In a year-end review of the condition of Muslim women, a columnist for The Telegraph writes:
In October in Paris, at La Traviata opera, the cast stopped mid performance when they saw a woman in a full-face veil. She happened to be a tourist from the Gulf on a visit to take in some French culture. They refused to carry on until she was removed from the theatre. [Here was a Muslim woman] acting contrary to stereotype – … enjoying Western high culture. However, [her] choices were reduced by others to nothing more than what [she wore].
As we leave 2014, let’s give a cheer for the rule of law, something this writer has overlooked.
Any account of the Opéra Bastille incident needs to feature the fact that wearing a burqa in public (the woman sat in the front row directly behind the conductor, which is way public) is illegal in France. Close to eighty percent of the French population (including many Muslims, some quite prominent) supports the ban.
2014 saw not only the Opéra Bastille incident; it saw the European Court of Human Rights uphold the French burqa ban. This ban is not some sort of rogue state operation; it has the backing of the ECHR.
So this incident wasn’t a group of bigots showing insufficient enthusiasm for intercultural communication (“enjoying Western high culture”) by “reducing” a human being to “nothing more than what she wore.” This incident was a group of people aware of the laws of their country and behaving according to them.
Nor does it seem to UD that this was a reductive act; rather, it was an expansive one. The reductive act issued from whatever outer and inner forces fashioned a human being who in order to enter the public sphere annihilates her identity.
The burqa ban is a significant expression of precisely the French culture this visitor from the Gulf wanted, as the Telegraph writer puts it, “to take in.” If a Western woman who visits the Gulf to take in some Saudi culture fails to cover herself (and fails to find a male minder to take charge of her wherever she goes), she may well be threatened with expulsion as soon as she deplanes.
Gotta respect the law.