The French Senate has voted to ban sports players wearing headscarves during competitions, a move politicians say was taken in the interests of religious neutrality.
The contentious decision, opposed by Emmanuel Macron’s government, was approved by 160 votes to 143 in the upper house of parliament on Tuesday.
Prior to the vote, senators from the right-wing Les Republicains party had amended the proposed legislation, which initially concerned “religious symbols”, to explicitly mention “the wearing of the veil”.
“Today, there is legal uncertainty about the wearing of religious symbols, and it is necessary for the state to clearly define the rules,” the amendment read.
“If the wearing of the veil is not explicitly forbidden, we could see the emergence of community sports clubs promoting certain religious signs,” it added.
As well as their supposed concern for secularism, senators argued that headscarves were a potential safety hazard for those wearing them during sports.
As members of the National Assembly and Senate will meet to discuss the text further, the amendment may yet be dropped.
Over the past few decades, France has become embroiled in controversy over bills which critics say restrict religious freedoms. After outlawing religious symbols in schools in 2004, the country imposed a ban on full-face veils in public in 2011.
Last year, Mr Macron increased oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs, saying he wished to prevent radical Islam from taking root in France. Some commentators suggested the president adopted the policy in a cynical bid to win over right wing voters ahead of the upcoming election.
It is unclear whether a ban on headscarves at sporting events – something which is already enforced by the French football federation – would affect the 2024 Paris Olympics.