The sports store Decathlon has decided to cancel a plan to sell sports hijabs in its stores in France after numerous calls of a boycott by French politicians, including one from President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet.
Although Decathlon already sells a sports hijab in its Morocco stores, the company was moving forward with plans to begin selling the same product in France when it felt compelled to stop after numerous threats by both customers and high-ranking politicians.
Agnes Buzyn, the health minister in President Macron’s government, stated that in regards to the hijab:
It’s a vision of women that I don’t share. I would prefer if a French brand did not promote the headscarf.
Aurore Berge, a minister in Macron’s centrist party, also stated that she would boycott the brand, as “my choice as a woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand which breaks with our values”.
Decathlon has stated that in addition to threats of boycotts by high-ranking French politicians, company employees have also received insults and threats.
Notre service client a reçu plus de 500 appels et mails depuis ce matin. Nos équipes dans nos magasins ont été insultées et menacées, parfois physiquement.
Pour vous donner une idée, voici le type de messages qu’on reçoit : pic.twitter.com/4ZjkRlgm2U
— Decathlon (@Decathlon) February 26, 2019
This appalling reaction by many French ministers on the selling of a sports hijab points to a deeper issue within French society today. By promoting the othering of those deemed different because of a fabricated vision of “French values”, France is seeing itself being pulled apart by extremists on both ends of the spectrum.
The forced recall by Decathlon on its sports hijab in France comes almost unsurprisingly after a serious of attacks on the freedom of religion in the country. 2004 saw the ban on hijabs for school girls in France, as well as public sector workers. In 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy’s government banned full-face coverings or niqab in public, and in 2016 many French mayors across the southern coastline tried banning the burkini, or bathing suit worn by many Muslim women to fully cover their bodies while on the beach.
While countries like France do grapple with serious issues of integration and solidarity, this most recent attack on a population of the country already sidelined by both politicians and society will only create a deeper divide within the nation. With a complete lack of understanding on the need for “liberté, égalité, fraternité” to apply to all citizens and not just those who happen to fall under the white and secular demographics, France seems to be falling deeper into chaos and inequality.