Female athletes and activists protest anti-hijab bill with football game

Les Hijabeuses, a collective of French hijab-wearing female athletes, were initially banned from staging the protest football match, but the decision was overturned after an appeal.

Women wearing the hijab in France are often discriminated against, including in sport [Getty]

Hijab-wearing female footballers played in a football match outside Paris on Wednesday, protesting a bill banning the wearing of hijabs and other religious symbols in competitive sports.

The match, which took place in front of the National Assembly, was organized by Les Hijabeuses, a collective of veiled female athletes who campaign for inclusivity in French football.

The collective had originally planned for a larger-scale protest match to take place on Tuesday, to coincide with the day the Sports Bill made its way through Parliament.

But the French police initially banned the demonstration, on the grounds that the demonstration would cause “disturbance to public order”.

“It is to be feared that this demonstration will attract, in addition to those who support it, people hostile to the cause,” said the Paris police headquarters in a statement posted on Twitter.

The collective challenged the ban, which it described as “arbitrary, unfair and totally disproportionate”.

Several activists and organizations, including Amnesty International France, joined the women’s collective and called the ban “abusive and discriminatory”, in addition to being contrary to international law, in a post published on Instagram.

“France cannot adopt policies that discriminate against people because of their religion, beliefs or nationality,” they said.

Police overturned the ban on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, French senators voted in favor of an amendment to ban the wearing of “ostentatious religious symbols” in sports competitions.

The bill is due for final reading on February 16.

The French Football Federation (FFF) prohibits women from wearing the hijab during official club matches, as well as during international meetings. It’s a rule that’s out of step with international football governing body FIFA, which lifted the hijab ban in 2014.

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