Peltier, Elian, and Aurelien Breeden. “A Sports Hijab Has France Debating the Muslim Veil, Again.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Feb. 2019,

The Decathlon controversy outlines the division in France between the desire to preserve secularism and basic religious freedom. Decathlon, a French retail company, undertook massive backlash for manufacturing a sports hijab catered towards France’s Muslim female demographic. While initially standing their ground and arguing that the purpose of the sports hijab was to democratize sports pointing out that Muslim females often ran with ill-adapted hijabs. Unfortunately, the overwhelming criticism led the retail giant to pull the product from shelves before it was ever sold. 

The criticism comes from French secularists and women’s rights activist who argue that companies native to France like Decathlon should take a vigilant stance against such “oppressive clothing”. Unlike the niqab and burka, wearing the hijab in France does not usher legal ramifications. While the hijab is not fundamentally banned, public displays of one’s religious affiliation puts a good enough majority of the French population at unease. Here is what Aurore Bergé, a spokeswoman for Republic on the Move, President Emmanuel Macron’s party had to say on the hijab “Those who tolerate women in the public space only when they are hiding are not lovers of freedom.” And Similarly, the Observatory of Secularism, an agency that assists the French government in enforcing “laïcité”, uses the same rhetoric in their stance against the head scarf. But many can be left wondering where the real origins of this anti-hijab sentiment stems from. Does it really stem from the need to uphold the nation’s secular ideals or is the reason much grimmer than that? Many see this attack on the hijab on the grounds of secularism as a front for an anti-Islamic agenda and believe the issue to be much more one-sided. Italian Imam Izzedin Elzir’s image of nuns on the beach in their religious outlines the double standard with the recently imposed banned on the burkini. The image, appearing across social media and in outlets as prominent as the New York Times, implied the hypocrisy of a ban targeting Muslims and ignoring Christians.

Sylvie Eberena, 38, a Muslim entrepreneur and coach who runs a fitness website uploads workout tutorials in which she wears her hijab. She remarks that it is sad to see Decathlon not be able to withstand external pressure in a fight to democratize fitness especially with the growing number of veiled women practicing sports. It is evident how France’s stance against the Hijab is pushing Muslim women to a crossroads between faith and integration. Sylvie reminds us that their fight to “not have to choose between the two” is far from over stating “But we didn’t wait for Decathlon to sell a runner’s hijab to work out with our head scarves. And we will keep working out without them.”