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France's top court upholds hijab ban during football games

File photo by AFP of "Les Hijabeuses" with a banner reading "#football for all" near the French Senate in Paris, France.

France’s top administrative court has ruled against a group of female Muslim football players in their case against the French Football Federation (FFF), upholding a ban on the Islamic headscarf during games.

In a statement on Thursday, the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat) ruled that "the ban enacted by the FFF is suitable and proportionate."

"Sports federations, in charge of proper functioning of the public service whose management is entrusted to them, may impose on their players an obligation of outfit neutrality during competitions," the statement read.

A group of young hijab-wearing footballers from different teams, called the "Les Hijabeuses," have launched a legal battle against the discriminatory law of the FFF, which bans Islamic headscarves in competitions.

Marion Ogier, a lawyer for the "Les Hijabeuses," said the decision "upsets secularism and freedom of expression" as well as "abusing 30 years of legal precedent" on the question.

"This decision goes against social cohesion in a country founded on diversity and pluralism," she told AFP.

The group received a boost on Monday when the state's legal adviser concluded the rule was unjustified, during a hearing at France's Constitutional Council, where the case is being heard.

France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Tuesday, "You shouldn't wear religious clothing when you play sports..." 

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted on Monday: "No to the hijab in sport. And we will pass a law to make sure it is respected."

Eric Ciotti, who is the chief of the Les Républicains, a liberal-conservative political party, said his party - which holds just 62 seats in France's 577-seat parliament would introduce a bill on the topic if the court allowed the hijab.

Despite politicians on the right claiming that the women's football group, “Les Hijabeuses” is a threat to state secularism, many other sports federations have allowed female players to wear the Islamic headscarf for years.

Under the Islamic dress code, it is mandatory for women to cover up their hair.

However, under France’s laws on laïcité (secularism) it is forbidden to wear the Islamic headscarf – in government buildings, including schools.

Public officials such as teachers, firefighters, or police officers are also banned from wearing the hijab while they are at work.

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