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After an Islamic Veil Is Spotted on an Audience Member, Opera Cast Issues an Ultimatum That May Surprise You


“This episode shows that people are using vigilante justice to enforce the law..."

"La Traviata" at

The first act of "La Traviata" had just concluded at the Opera Bastille in Paris when the deputy director got an ultimatum from the cast.

A female audience member sitting in the front row was wearing an Islamic face veil — and if she (or the veil) didn't take a hike, the cast wouldn't take the stage for the second act, the Telegraph reported.

"La Traviata" at "La Traviata" at Opera Bastille (Image source: Opera house website)

France's public ban of the veil (niqab) was enacted in 2011 and upheld by the European Court of Human Rights earlier this year, the paper said.

So, with the law on his side and the prospect of the show not going on, opera deputy director Jean-Philippe Thiellay took action.

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

During the intermission the woman — described as a tourist from a Gulf state, the Telegraph said — was told by an opera house attendant that she could stay if she removed her veil.

"He told her that in France there is a ban of this nature, asked her to either uncover her face or leave the room,” Thiellay said to the Telegraph.

The woman and her husband left the room, the New York Times reported.

Once news broke Monday regarding the Oct. 3 incident, the Times reported that the French government would review its guidelines to help theaters, museums and other public places enforce the face veil ban.

Women wearing a face veil in public may be fined up to 150 euros (almost $190) and required to attend citizenship classes, the Telegraph said. Those forcing women to cover their faces may be fined up to 30,000 euros (almost $38,000) or twice that amount if the women are under 18, the paper added.

Elsa Ray, spokeswoman for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, told the Times the incident smacked of "vigilante justice."

“This episode shows that people are using vigilante justice to enforce the law at a time when women in full veils are being physically attacked on the street,” she told the Times. “The woman and her husband paid dearly for those opera tickets, and this shows the atmosphere of hate in contemporary France.”

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