Top French court to rule on hijabs in football

PARIS, France | France’s top administrative court will on Thursday rule whether women can wear the hijab in official football matches, in a decision that has stoked political tensions.

The case comes as the far-right rides high in the polls, prompting mainstream formations, including President Emmanuel Macron’s party, to talk tough on the state’s secular principles.

A group of Muslim women footballers called the “Hijabeuses” launched the action against the French Football Federation (FFF), whose rules currently ban the headscarves in competition along with “any sign or clothing clearly showing political, philosophical, religious or union affiliation”.

The collective received a boost on Monday when the state’s legal advisor concluded the rule was unjustified, during a hearing at France’s Constitutional Council, where the case is being heard. 

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, a law-and-order hardliner, said Tuesday, “I hope profoundly for the republic that (judges) uphold neutrality on sports fields.”

The “Hijabeuses” were hoping to give the republic a “battering”, Darmanin added.

“You shouldn’t wear religious clothing when you play sports… when you play football, you don’t need to know the religion of the person in front of you,” he said.

Other voices from the conservative Republicans party and far-right National Rally have also chimed in.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen wrote on Twitter: “No to the hijab in sport. And we will pass a law to make sure it is respected.” 

Republicans chief Eric Ciotti said his party – which holds just 62 seats in France’s 577-seat parliament – would introduce a bill on the topic if the court allowed the hijab.

Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera has also suggested Macron’s government could legislate, saying “we aren’t ruling anything out” and “we can see that there’s a need for clarification”.

The Constitutional Council itself shot back Wednesday at what it said were “attacks aimed at the administrative branch and especially the legal advisor”.

Questioning the workings of the courts was “an attack on an institution that is essential for democracy,” the body added, saying it could take legal action in cases of “insult, defamation, incitement to hatred or threats”. – AFP