France: Niqab banned at Cannes Film Festival

ANKARA - The administration of the Cannes Film Festival in France is officially banning the niqab on the red carpet as well as inside the Festival Palace.

"In accordance with the [French]law of October 11 2010, it is forbidden to conceal your face in public places. Wearing a niqab is prohibited on the red carpet and in the Palace," the Festival’s press office told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

This decision comes after Danish director Charlotte Schioler, who is presenting a short film named "Slør"  ["niqab" in English], attended the premiere of Mike Leigh’s  "Mr. Turner" on May 15, wearing said niqab, a cloth leaving only the eyes uncovered, on the renowned red carpet.

"I wanted to know if I could walk the red carpet and enter the Palace wearing the niqab, Schioler told French daily “Le Monde". So I made a request to the security service. […] An agent with years of experience told me that they had received orders by email to not discriminate against people wearing religious symbols, including the niqab."

But three days later, Charlotte Schioler, who is not a Muslim but is studying the reasons for wearing the attire, managed to go through two security checkpoints, with a friend, before being stopped by security guards as she reached the Festival Palace.

“[Security] asked me to remove the veil,” recalls the Danish director. She then proceeded to climb the steps bareheaded before putting it back on once in the hall, away from the cameras. "Security guards and the police then wanted to verify our identity, she continues. They threatened to bring us to the police station.”

When asked about the Festival’s reaction, should Charlotte Schioler make another attempt – as she specifically declared she would - the press office replied:  "The Festival management offers no specific response, but will simply apply French law concerning public places."

The French October 11, 2010 law prohibits the concealing of one’s face in public. Those who break it are liable to face one year’s imprisonment and a fine of up to 30,000 euros. 

The law makes no mention of religious attire or signs because it would have been declared unconstitutional.  

Iranian actress and Jury member, Leila Hatami, and Bosnian director Aida Begic walked on the red carpet with their headscarves on.

The 67th annual Cannes Film Festival will end on May 25. The winner of the Palme d'Or will be announced on May 24.

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