Sri Lanka to take time to consider proposed ban on burqa

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government said on Tuesday (Mar 16) that it would take time to consider a proposed ban on the wearing of burqas, which a top security official called a sign of religious extremism.

Sri Lanka’s minister of public security Sarath Weerasekara said on Saturday that he was seeking Cabinet approval to ban burqas – a garment worn by some Muslim women covering the body and face – a move he said would have a direct impact on national security.

However, government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said a ban was a serious decision requiring consultation and consensus.

“It will be done in consultation. So, it requires time,” he said, without elaborating, at the weekly media briefing held to announce Cabinet decisions.

Sri Lanka Burqa Ban

A Sri Lankan Muslim woman in black attire walks in a busy street of Colombo on Saturday, Mar 13, 2021. (File photo: AP/Eranga Jayawardena)

Earlier, a Pakistani diplomat and a United Nations expert expressed concern about the possible ban, with Pakistani Ambassador Saad Khattak tweeting that a ban would only injure the feelings of Muslims.

The UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, tweeted that a ban was incompatible with international law and the rights of free religious expression.

The wearing of burqas in Sri Lanka was temporarily banned in 2019, soon after the Easter Sunday bomb attacks on churches and hotels that killed more than 260 people in the Indian Ocean island nation.

Two local extremist groups that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group have been blamed for the attacks at six locations – two Roman Catholic churches, one Protestant church and three top hotels.

READ: Sri Lanka to ban burqas, close more than 1,000 Islamic schools

READ: Sri Lanka’s plan to bury Muslim COVID-19 victims on islet sparks outcry

Sri Lanka also plans to close more than 1,000 Islamic schools known as madrasahs because they were unregistered and didn’t follow national education policy.

Muslims make up about 9 per cent of the 22 million people in Sri Lanka, where Buddhists account for more than 70 per cent of the population. Ethnic minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindus, comprise about 15 per cent of the population.

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