CAIRO - France's soccer federation has announced it would not allow hijab for Muslim footballers, refusing a world football governing body FIFA ruling that has allowed women to wear a headscarf in international football matches.
The French Football Association "will not authorize [female] players to wear the scarf, an official statement was cited by The Telegraph on Saturday, July 7.
On Thursday the FIFA reversed a ban on the Islamic hijab enforced since 2007, notably because the garment did not provide a safety risk if approved headscarves are used with quick-release fasteners.
Headscarves were banned from FIFA competitions in 2007.
Last March 2012, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) allowed women players to wear the hijab, a decision the waited ratification by FIFA's meeting last Thursday.
Later on, IFAB asked for further medical experts' advice that eased their opposition to the ban on Muslim footballers' hijab last week.
Though it is a member of the FIFA, the French association confirmed that its decision will apply to those participating in national French selections for international competitions, plus national competitions.
The FFF "needs to respect the constitutional and legal principles of secularism which prevail in our country and which are part of its statutes," said the statement.
In April 2010, FIFA announced that it was planning to ban the Muslim headscarf and other religious outings during the 2012 London Olympics.
Last year, Iran women's football team were prevented from playing their 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kickoff.
Iran, who had topped their group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers after going undefeated, were given 3-0 defeats as a penalty which abruptly ended their dreams of qualifying for the London Olympics.
France's soccer federation's decision won applauds of French politicians and feminist groups.
"Allowing the headscarf on the fields opens Pandora's Box," GÃ©rald Darmanin conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) deputy, told the French daily Le Figaro.
"This kind of decision accentuates divisions between communities," he added, noting that religion should stay out of sports.
Feminist groups also complained the new FIFA ruling could spread to other sports.
"Today it's soccer. Tomorrow it will be swimming," said feminist activist Asma Guenifi, and president of the group, "Ni Putes Ni Soumis" (Neither Whores Nor Submissive) according to Le Figaro.
The FIFA decision is a "serious step backwards," she added.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
France banned Muslim women from wearing hijab in public places in 2004 and face-veil in 2011.
Hijab has never posed a problem for veiled Muslim athletes.
Physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition.
In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, half a dozen of veiled Egyptians, three Iranians, an Afghan and a Yemeni completed in sprinting, rowing, taekwondo and archery.
During the games, many hijab-clad athletes made it to the medal schedule, including veiled Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara, who made history for Muslim women athletes after winning a gold medal at the 2006 West Asian Games.