Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Retailer cancels plans to sell sports ‘hijab’ in France

AFP, PARIS

Retailer Decathlon on Tuesday canceled plans to sell a sports version of the hijab in France, following an outcry.

“We are effectively taking the decision to not sell this product in France for now,” Decathlon official Xavier Rivoire told broadcaster RTL, despite earlier defending the company’s goal to “make sport accessible to all women in the world.”

The controversy is the latest in France over face and body-

covering garments worn by Muslim women, which many in the secular nation see as instruments of women’s subjugation.

Others argue that they allow Muslim women to be an active part of broader society.

France in 2004 banished the hijab, which covers the hair, but leaves the face open, from the classroom and government offices, but it is a common sight in the streets.

In 2016, the nation with Europe’s largest Muslim population was deeply divided over the appearance on beaches of the body-concealing Burqini swimsuit.

French retailer Decathlon already sells the runner’s hijab in its stores in Morocco and had planned to introduce the garment to France in the coming weeks.

“The craze for the product [in Morocco] made us ask whether to make it available” in other nations too, Rivoire said, adding that the garment “leaves the face free and visible.”

Angelique Thibault, who created the garment for Decathlon’s Kalenji running brand, said she was “motivated by the desire that every woman should be able to run in every neighborhood, every city, every country ... regardless of her culture.”

However, reports that Decathlon would introduce the sports hijab to France raised public ire.

Such a product is “not forbidden by law... [but] it is a vision of women that I do not share,” French Minister of Health and Solidarity Agnes Buzyn said on RTL. “I would have preferred that a French brand not promote the veil.”

Aurore Berge, spokeswoman for French President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party, said that “sport emancipates, it does not suppress,” lambasting “those who tolerate women in a public space only when they hide themselves.”

Several political leaders called for a boycott over the issue.

US sportswear group Nike offers a hijab for women.

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