French channel CNews has come under heavy fire for unleashing a barrage of Islamophobic remarks aimed at Moroccan football player Nouhaila Benzina and her groundbreaking decision to wear a hijab during the ongoing 2023 Women's World Cup.
Columnist Philippe Guibert's incendiary commentary on the HDPros show not only condemned her choice but also launched a scathing attack, labeling the hijab as an "incredible regression."
Guibert's deeply offensive remarks struck at the heart of the matter, suggesting that Nouhaila's hijab sends a message of immodesty to her teammates, insinuating that it signifies a woman's obligation to conceal her hair, shoulders, and overall figure to be considered modest.
This attempt to impose a narrow definition of modesty on diverse cultures and religious practices has ignited a blazing inferno of controversy, leaving fans and spectators appalled.
The Moroccan footballer's historic moment as the first hijabi player in the prestigious tournament, being held in Australia and New Zealand should have been a celebration of diversity and inclusion.
However, CNews' distressing comments have overshadowed this momentous occasion and cast a shadow on the spirit of global unity that the World Cup embodies.
As news of Guilbert's statement spread like wildfire, a torrent of outrage engulfed social media, with countless individuals denouncing the French channel's audacious attempt to project France's controversial religious symbol ban onto an athlete from another nation and a tournament hosted outside the borders of France.
One Twitter user succinctly expressed the frustration felt by many, saying, "She is Moroccan, plays in Morocco, and participates in the World Cup in Australia very far from your racist country. What is your problem?"
Others passionately argued that such remarks perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to the perpetuation of Islamophobic attitudes toward women who choose to wear the hijab.
Moreover, they fervently emphasized the need to respect diverse cultures and religious practices without judgment or imposition of one's own beliefs.
"It's extraordinary. Men puffed up with certainty to explain to her what her clothes mean to her. Fortunately, her playmates obviously don't see it the same way," a Twitter user rightly pointed out, highlighting the absurdity of men presuming to dictate a woman's choice of clothing.
This unsettling incident has revealed a disheartening discrepancy between French media and other Western media outlets.
While many international platforms have celebrated Nouhaila's historic moment as a positive step towards inclusivity and diversity in women's football, French media, epitomized by CNews and Guibert's comments, have taken a regressive approach.
CNews is not alone in projecting the country's national agenda and domestic debates over religious symbols onto international athletes from different cultural backgrounds.
L'Equipe, a prominent French sports-focused newspaper, added fuel to the fire by labeling Benzina's hijab as "highly controversial."