Less than four months after the controversial Abaya ban, France’s Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera announced on Sunday that French athletes will not be permitted to wear veils during the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Oudea-Castera made the announcement during an appearance on the show “Sunday In Politics,” which aired on France 3.
She declared that no member of the French delegation, whether athlete or official, would be allowed to wear a head covering, and she hinted that these restrictions might be extended further.
She emphasized the French government’s commitment to a strict policy of secularism in all aspects of life, including sports, stating that “this means the prohibition of any form of proselytism, the absolute neutrality of public service.”
The announcement comes at a time when France is already under scrutiny for its ban on abayas in schools, a move that has drawn widespread criticism and triggered accusations of discrimination against Muslim women.
Muslim women in France are already prohibited from wearing the veil, or hijab, within public institutions such as government offices, schools, and universities.
In addition, many employers have unwritten rules against hiring women who wear the headscarf or decide to start wearing one during employment.
The French government has justified these restrictions by citing the country’s interpretation of “laicite,” or state-enforced secularism, which prohibits religious symbols within state institutions.
The ban on veils during the Paris Olympics has ignited a wave of anger online, with calls for boycotts of the event gaining momentum on social media.
Critics argue that sporting events should not have the authority to forbid religious symbols, particularly when they do not interfere with the competition.
Oudea-Castera also criticized the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for taking a different stance on the issue, highlighting what she sees as an inconsistency in the governing body’s policies.
The IOC has considered the wearing of the veil as a cultural rather than religious practice, which differs from France’s perspective.
Another notable sports organization, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), has allowed women to wear the hijab since 2014.
However, the French Council of State decided in June that wearing the hijab in women’s football would remain prohibited, granting the French Football Federation the authority to enact rules it deems necessary for the “smooth running” of matches.
The controversy surrounding veils in sports follows France’s recent ban on abayas in educational institutions. France’s Education Minister, Gabriel Attal, announced the prohibition of abayas, describing them as a religious gesture that challenges the principle of secularism.