Retailer Decathlon cancels plans to sell sport ‘hijab’ in France

A photo taken on April 3, 2015 shows a visitor trying on a headscarf on a seller's stand during the 32nd Annual Meeting of France's Muslims, at Le Bourget Exhibition center, north of Paris. (AFP)
Updated 27 February 2019

Retailer Decathlon cancels plans to sell sport ‘hijab’ in France

  • French retailer Decathlon already sells the runner’s hijab in its stores in Morocco, and had planned to introduce the garment to France in the coming weeks

PARIS: Retailer Decathlon Tuesday canceled plans to sell a sports version of the hijab Muslim headscarf in France, following an outcry.
“We are effectively taking the decision to not sell this product in France for now,” Decathlon official Xavier Rivoire told the RTL broadcaster, despite defending to AFP earlier the company’s goal to “make sport accessible to all women in the world.”
The controversy is the latest in France over face- and body-covering garments worn by Muslim women which many in the secular country perceive as instruments of women’s subjugation.
Others argue that they allow Muslim women to be an active part of broader society.
France in 2004 banished the hijab, which covers the hair but leaves the face open, from the classroom and government offices, but it is a common sight in the streets..
In 2016, the country with Europe’s largest Muslim population was deeply divided over the appearance on beaches of the body-concealing “burkini” swimsuit.
French retailer Decathlon already sells the runner’s hijab in its stores in Morocco, and had planned to introduce the garment to France in the coming weeks.
“The craze for the product (in Morocco) made us ask whether to make it available” in other countries too, said Rivoire, adding the garment “leaves the face free and visible.”
Angelique Thibault, who created the garment for Decathlon’s Kalenji running brand, said she was “motivated by the desire that every woman should be able to run in every neighborhood, every city, every country... regardless of her culture.”
Reports that Decathlon would introduce the sports hijab to France, however, raised public ire.
Such a product is “not forbidden by law,” Health Minister Agnes Buzyn responded on RTL, but “it is a vision of women that I do not share. I would have preferred that a French brand not promote the veil.”
Aurore Berge, spokeswoman for President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party added that “sport emancipates, it does not suppress,” lambasting “those who tolerate women in a public space only when they hide themselves.”
Several political leaders called for a boycott over the issue.
Meanwhile, US sportswear group Nike offers a hijab for women in black, grey, or white for 30 euros ($34).


Flying Dutch man’s mission to unite firms over climate change

Updated 23 January 2020

Flying Dutch man’s mission to unite firms over climate change

  • Polman has set his sights on using his sway among business chiefs, governments, finance and civil society to get them to work together on climate change and making economies fairer for everyone

DAVOS: While global leaders take to the stage at Davos in the Swiss Alps, one of the world’s most prominent businessmen is busy behind the scenes — trying to bring together the heads of major companies to tackle climate change and inequality.

Paul Polman became known as a leading voice on sustainable capitalism while running consumer goods giant Unilever for 10 years, and is a regular at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting for the global elite in the upmarket ski resort.

Since retiring from Unilever a year ago, Polman has set his sights on using his sway among business chiefs, governments, finance and civil society to get them to work together on climate change and making economies fairer for everyone.

“If you can bring about 25 percent of the industry together across the value chain, you can create tipping points, and that accelerates things,” Dutch businessman Polman, 63, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview at a Davos hotel.

His new sustainability consultancy, Imagine, set up last year, scored a major victory by organizing a fashion industry pact to announce at the G7 summit in France in August.

The pact involves 62 major fashion companies striving to use sustainable cotton, cut out single-use plastics, and align their businesses with the Paris climate pact to address global warming.

Now Polman wants to convene similar agreements in the food and land sector, tourism and travel, technology and finance, saying these companies had the biggest impact on the UN’s global goals to address inequality and climate change.

He was optimistic an agreement was achievable fairly quickly in the food industry, where he is already well connected as chairman of the Food and Land Use Coalition.

“They all want to be part of it ... six months from now we’ll have a substantial group in the food sector,” he said.

Polman said leaving Unilever had actually given him greater influence to change things for the better.

“As a CEO you had shackles around your legs,” said Polman, who has taken a leading role on a powerful list of bodies including chair of the International Chamber of Commerce.

With global challenges growing, governments could not be relied on, he said, adding that chief executives were starting to step up with bolder initiatives.

He cited Microsoft’s pledge to go carbon-negative by 2050 by removing carbon it has emitted over the past 45 years, and asset manager BlackRock saying it will stop investing in companies with a “high sustainability-related risk.”

“Things are happening at a faster pace than perhaps people think, but the multilateral process is difficult,” he said.

He pointed to disappointment over the recent COP25 climate talks, deforestation rising in Brazil under President Jair Bolsonaro, the US administration quitting the Paris pact, and the Australian government’s reaction over bushfires and climate change.

But there was greater awareness at Davos this year about the need to act, including a commitment to plant one trillion trees to curb climate-heating emissions, he said. “The initiatives are becoming bigger and bolder. Is this enough? No, because you cannot change the world without governments’ buy-in,” he added.