The Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation has protested about the French Government banning its athletes wearing the hijab at Paris 2024 ©ISSF

A ban on French athletes wearing a hijab at next year’s Olympic Games would "send a message of exclusion", the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF) has warned.

French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra announced last month that the country’s athletes will not wear the veil during Paris 2024.

She claimed that this was to protect France’s "regime of strict secularism", but the ban was criticised by the United Nations and has now been condemned by the Riyadh-based ISSF, which represents 59 countries.

"We believe this contradicts the principles of equality, inclusivity and respect for cultural diversity that the Olympics stand for," a statement from the Athletes Commission of the ISSF posted on its social media channels said.

"The hijab is an aspect of many Muslim women’s identity and should be respected.

"This ban not only infringes upon the religious freedom of French Muslim athletes but could also deny them the opportunity to participate in the Olympics, representing their country and inspiring others."

The Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation has claimed that the
The Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation has claimed that the "hijab is an aspect of many Muslim women’s identity" ©Getty Images

The ISSF claimed that the ban was an attack on sportswomen from around the world, not just Muslim athletes hoping to represent France at Paris 2024.

"It contradicts the progress made by the International Olympic Committee in promoting gender equality and inclusivity in sports," it added.

"The Olympics have historically celebrated diversity, unity and athletic excellence,

"By implementing a hijab ban for their athletes, a host would send a message of exclusion, intolerance and discrimination that goes against the Olympic spirit."

The ISSF have urged the French Government to "reconsider this ban", which would mean "allowing all athletes to participate without compromising their identity or faith."

They called for "meaningful engagement with the Muslim sports community in France."

The ISSF added: "The Olympics should be a platform where athletes from all backgrounds unite, inspire and foster understanding among nations."

FIFA allows players to wear the veil, with Morocco’s Nouhaila Benzina the first player wearing a veil to participate at a FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim United States female fencer to compete while wearing a headscarf and winning a bronze medalist in Rio 2016, expressed her defiance against France's bans on her social media account.

She wrote: "Being challenged on the headscarf only strengthens our determination to wear the headscarf."

In 2019, French feminist group the International League for Women’s Rights called on Paris 2024 organisers to ban the veil and other items of Islamic clothing during the Olympics and Paralympics.

Earlier this year, France banned the wearing of the abaya dress by girls at schools, while Muslim women are already banned from wearing the veil in public institutions such as Government offices, schools and universities.