Facial Covering Law Sparks Controversy After Muslim Woman Is Forced To Leave Opera

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For the first time since France’s ‘burka-ban’ in 2011, a Muslim woman wearing a facial covering was removed from an artistic venue. The move has divided France’s artistic and social communities, who appear to be split due to the religious and personal freedoms issues that the ban calls into question.

Initially, the unnamed Muslim woman was allowed to enter the opera theatre and begin viewing “La Triviata,” a French opera about the life of socialist leader François Mitterand. At the beginning of the second act, one of the cast members noticed the woman sitting in the front row with her facial covering. Numerous cast members refused to perform so long as the woman was covering her face.

Jean-Philippe Thiellay, director of the Bastille Opera, spoke of the security guard who asked the woman to please remove the covering. ”He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature, asked her to either uncover her face or leave the auditorium,” said Thiellay. “The man asked the woman to get up and they left. It was unpleasant getting her to leave. But there was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady either had to respect it or leave.”

In opposition to Thiellay’s comments, frequent opera attendee Guy Laurent told reporters, “What possible harm could a woman sitting quietly in the audience with face covered do to anyone?” said Laurent. “The woman would clearly have felt utterly humiliated by what happened – French culture should be more tolerant, it is not the job of theatres to enforce petty laws.”

In response to the incident, French officials have stated that they fully intend to step up their “policing” of citizens wearing masks or other facial coverings while in public. It is essential to know that the ban on facial coverings is not directed at any one group of people. The ban includes any garment of clothing or object that hinders the identification process of an individual by authorities.

In June of 2014, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the ruling stating that it was an issue of public safety and that masks obstruct the authorities ability to safely identify an individual. While the motive behind the ban may be based on the notion of public safety, the law is still viewed as controversial. Some European countries such as Belgium followed suit with facial covering bans of their own, but most notably; the United Kingdom rejected the ban citing personal freedom as the major objective. 

Source: Daily Mail