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Female Soccer Players Voice Up Against Hijab Ban

In April 2011, France imposed a hijab ban in public areas. Rage has sparked across the country as it was a sign of oppression and nationalism. Even France’s soccer federation doesn’t allow women to wear hijabs during their soccer tournaments. Diakité, a 23-year-old Muslim midfielder, is afraid that she would not be allowed to wear her hijab.

The rules have refrained many soccer players from wearing religious garments, but the past couple of years have been focused on women’s hijabs. It puts a large limitation on Muslim women who want to play soccer, and they have to choose between their identity and their dream. With soccer opening up to female players, a group named Les Hijabeuses is standing up against discrimination on Muslim women playing sports. Ouné Diawara, the president of Les Hijabeuses, said, “What we want is to be accepted as we are, to implement these grand slogans of diversity, inclusiveness. Our only desire is to play soccer.” Even though FIFA allows women to wear hijabs in the competition, France’s soccer federation does not allow it.

Diakité struggled to convince her parents that she wanted to play soccer because their worldview is that soccer is meant for boys. She has been hiding that she’s playing soccer. She said, “I wanted to be a professional soccer player,” she said, calling it “a dream.” Coach Jean-Claude Njehoya said that Diakité had amazing skills in her younger years, but with the hijab ban, Diakité didn’t challenge herself further in soccer. Karthoum Dembele, a 19-year-old midfielder, spoke with her mom in hopes of playing soccer. She joined the sports-intensive program, but hearing about the hijab ban may make her unqualified to compete in the soccer games. She said, “I had managed to make my mother give in and I’m told the federation won’t let me play. I told myself: What a joke!”

Les Hijabeuses later created a petition to change the law banning hijab wear. It received more than 70,000 signatures and brought celebrities together to fight for their cause. In France’s presidential election, one of the candidates Marine Le Pen said she would continue banning the hijab in public spaces. Pierre Samsonoff, the former deputy head of the soccer federation’s amateur branch, said, “The issue is whether we are not creating worse consequences by deciding to ban it on the fields than by deciding to allow it.”

Dembele shares, “We hold on. It’s not just for us, it’s also for the young girls who tomorrow will be able to dream of playing for France, for P.S.G.”

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