A restaurant owner in northern Germany has expelled a Muslim woman who refused to remove her niqab, according to the Rheinische Post newspaper.

The incident triggered a social media storm which started last Saturday when a Muslim woman entered Seekrug restaurant to see the local “Festival of Light”.

The owner of the restaurant, Christian Schulz, said he asked the woman to remove the veil and show her face, but she had refused and left the place shortly afterwards.

The man received very negative comments on social media for his actions.

The incident attracted more than 3,000 people who gathered inside and outside of the restaurant.

“In a time of Islamist terror it is really necessary to show spreading Islam the limits set by our secular society. Citizens admire you for your courage,” wrote Thomas Mueller, referring to the restaurant owner.

According to a new study, Germany is seeing a rise in Islamophobia. The study underlines the tensions surrounding the recent influx of refugees, adding that over 40 percent of residents said they believe Muslims should be forbidden from coming to Germany.

The study surveyed a total of 2,420 Germans. It was conducted by researchers at the University of Leipzig in cooperation with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation, and the Otto-Brenner foundation.

In a similar study in 2009, just one-fifth of Germans expressed the same sentiment.