The bill includes a clause stating that the wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols is prohibited” in events and competitions organized by sports federations.
A bill that would ban the wearing of the hijab in sports competitions has been sent to the French National Assembly after the Senate refused to vote on the legislation.
The broader bill is devoted to the “democratization of sport”, including how major sports federations are governed.
But it includes a clause, previously annexed as an amendment by the conservative majority upper house, stipulating that the wearing of “ostentatious religious symbols is prohibited” in events and competitions organized by sports federations.
This decision is however opposed by the centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron and his allies who have a majority in the National Assembly, which has the final vote.
The place of religion and religious symbols worn in public is a long-standing subject of controversy in France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority.
The hijab: A French obsession that should have expired during the pandemic
Far-right campaign against Muslims
The identity and place of Islam in France are burning questions ahead of the presidential election in April, with two far-right candidates whose platforms question the compatibility of Islam with the values of the Republic, winning nearly 35% of the votes of the electors.
Elsewhere, divisions over the hijab –– the hair and neck covering worn by Muslim women –– have fueled protests in the Indian state of Karnataka after the right-wing government banned the garment in classrooms .
The Macron government was quick to denounce the amendment. Given the majority held by his party and its allies in the lower house, the amendment is likely to be dropped from the broader bill.
READ MORE: Women in France seek to end ‘humiliation’ against hijab in sport
Summer Olympics in 2024
France will host the Summer Olympics in 2024 and critics of the legislation have questioned how it will affect the protocol at the Games, whose participants will include conservative Muslim countries if passed.
Right-wing senator Stéphane Piednoir said the Olympic Charter provided for political and religious neutrality.
“We cannot compromise secularism and France cannot undermine the Olympic movement,” Piednoir told the upper house.
He said the bill was intended to allow “all women to participate in sports competitions without any differentiation, without any sign of discrimination, without any symbol related to the veil which we know is a political tool”.
The charter of the Olympics states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted at any Olympic venue, venue or other area”.
READ MORE: France again targets the hijab while denying the existence of “Islamophobia”