Muslim women in burqa face veils
Muslim women in burqa face veilsSerge Attal/Flash 90

The French Senate has voted in favor of banning the wearing of headscarves in sports competitions, arguing that neutrality is a requirement on the field of play, The Associated Press reported.

The French upper legislative house voted late on Tuesday in favor of amending a proposed law stipulating that the wearing “of conspicuous religious symbols is prohibited” to take part in events and competitions organized by sports federations.

In their text, senators clearly said that the amendment aims at banning “the wearing of the veil in sports competitions.” They added that headscarves can put at risk the safety of athletes wearing it when they practice their discipline.

The amendment was adopted with 160 votes in favor and 143 against. A commission composed of members from the Senate and the lower house should now gather to find a compromise on the text before it is published, meaning the amendment can still be erased.

The vote came a year after lawmakers in the French parliament’s lower house approved a bill to strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs in a bid to safeguard France from radical Islamists and to promote respect for French values.

France outlawed the wearing of the Muslim niqab (full face veil) - part of the burqa, or full body covering worn by Muslim women - in public in April 2011, citing security concerns as the reason for the ban. Women who wear the veil face a 150 euro ($190) fine.

France was the first European country to impose such a ban, having introduced a ban on women wearing the burqa in 2010.

A parliamentary committee in Belgium later voted to ban the burqa as well. Italy has drafted a similar law.

In 2018, Denmark approved a ban on garments that cover the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa.

In 2019, Austria introduced a law which banned the headscarf in primary schools. However, Austria's constitutional court later struck down the law.

Last year, Swiss voters narrowly backed a ban on full face coverings in public places.