French retailer Decathalon has pulled a high-performance sports hijab for women athletes from its shelves amid public backlash from politicians and on social media. The sportswear giant, which already sells the garment in Morocco, originally had plans to introduce a featherlight runner’s hijab under its Kalenji brand, meant for Muslim athletes. Unfortunately, the retailer had to abandon its plans due to public outcry, as many perceived it to be a violation of French principles on secularism. Health minister Agnes Buzyn said that the item presented “a vision of women that I don’t share.” Aurore Berge, from President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche party, also tweeted against Decathlon’s decision. “My choice as a woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand which breaks with our values,” she stated.
It should be noted that the European country instilled a ban on the wearing of hijabs in state schools and government offices back in 2004. The full-face veil, or burqa, has also been banned in public places in France since 2010. Meanwhile, in the summer of 2016, several French seaside towns banned the body-covering burkini swimsuit worn by some Muslim women.
Following a “wave of insults” and “unprecedented threats” on social media, the sports retailer said in a statement this week that it had backtracked on the sale of the athletic garment in France over concerns about the safety of its staff. “We are effectively taking the decision to not sell this product in France for now,” Decathlon official Xavier Rivoire told broadcaster RTL.
On the other, more positive end, Nike’s version of the sports hijab, which debuted in 2017, has received worldwide acclaim from athletes and non-athletes everywhere. Meanwhile, in an effort to encourage the participation of Muslim female athletes in sports, Britain’s Brunel University London in Uxbridge unveiled a high-performance sports hijab this month.