French retailer Decathlon has decided, after several cases of employees being insulted and threatened, to stop the commercialization and sales of the “hijab de running” or runner’s hijab. The sports hijab is available in its stores in Morocco and was planned to be introduced to France in March.
Speaking from my personal experience as I train for the Marseilles 10K run happening this month, I have not encountered any adverse incidents when I come across others in my neighborhood south of Paris. On the contrary, I have received encouraging smiles, and phrases like “Bon courage!” which means “Good luck!”. I wonder if it is my luck to have not experienced what the media portrays about wearing the hijab in France, or if the world is caught up by what the minority has to say by amplifying their voices.
Designed by Angelique Thibault for the Decathlon’s Kalenji running brand, and priced at €7, the Decathlon sports hijab addresses the inconvenience of finding hijabs which are lightweight and sports-friendly. Decathlon released a statement stating (translated): “We haven’t created products until there’s a demand, we are an enterprise. Our main objective is to make sport more accessible. This product was designed in this sense”.
Many people have spoken on social media against the decision to pull the runner’s hijab from the market, pointing out that no-one is obliged to buy the sport-hijab and only those who want it need to buy it. France’s Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu stated:
“My role is to promote sport for all in terms of progress, of inclusion, of respect for others and of diversity. For all these reasons, I want to fetch women, mothers, young girls wherever they are and as they are, to encourage them to practice sport because I am convinced that it is a powerful tool for emancipation.”
There are plenty of stories, such as this recent article which discusses how the French public sphere becomes a difficult space to enter if the person in question wears the hijab. Some examples given in the article are of the Voice singer, Mennel Ibtissem, who had to quit the show due to past Facebook posts.
Après 2 premières parties à l’Olympia de Paris et au Dôme de Marseille, je réalise à quel point vous êtes nombreux à me soutenir et ça, ca vaut de l’or ! merci 🙏 pic.twitter.com/3COFz3g4va— Mennel Official (@MennelOfficial) 9 novembre 2018
It is as if the hijab, or “le voile”, amplifies whatever the issue is at hand. The hijab is restricted in public service employment, and students are prohibited from wearing visible religious signs at school, but not at university.
Health Minister Agnes Buzyn stated on RTL, “[the hijab] is not forbidden by law [but] it is a vision of women that I do not share. I would have preferred that a French brand not promote the veil.”
I believe that this decision doesn’t affect my way of life in my choice of hijab to wear; however, I am aware that not everyone has other alternatives available to them. As a hijabi and an avid sportsperson, it is sad to see these sentiments being expressed against a brand which wanted to be inclusive of Muslim women who wear the hijab, a piece of clothing which symbolizes their values and their desire to be closer to Allah.
Written by Siba,
Indian hijabi from the UAE, who’s an avid reader, sports enthusiast, and loves to go on an adventure. She is currently doing her Master’s Human-Computer Interaction Design in Paris, France and believes that change is made by taking the first step.
Her blog: //www.espritalhurra.wordpress.com/