French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet wades into a row over the marketing of a sports version of the hijab Muslim headscarf in France, saying she regretted the “hysterical” debate and stressing that selling such items would in no way break the law.
Her comments follow a raging dispute, especially on social media, on Tuesday after French sports retailer Decathlon announced it would sell a runner’s hijab in France to “make sport accessible to all women in the world.”
But Decathlon backed down hours later following a public outcry, saying it would not sell the hijab in France.
“I think there has been far too much hysteria over the matter, and I regret that,” Belloubet tells BFM television.
Providing the face is not completely covered “there are no legal objections” to selling the running hijab, she adds, deploring the fact that some political leaders had sought to exploit the issue.
Asked about her own personal opinion, Belloubet says: “I don’t see why women should force themselves to wear such clothes.”
The controversy is the latest in France over face- and body-covering garments worn by Muslim women which many perceive as instruments of women’s subjugation in a country with strict laws on secularism.