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(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
(REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Laicité

French retailer drops sports hijab from sale as debate rages about ‘contributing to the Islamist invasion’

By WITW Staff on March 1, 2019

Major French sports retailer Decathlon has shelved a proposed line of hijabs designed for runners after the company received hundreds of threats and complaints — with some accusing Decathlon of “contributing to the Islamist invasion.” A week after Decathlon successfully debuted a new sports hijab in Morocco, the company’s plans to bring the product to France drew public ire on social media and from prominent politicians.

“My choice as a woman and a citizen will be to no longer trust a brand that breaks with our values,” declared Aurore Bergé, a spokeswoman for Republic on the Move, President Emmanuel Macron’s party. “Those who tolerate women in the public space only when they are hiding are not lovers of freedom.”

The company had initially defended the decision to sell the hijabs, noting that many Muslim women are forced to run with “ill-adapted” hijabs and that they wanted to “offer them a suitable sports product, without judging.” Some politicians, including another representative from Republic on the Move, Aurélien Taché, also spoke up in support of Decathlon. The public anger over the selling of a sports hijab, he said, exposed France’s “obsession around the veil and Islam.” Nike also already sells hijabs for runners, but has not faced any similar level of outcry. But on Tuesday, Decathlon announced that they would cave to public pressure and stop sale of the hijabs in France after multiple incidents in which its salespeople were threatened in stores — in some cases physically.

In France, legislators have long targeted Muslims with laws surrounding their religious garments — ostensibly for the sake of preserving the country’s secular traditions and women’s rights. It has been illegal to wear the headscarf in French schools since 2004, and the country made it illegal to wear face-covering veils in 2011. In 2016, the country grew embroiled in a nationwide debate after multiple cities banned full-body bathing suits for Muslim women known as “burkinis.” And last May, student union leader Maryam Pougetoux was told that wearing a headscarf on TV was “shocking,” a “provocation,” and a promotion of “political Islam” by the French government’s Equality and Interior ministers.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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