By Duncan Mackay

Iran player_in_hijab_taking_goalkickJanuary 8 - A proposal to allow female Muslim footballers to wear the hijab during matches has been criticised by several groups in France, who have written to FIFA President Sepp Blatter to protest. 

FIFA's ruling Executive Committee decided last month to put forward a proposal to lift the ban on women wearing the Islamic headscarf and it will be put before the International Football Association Board (IFAB) at its next meeting in London on March 3. 

But a letter signed by the League of International Women's Rights (LDIF), FEMIX'SPORTS and the French Coordination for the European Women's Lobby have claimed that it would be unfair discrimination.

"To accept a special dress code for women athletes not only introduces discrimination among athletes but is contrary to the rules governing sport movement, setting a same dress code for all athletes without regard to origin or belief," the three groups said in the letter seen by insidethegames.

The groups claim that if the ban is lifted it would contravene FIFA's own rules, as well as those of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"FIFA rules are clear: 'The basic compulsory equipment must not contain any political, religious or personal statements' (law 4)," the letter said.

"So is the Olympic Charter: 'No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic site, venues or other areas' (rule 51)."

France banned Muslim women from wearing hijab in public places in 2004 and the face-veil in 2011.

The proposal to lift the ban has been led by Prince Ali Bin Hussein of Jordan, the vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). 

It followed a number of controversies involving Iran's women teams, including being forced to forfeit an Olympic London 2012 qualifying match against Jordan after not being allowed to play with the full Islamic headscarf and being briefly banned from the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010 for the same reason before a compromise was reached.

Iran football_in_tears_2_after_hijab_ban_Amman
"The reasons for the FIFA reversal are unacceptable," the French groups said in their letter to Blatter.

"It is now alleged that the hijab may be accepted as a 'cultural rather than a religious symbol' and therefore no longer contradicts the rule.

"FIFA is therefore accepting the recommendation of the workshop that took place in Amman last October, under the authority of FIFA vice-president prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein in order to satisfy the most conservative Islamic states.

"To maintain that the hijab is a cultural rather than a religious symbol is not only preposterous it is untrue.

"Nor can you ignore the fact that the dispute between FIFA and the Iranian regime is linked to Tehran's desire to impose its own religious law on women's sport.

"Sport must stay clear of political and religious interference. Its aim is also to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

"The FIFA ruling is about to abandon this noble aim and FIFA will be accountable for this."

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June 2011: Iran in new London 2012 row after women's footballers banned because of dress
August 2011: Iran coach happy to talk about football rather than clothing