Wearing the headscarf in sport: the return match of the “Hijabeuses”

After the initial ban on their demonstration, scheduled for Wednesday, by the Paris police headquarters, the “Hijabeuses” have finally obtained the suspension of the decree from the administrative court of Paris. A victory for these athletes who claim the right to wear the veil during competitions. They are campaigning against an amendment to the proposed law of La République en Marche (LRM) relating to sport. The case agitates the political class two months before the presidential elections.

On Wednesday, at 6:30 pm, a dozen “Hijabeuses”, a collective of footballers fighting for the right to wear the headscarf in sports competitions, gathered on a lawn facing the esplanade des Invalides.

“Football for all”, “Let’s play”: banners lined up, the young players improvise, in a good-natured atmosphere, a game in the dark, illuminated by flashes of telephones and light projectors.

Several members of the collective “Les Hijabeuses”, accompanied by activists from the Citizen Alliance association, in front of the Esplanade des Invalides, where the demonstration was to take place, Wednesday 9 February 2022. © Soraya Boubaya

An hour earlier, the administrative court had suspended the prefectoral decree banning the gathering of “Hijabeuses”, scheduled for the same day at 16:30, on the Esplanade des Invalides, near the National Assembly. The young women had planned to demonstrate against an amendment banning “the use of flashy religious symbols” at sporting events, which was debated by lawmakers this Wednesday.

Ten days earlier they had already organized a football match in the Luxembourg garden, at the foot of the Senate, a few days after the vote on the amendment brought by senators Les Républicains (LR), adopted with 160 votes in favor and 143 against. This vote took place as part of the examination of the LRM sports bill.

When the administrative court decision was announced, the players wanted to meet to celebrate what they consider their victory. “We wanted to come for the symbolism. When we learned at 5:45 pm that the ban on the Prefecture of Police was suspended, we said we would come here because we won,” explains Anna Agueb-Porterie, activist in charge of organizing the communities of local inhabitants within the Alliance Citoyenne association, which fights alongside the “Hijabeuses”.

“Political Islam”

Twenty-four hours earlier, the Paris police headquarters estimated: “It is to be feared that this demonstration will attract, in addition to the people who support it, people hostile to the defended cause and inclined to fight against the former”.

He also referred to a “significant gap within society between supporters of the affirmation of political Islam, which advocates the wearing of the headscarf by women, and supporters of the values ​​of equality between women and men” and said presented “the current context”, two months before the presidential elections.

For the collective, which claims nearly a hundred members across France, these “scandalous” arguments “are based only on racist prejudices and deliberately maintained political confusion.”

Activists welcomed the decision of the administrative court which on Wednesday found that the prefectural decree constituted “a serious and manifestly illegal attack on the fundamental freedom of the right to demonstrate”, condemning it to pay the association a fine of € 1,000. “Les Hijabeuses “and the League of Human Rights (LDH).

political storm

A divisive topic, the amendment under discussion in both houses of parliament has aroused many reactions even within the political class.

Deputy LR Eric Ciotti, adviser to Valérie Pécresse, criticized Wednesday a “submission” to Islam by the majority and the executive, who refuse to include a ban on the veil in sports competitions in the law.

For his part, Régis Juanico (PS) has spoken out against the words of the elected representative of the Maritime Alps stating that sport is “bringing integration, republican fraternity, not hatred or division”. Former minister Marie-George Buffet (PCF) asked for “trust” so that “secularism and neutrality are at the heart of our sporting practices”.

Asked about the “Hijabeuse”, the delegate of the Minister for Gender Equality, Elisabeth Moreno, estimated Thursday that women “have the right to wear the Islamic headscarf to play” on a football field.

“The law says that these girls can wear the headscarf and play football. On football fields today it is not forbidden to wear the headscarf. I want the law to be respected,” the minister added on LCI.

The FFF in sight

This new turning point does not make the players forget the struggle that animates the collective since 2020: to obtain the repeal of article 1 of the French Football Federation (FFF), which prohibits “any wearing of a sign or a dress that apparently shows a political affiliation, philosophical, religious or trade union. ”A ban that the senators want to extend to all federations.

In November 2021, the collective had seized the Council of State, targeting Article 1 of the FFF regulation.

“Our goal is to fight the exclusion and ban of women wearing the headscarf in sports competitions. Today I think we don’t have to choose between wearing the headscarf and playing sports. We have to go back to the law, to what freedom of conscience says,” secularism, and as soon as we realize that the law is on our side, we realize that we are legitimate », says Inès, 21, general secretary of the“ Hijabeuses ”association.

“What we are asking today is that the FFF change its rules and allow all women to be able to express themselves, enjoy their passion and participate in competitions without having the ball in the stomach or the stress of asking ‘will I be able to play today or not. ? ‘”, continues the young woman.

Sports supports

Launched in 2020, the movement organizes matches, sit-ins and actions through social networks, to challenge the FFF which, unlike FIFA, refuses access to players wearing headscarves to official sports competitions.

Present this Wednesday evening, Zamya, an intern at Citizen Alliance for six months and a member of the “Hijabeuses” committee, came to support the collective.

“I love football and when I saw them play I told myself it wasn’t possible they couldn’t participate in competitions just because they wear the veil. They have a knack for crazy people. We have Mbappé, Ronaldinho, I’m not even abusing them (laughs ). So here, I’m relieved. The fight continues. Our goal remains for the FFF to authorize the use of the veil in the competition. Next step, the FFF! ”

If they were deprived of their event, they gained the support of about fifty personalities from the world of sports – Lilian Thuram, Audrey Tcheuméo or Candice Prévost – who wrote a column entitled “Let the hijabeuses play!”, Published in Liberation.

Since the two Houses cannot agree, the text will have to pass to the Senate on February 16, before returning to the Assembly for final adoption on February 24. The parliamentarians will have the last word.

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