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Bahrain: Indian restaurant shut down over banning entry to woman wearing hijab

The Indian National Flag on 5 September 2021 [Amarjeet Kumar Singh/Anadolu Agency]
The Indian National Flag on 5 September 2021 [Amarjeet Kumar Singh/Anadolu Agency]

Authorities in the Bahraini capital, Manama, have shut down an Indian restaurant after it allegedly denied entry to a woman wearing the hijab.

The incident caused outrage after video footage of restaurant staff preventing a veiled woman in the Muslim-majority country went viral on social media.

On Friday, in a widely-shared video the friend of the woman in question explained what happened. "The restaurant, "Lanterns" is telling her you cannot enter because you are wearing a hijab. Can you imagine?" the woman said. "The restaurants should not be making these types of decisions, because we are in a Muslim country."

According to Bahraini newspaper, the Daily Tribune, the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority (BTEA) has since launched an investigation into the matter.

BTEA has asked "all tourism outlets to comply with regulations and avoid enforcing policies that violate the laws of the Kingdom", BTEA stated, adding that "We reject all actions that discriminate against people, especially regarding their national identity."

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The Lantern restaurant's duty manager has also been taken into custody; the restaurant also confirmed that he was suspended. On Saturday, Lanterns responded to the social media backlash, by issuing a statement on its Instagram page explaining that "Everyone is welcome to Lanterns, which is how it has been for more than 35 years that we have been serving all nationalities in the beautiful Kingdom of Bahrain".

"Lanterns is a place for everyone to come enjoy with their families and feel at home. In this instance, a mistake has been made by a manager who is now being suspended as this does not represent who we are," the statement said, adding that customers will be able to dine at the restaurant free of charge, as a goodwill gesture.

The incident comes amid an Indian court's decision, earlier this month, to uphold a controversial ban on the hijab inside educational institutions in the southern state of Karnataka, which is governed by the Hindu hardliner BJP party. The ban sparked angry protests from Muslim women and girls.

However, Mariam Naji the friend of the woman barred from Lanterns disputed claims on social media that the manager was an Indian Hindu, but, rather, a British man named "Lloyd" and urged others not to spread misinformation.

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