Veiled Muslim Woman is Shown the Door by Singers at Opera House

Published: 21st October 2014 08:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2014 08:39 AM   |  A+A-

A woman wearing an Islamic veil covering her face was told to leave a Paris opera house. officials said yesterday (Monday).

The woman, described as "a tourist from a Gulf state", was ordered out after members of the cast refused to perform if she remained in the audience.

21sep_eid.jpgShe was sitting in the front row during a performance of La Traviata, featuring the soprano Diana Damrau, at the Opera Bastille.

France banned the wearing in public of the full-face veil, or niqab, in 2011. The ban was upheld by the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year.

Jean-Philippe Thiellay, the house's deputy director, said the singers told him during the second act that they would continue only if the woman, who was with a male companion, left.

During the interval, an attendant told her she could stay if she removed her veil.

"He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature," Mr Thiellay said. "He asked her either to uncover her face or leave the room. The man asked the woman to get up, they left. There was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady either had to respect it or leave."

Mr Thiellay said the opera house was now inquiring how the woman was allowed in earlier this month. "She entered without anyone noticing," he said. "This has never happened before."

He said he believed that the woman was unaware of the ban and did not appear to have deliberately disregarded the law.

After news of the incident emerged yesterday, the French government said it would review its guidelines to help theatres, museums and other public institutions enforce the ban.

A spokesman for the ministry of culture said it would update its instructions to the staff of public buildings to make clear that anyone whose face was covered should be refused entry and given an explanation that the full-face veil is banned in France.

The law stipulates that officials can bar women wearing veils from entering public buildings but cannot compel them to uncover their faces once inside. They can ask them to leave if they refuse to remove their veils but only the police can force women to remove them.

Women wearing a face veil in public may be fined as much as euros 150 and compelled to attend citizenship classes.

Anyone forcing others to cover their faces may be fined up to euros 30,000, or double that amount if the woman is under 18.

Most women who have breached the ban have simply been warned. Few have been prosecuted. Last year, a veiled woman stopped by police for an identity check was arrested after her husband allegedly attacked an officer.
The ban has led to misunderstandings over whether it also applies to headscarves, which have been banned in state schools along with other "religious symbols" since 2004.

However, headscarves are not banned in universities. The head of the Sorbonne university was forced to apologise to a female Muslim student last month after a lecturer asked her to leave his class because she refused to remove her headscarf.


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