1, 2012. Her design is in competition to become the headscarf chosen by FIFA, which is lifting its ban on the head coverings in soccer.

France’s soccer federation has declared that it will not allow French women to wear hijab while playing for their country. The decision, announced last week, was despite a ruling just a day earlier that they could wear such headscarves by the FIFA umbrella organization which sets the rules of the game.

The French Football Association said that though it is a member of the FIFA, it, “will not authorize [female] players to wear the scarf.” Their decision will apply to those participating in national French selections for international competitions, plus national competitions. The FFF “needs to respect the constitutional and legal principles of secularism which prevail in our country and which are part of its statutes,” said the statement.

Supporters of the FFF’s decision in France contend that this is an issue of keeping religion out of sports. “Allowing the headscarf on the fields opens Pandora’s Box,” conservative UMP deputy, Gérald Darmanin told the French daily Le Figaro. “This kind of decision accentuates divisions between communities,” he added.

Others here complained the new ruling could spread to other sports. “Today it’s soccer. Tomorrow it will be swimming,” said feminist activist Asma Guenifi, and president of the group, “Ni Putes Ni Soumis” (Neither Whores Nor Submissive) according to Le Figaro. The FIFA decision is a “serious step backwards,” she added.

The FIFA ruling reversed a ban on the Islamic hijab enforced since 2007, finding that the garment did not provide a safety risk if approved headscarves are used with quick-release fasteners. There is no word as to whether this overriding of FIFA’s ruling will affect the French women’s soccer team’s eligibility for international competition. But one thing that is certain, is that it further adds to the discomfort felt by the practitioners of France’s second largest faith.


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