Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

French store scraps plans to sell sports hijab following 'wave of insults'

Retailer Decathlon already sells the design in Morocco, but has backed down from plans to introduce the modest garment in France

Fasting runners are being encouraged to pace themselves and exercise in the evening, after breaking their fast.
Fasting runners are being encouraged to pace themselves and exercise in the evening, after breaking their fast.

A French retailer has abandoned plans to sell a sports hijab for female runners in its stores in France, following public backlash.

Sportswear giant Decathlon had planned to sell a lightweight runner's hijab under their Kalenji brand, which covers a woman's hair and leaves her face unveiled.

However, opposition has resulted in the retailer backtracking on its plans, after receiving "a wave of insults" and "unprecedented threats", according to The Guardian.

"We are effectively taking the decision to not sell this product in France for now," Decathlon official Xavier Rivoire told broadcaster RTL, though he earlier told AFP the retailer's aim had been "to make sport accessible for all women in the world".

The Kalenji product is already on sale at Decathlon stores in Morocco, but isn't yet on sale at the Decathlon Dubai stores according to a sales assistant The National spoke to on Wednesday. The UAE stores do, however, stock the Nike hijab.

Politicians were among those who spoke out against selling the sports hijab, with health minister Agnes Buzyn saying the item presented "a vision of women that I don’t share".

"I would prefer if a French brand did not promote the headscarf," she added, according to The Guardian.

Aurore Berge, from President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche party, also tweeted that she would boycott Decathlon. “My choice as a woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand which breaks with our values.”

The item is not generally prohibited in France, with Nike's running hijab available across the world. The European country did, however, instill a ban on the wearing of hijabs in state schools and government offices back in 2004. The full-face veil, or burqa, has also been banned in public places in France since 2010.

Manal Rostom, an Egyptian mountaineer, marathoner and Nike running coach, wears the Nike Pro Hijab. Courtesy of Nike
Manal Rostom, an Egyptian mountaineer, marathoner and Nike running coach, wears the Nike Pro Hijab. Courtesy of Nike

Nike's version of the sporting hijab, which the brand debuted in 2017, was met with widespread praise, and created with the help of athletes such as Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Haddad.

The breathable, competition-worthy design was commended by sportswomen, including Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari.

“I am so excited about this launch and I think it will make a huge difference in female athletes' lives,” she said when the Pro Hijab was first revealed. “It is just what we need."

Updated: February 28, 2019 10:14 AM

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