Nike star Ibtihaj Muhammad attacks French attitude to sports hijab

US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad takes part in the Nike show to present feminine world soccer cup jerseys in Paris on 11 March, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2019
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Nike star Ibtihaj Muhammad attacks French attitude to sports hijab

  • Ibtihajj Muhammad and representatives of her sponsors, Nike, criticized French attitudes to the hijab
  • The Nike hijab provoked a strong reaction in France

PARIS: American Olympic fencer Ibtihajj Muhammad and representatives of her sponsors, Nike, criticized French attitudes to the hijab on a promotional visit to the country.
Muhammad was attending a long-planned event in Paris at which the US sportswear brand launched their strips for 14 nations, including the hosts, in the women’s World Cup in France this summer.
In February, the American sportswear company was embroiled in a controversy when retailer Decathlon withdrew sports Nike’s hijab from its French stores after one day following threats.
“I’ll be in my @Nike pro hijab every damn day,” Muhammad, who in 2016 became the first American to compete in a hijab in the Games, tweeted before traveling to France.
“It’s sad to me that France has not joined the global conversation around inclusively, around diversity. To prohibit a company from selling a sport hijab is shameful,” the Olympic bronze medallist told AFP on Monday.
“I think that it hurts much more than it helps your nation here.”
Bert Hoyt, a Nike vice president, said the company were looking forward to the women’s World Cup in France.
“Our goal is to provide the access for all women to have the opportunity to play sport and to play women’s football,” he said.
“We believe that we are at the beginning of a journey and we believe that the World Cup in June will be a tipping point for the future of the women’s game.”
The Nike hijab provoked a strong reaction in France.
A spokeswoman for President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, Aurore Berge, said the sports hijab goes against French “values.”
Lydia Guirous of the center-right Republicans said it went hand in hand with “the submission of women.”
Muhammad disagreed.
“I think you’re not a feminist if you believe that wearing a hijab is not a choice,” she said. “Anyone who believes in individual rights, freedom of choice, should support women who choose to wear it.
“It’s not your choice. It should be our choice.
“And anyone who sees a problem with that does not belong in sport, because sport is a place that it supposed to be inclusive of everyone, not matter where you’re from, your sexual orientation, your faith, your skin color, your gender, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
In the French government, only Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu supported the sale of the hijab.
“I want to go and get women, mothers, girls wherever they are and as they are, to encourage them to practice sport, because it is, I am convinced, a powerful lever of emancipation,” Maracineanu said.
Muhammad’s hijab is not visible once she dons her fencing mask.
“I do not necessarily need a sports hijab to practice the sport I’m doing, but I know it has made my life easier,” she said.
“I hope it will help women all over the world to be more integrated by being active. There are so many stereotypes and bad perceptions that exist about the Muslim community,” she said.


Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 20 July 2019
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Algeria sink Senegal in fiery final to claim second Africa Cup of Nations

CAIRO: Baghdad Bounedjah’s early goal propelled Algeria to a first Africa Cup of Nations title in 29 years after a fiery 1-0 victory over Sadio Mane’s Senegal in Friday’s final in Cairo.
Bounedjah gave Algeria a dream start in the second minute when his deflected shot looped over Senegal goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, and it proved enough for the 1990 champions to lift the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.
For Senegal, who lost to Algeria by the same scoreline in the group stage, the long wait for a first continental crown goes on as coach Aliou Cisse, the captain of the 2002 runners-up, again fell short in the final.
It was the first title-decider to feature two African coaches since 1998, with Algeria boss Djamel Belmadi completing a whirlwind 12 months at the helm after inheriting a side that failed to make it out of the group stage two years ago.
With defensive rock Kalidou Koulibaly suspended for Senegal, Salif Sane deputised at the back and Ismaila Sarr was recalled in attack, while Belmadi kept faith in the same side that overcame Nigeria with an injury-time free-kick from Riyad Mahrez.
Senegal had understandably feared the absence of Napoli star Koulibaly, banned after two bookings in the knockout rounds, although the towering Sane was desperately unlucky as Algeria grabbed the lead with scarcely a minute played.
As Bounedjah took aim from 20 yards his effort smacked off Sane and arced high into the air before dropping underneath the crossbar and beyond a static Gomis, sparking delirious celebrations from both players and fans, some of whom arrived for the final on military planes provided by the Algerian government.
It was the first time Gomis had conceded in almost 400 minutes in Egypt having replaced the injured Edouard Mendy ahead of Senegal’s final group game.
Henri Saivet, who missed a penalty in the 1-0 victory over Tunisia, tried to catch Rais Mbohli out with a free-kick while Mbaye Niang fizzed a powerful drive just over as Senegal gradually showed signs of life before the half ended with both sets of players embroiled in a scuffle as they headed for the tunnel.
Senegal thought they had won a penalty on the hour when Cameroonian referee Alioum Alioum pointed to the spot for a suspected handball by Adlene Guedioura, but the official reversed his decision after a VAR review.
Niang rounded an advancing Mbohli after a searching ball through from Cheikhou Kouyate but the forward sliced wide of the target from a tough angle, with the Algeria ‘keeper then acrobatically tipping over a rasping drive from Youssouf Sabaly.
The Desert Foxes started to look jaded as Senegal brought on fresh legs in Krepin Diatta and Mbaye Diagne, but Youcef Belaili nearly made it 2-0 when his cross brushed the head of a defender and skimmed the roof of the net.
Sarr blazed over on the volley as Algeria clung on to their advantage in the closing minutes, the final whistle greeted by an outpouring of raw emotion as the North Africans emerged worthy winners of the expanded 24-team event.