The Senate’s decision sparked widespread criticism. “[I was] never denied the opportunity to play sport because of my faith. Religious freedom is a human right. It is painful to see how far France has digressed and how normal virulent xenophobia has become.”
Senat fights with radicalization and sexual violence
On Wednesday evening, the French Senate approved a part of a draft law on “separatism” in sport. The most criticized amendment adopted by the Senate is the ban on wearing a veil in domestic sports competitions.
“If wearing a veil was not expressly forbidden, we could see the rise – and this is now starting – of social sports clubs promoting certain religious symbols”. Said the author of the amendment, Senator Michel Savin.
An unfavourable opinion on the amendment was expressed by Roxane Maracineanu, France’s minister of sport. As she emphasized, her goal is to maintain the principle of “secularism” in public space. Additionally, she also wants to counteract any forms of proselytism in sports institutions and sports clubs. She also stressed that it is sports federations that should be responsible for the compliance with the ban.
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As Guillaume Jacquot pointed out, the amendment to the law was introduced at the time when the French sports community was rocked with sexual scandals. In the same amendment, the Senate also approved a text calling on sports federations. According to it, they should condemn “any attacks on secularism or the physical and moral integrity of individuals.” Additionally senators also pointed out that “the sports movement is today regularly hit by scandals related to radicalization or sexual violence.”
France criticized by sportswomen
The French Senate’s amendments have generated a lot of comments. Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim woman from the US to win an Olympic medal criticized the decision. She wrote: “Being the first Muslim woman in hijab on Team USA was a journey riddled with obstacles, but never was I denied the opportunity to play sport because of my faith. Religious freedom is a human right. It’s painful to see how far France has digressed and how normal virulent xenophobia has become.”
She also added: “My first world [championships] was actually in Paris, France. It was held at the Grand Palais and one of my most vivid memories of that competition was the support I received from all of the French Muslims in the stands — my hijab [was] serving as a marker of the faith we shared. Every woman should have the choice to wear what she wants and the opportunity [to] play sport, regardless of her faith. We must stand together and vehemently denounce discrimination in all of its forms.”