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Paris Opera ejects woman for wearing veil

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Staff at the Paris Opera in Bastille told a veiled woman to leave during a performance of La Traviata. Photo: Panoramas/Flickr- Miguel Medina/AFP
08:29 CEST+02:00
France will urgently update its law around the wearing of full face veils in public after it emerged a female spectator was told to leave the Paris Opera during a performance La Traviata after singers spotted her wearing a niqab.

France's government is drawing up a new set of rules for theatres after Paris Opera ejected woman for wearing a niqab during a performance, the institution's deputy director said on Sunday.

The incident took place when a veiled woman was spotted on the front row of a performance of La Traviata at the Opera Bastille, Jean-Philippe Thiellay told AFP, confirming a media report.

France passed a law in 2010 banning anyone from wearing clothing that conceals the face in a public space, or face a €150 ($190) fine.

The woman was sitting just behind the conductor, visible to monitors, wearing a scarf covering her hair and a veil over her mouth and nose during the performance on October 3.

"I was alerted in the second act," said Thiellay, adding that "some performers said they did not want to sing" if something was not done.

France's ministry of culture said a bill was currently being drafted to remind theatres, museums and other public institutions under its supervision of the rules regarding veils.

The spectator and her companion - tourists from the Gulf region, according to MetroNews - were asked to leave by an inspector during the interval.

"He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature, asked her to either uncover her face or leave the room. The man asked the woman to get up, they left," Thiellay said.

"It's never nice to ask someone to leave... But there was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady either had to respect it or leave," he said.

The details of the 2010 law around the wearing of the full face veils like the Niqab and the Burqa state that officials in public places can bar women from entering the buildings if their faces are covered.

However once inside, they can only ask the person either to leave or to remove the veil. If they refuse, then officials cannot enforce the law themselves. Only the police have the actual power to forcibly remove the veil or to escort someone to the exit.

"She entered with no one noticing. I don't know how," said the director of the Opera House.

Although France's laws around the wearing of the veil are known worldwide, they are regularly the subject of controversy in France.

Last year, riots in the Paris suburb of Trappes were said to have ignited when police allegedly tried to force a Muslim women to remove her veil. Although many analysts were of the view that the trouble had more to do with disaffected youths than religion.

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France's 2004 which bars the wearing of religious symbols in schools and public buildings is also frequently at the centre of debate.

Last month The Local reported how the head of the famous Sorbonne university was forced to apologise to a Muslim student after she was asked to leave the class because she refused to remove her headscarve.

The Sorbonne said the lecturer was confused about the 2004 law, which does not in fact ban religious symbols from universities.

However a report in August 2013 caused a stir by calling for the 2004 law to be extended to cover universities.

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