Earlier today, the French sports store, Decathlon, announced its intention to cancel plans to put out a sports hijab in response to threats of a boycott by French politicians. Shockingly, several bouts of criticism came from ministers in President Macron’s centrist government.
Agnès Buzyn, the current Health Minister in Macron’s government, stated [about the sports hijab]: “It’s a vision of women that I don’t share. I would prefer if a French brand did not promote the headscarf.” Agnès Buzyn herself was one of the first to openly suggest a boycott of the French brand. Adding to the criticism, Aurore Bergé, a politician from President Macron’s “La République En Marche” party tweeted: “My choice as a woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand which breaks with our values.”
In slightly more encouraging news, another politician from the “La République En Marche” party, Fiona Lazaar, tweeted her disappointment regarding Decathlon’s plans to cancel the release of the sports hijab, claiming that this was a classic case of giving in to “racist threats and unbridled Islamophobia.”
In an attempt to temper the wave of hate that Decathlon received because of their plans to market a sports hijab, they tweeted, “Our goal is simple: to offer [women who run with an often unsuitable hijab] an adapted sport product, without judgement.”
When all is said and done, it is an utter shame that Decathlon has buckled under the pressure of those determined to further marginalize Muslim women. It is extremely disappointing to hear about this happening in France. Is it such a stretch to say that everyone should be given an equal opportunity to play a sport, if they desire to do so, and what they wear should never be a factor?
If Decathlon really does follow through with their plans to nix their sports hijab, this would mean that they are discriminating against a religion. Due to their actions, the message they will send Muslim women who wear the headscarf is that their participation is not worth anything because of the cloth on their heads.
For years, certain members of French society have been demanding that French Muslims assimilate to French society. And yet, they simultaneously create environments where French Muslims, in this case, Muslim women, won’t be comfortable participating. They want Muslims to assimilate through things like sports, but this can only happen if French Muslim women are able to participate in sports without feeling like they have to choose between sports and their religion. If this hijab release really is canceled, then this will have the opposite desired effect. So it really is about time that those railing against the sports hijab stop pretending that their concerns are about appearing secular.
Ever since Ibtihaj Muhammad started sporting the Nike sports hijab, Nike has seen an overwhelmingly positive response to their approach at inclusivity. This demonstrates that being inclusive can help a business flourish. Make no mistake, when a brand offers a product that gives the gift of inclusivity, lives change. But Decathlon opted to give in to bias chatter and snatch this gift away.
Overall, this is very concerning. If French Muslim women are being subjected to this, then it’s possible that other right-leaning European countries may start to follow this route. If that happens, there may be a chance that women will feel discouraged from participating in various sports.
At the end of it all, I think it’s crucial to have Muslim women (and men) in every field. We want to be represented in a more accurate and positive light, but it’s hard when you can’t picture yourself in a certain field, and the environment being fostered is one of intolerance.
By rejecting the sports hijab, it feels as though Decathlon is saying that Muslim women aren’t capable or deserving of being involved in sports. It feels as though Decathlon is claiming that the voices of bias are worth more than the fiery passion of headscarf-wearing warriors. And if anyone believes that this isn’t a big deal, imagine being told you couldn’t participate, or be someone in your current field due to something that’s beyond your control. When you think of it in that respect, Decathlon canceling the hijab should be a concern for everyone.