Sports brand’s hijab sparks “violent debate”

It’s advice as old as time itself: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

My mum told me this when I was little. I tell this to my kids. It’s common knowledge.

So why does it feel like our world leaders need to be reminded of this?


In France, the country’s biggest sports retailer has decided to cancel its plans to release a sports hijab (a hair covering worn by Muslims) after a massive backlash. Hijabs are legal in public spaces in France – as well they should be – but incredibly, they have been banned in French state schools and in some public buildings since 2004.

Here’s the thing about France: when it comes to food, fashion, art, history and architecture, France is one of the most spectacular countries in the world.

However, it seems that their tolerance towards other cultures needs some serious attention.

The hijab was canned following threats to boycott the company. And this is where I scratch my head – as the majority of the pressure is coming from politicians. Senior politicians. Senior female politicians.

Aurore Berge, a member of President Emmanuel Macon’s centrist party, tweeted her opposition to the hijab.

“My choice as a woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand which breaks with our values. Those who only tolerate women in public spaces when they are hidden are not lovers of freedom,” she tweeted.

And Health Minister Agnès Buzyn commented, “It’s a vision of women that I don’t share. I would prefer if a French brand did not promote the headscarf.”

“A vision I don’t share?” What does this even mean? How can you have a problem with a product that simply allows other people to make decisions in their own lives, in a way that doesn’t impact you whatsoever?

This particular product is designed for athletes and runners – so they can participate in athletic activities without overheating. I don’t understand the controversy…

The Decathlon brand said they were forced to cancel the product in the face of “violent debate” and “threats” that were “sometimes physical”, made against some of the company’s employees in its French stores.

So much outrage, over a flimsy piece of fabric.

I guess the new advice line should be: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, just say it on social media. Then everyone can see your true colours.”