In a momentous match during the Australia-hosted Women’s World Cup, Morocco secured a victory against South Korea, but the standout moment came from the 25 years old player Nouhaila Benzina, who made history as the first athlete to compete while wearing a hijab in a World Cup tournament.
While many celebrated this groundbreaking achievement, the milestone was also met with mixed reactions, with a surge of both support and criticism.
The contentious debate escalated when a leading French sports media outlet, L’Equipe, published an article highlighting the contrasting stances of France and FIFA on the issue of hijab in football.
The article served as a stark reminder of France’s official ban on wearing the hijab during official football matches, putting the country at odds with FIFA’s more inclusive policy.
On social media platform X, previously known as Twitter, users passionately applauded this historic moment, arguing that football should embrace inclusivity and accommodate athletes of all religious backgrounds.
However, there were those who voiced concerns about the player’s attire, citing that her hijab revealed her physical shape, which they considered to be against religious principles.
Others went a step further and labeled the act of wearing a hijab during such a prestigious competition as “inappropriate,” contending that it brought politics and religion into the sports arena.
In particular, France appeared to be deeply triggered by this incident. During a segment of the show “La Matinale Ete” on CNews, French politician Julien Odul expressed vehement opposition to the hijab in sports, calling it “intolerable” and presenting a “frightening image of sport.”
Following Odul’s remarks, a teacher named Philippe Guibert joined the discussion, stating that France traditionally keeps matters of religion, politics, and philosophy separate from sports.
In his view, introducing religious symbols on the football field would blur this distinction and could lead to unintended consequences.
As a result, this incident has ignited a heated debate over the contrasting views held by France and FIFA. While FIFA permits players to wear hijabs during matches, France firmly opposes this practice, exemplifying the clash between religious freedom and the principle of secularism in the country.
The controversy surrounding Nouhaila Benzina’s groundbreaking moment has spilled over into various online platforms as well.
Under BBC News’ Instagram post featuring Benzina’s achievement, one commenter criticized the hijab, branding it as a symbol of oppressive governance and representative of everything they believe is flawed with religious practices.