Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters/File
A woman who identified herself as Nayet, wearing a burqa, is seen after her release from a police station in Paris on April 11, 2011. France's ban on full face veils, a first in Europe exposes anyone who wears the Muslim niqab or burqa in public to fines and lessons in French citizenship.

She wore a face veil to a Paris opera. They asked her to leave

A woman in full niqab was asked to remove her full-face veil – or leave a performance of La Traviata in Paris earlier this month. Besides France, how many other countries – and US states – ban full-face veils? 

The Opera Bastille in Paris ejected a woman who was wearing a full face veil apparently after members of the cast said they would not go on with the show until she was removed.

A 2011 French law bans anyone from wearing clothing that covers his or her face, which officials argue prevent clear identification of a person – a security risk, they say, as well as a “social hindrance within a society which relies of facial recognition and expression in communication,” according to Breitbart.

The law effectively prohibits women from wearing full niqab in public spaces including streets, shops, museums, public transportation, and parks. The ban also applies to the burqa if it covers the face. A woman may only wear a niqab or burqa is if she is travelling in a private car or worshipping.

Breitbart reported the woman, who was said to have been from the “Gulf area” was sitting with a man at a performance of La Traviata in the front row of the theater. Her seat was just behind the conductor and theater officials spotted her on a monitor, noting her veil covered her nose and mouth.

“I was alerted in the second act,” said Jean-Philippe Thiellay, the institute’s deputy director, adding that “Some performers said they did not want to sing” if something was not done, according to French 24.

An official told the woman, who was a visitor, that her face covering was banned in France and asked her to either uncover her face or leave the room.

“The man asked the woman to get up, they left,” Thiellay said.

The pair had paid €231 each for their seats and did not demand any compensation, the Opera Bastille said, according to the International Business Times.

“It’s never nice to ask someone to leave,” Thiellay said. “But there was a misunderstanding of the law and the lady either had to respect it or leave.”

The incident comes amid rising concern in France over homegrown jihadists, as hundreds of defectors are believed to be fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Despite women in Raqqa, the caliphate’s de facto capital, suffering extreme societal repression, an increasing number of foreign women have traded their lives and families in France to join the jihad society, The Christian Science Monitor reported. Women moving to Syria to get married or join their husbands are an essential element of the propaganda and strategy of IS's fundamentalist campaign.

Dozens of teenagers – including a young Jewish girl – have fled France to join Islamic State militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, French intelligence has revealed, according to the Daily Mail.

Last week, residents in the eastern French city of Strasbourg were alarmed this week when they saw what they thought was a group of “apprentice jihadists” training in a park using fake weapons, The Monitor reported. Police were called to the scene by local residents who said they witnessed “bearded men dressed in djellabas” participating in combat practice in the park.

France's 2011 face-covering ban, which applies to motorcycle helmets, masks, and balaclavas, is controversial as many believe it is meant to target traditional face veils of Muslim women.

The €150 fine for covering one’s face in public is relatively low compared to the €30,000 and one year in prison meant to punish anyone who forces another to wear face coverings, penalties that may be doubled for victims under 18.

Breitbart noted France’s Ministry of Culture said a bill was currently being drafted to remind theaters, museums, and other public institutions under its supervision of the rules regarding veils.

The hijab – which refers both to the traditional head garment and modest Islamic dress in general – is treated differently legally and culturally in various countries.

Tunisia, which lifted its 1981 ban on the hijab in 2011, and Turkey, which has banned it since 1997, are the only Muslim-majority countries which have prohibited the hijab in public schools and universities or government buildings. Syria banned face veils in universities from 2010.

A law banning the full-face veil in Belgium became effective in 2011. Several Italian towns have instituted local bans

Barcelona announced a ban on full Islamic face-veils in some public spaces including municipal offices, public markets and libraries, according to the BBC. Judges in Denmark are barred from wear any religious symbols, including headscarves, in courtrooms. A 2007 directive allows British schools to decide their own dress code.

On Monday, Australia quashed a plan to make burqa wearers sit behind protective glass screens in Parliament, according to The Wall Street Journal, and a new proposal being considered would require people wearing any sort of facial covering to remove it temporarily for security screening before entering public areas of the building.

In the US, 11 states and the District of Columbia ban face coverings, either fully or conditionally. Many of these “anti-mask” laws date back to efforts to inhibit Ku Klux Klan members who wore white hoods to conceal their identities.

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