Sri Lanka takes step toward banning burqas
Sri Lanka on Saturday announced plans to ban burqas and other face coverings in public, citing national security concerns, AP reports.
The big picture: This, along with the planned closure of over 1,000 Islamic schools that were allegedly defying national education policy, is the latest action against the country's minority Muslim population.
- The government also announced a new anti-terror law on Saturday to respond to religious “extremism,” giving itself authority to detain suspects for “deradicalisation," Al Jazeera writes.
- Burqas were temporarily banned in 2019 after the bombing of churches and hotels by Islamic militants that killed more than 260 people.
- By the numbers: "Muslims make up about 9% of the 22 million people in Sri Lanka, where Buddhists account for more than 70% of the population," AP writes.
The state of play: The country's minister of public security, Sarath Weerasekara, said he signed a cabinet order on Friday to ban burqas.
- That must now get approval from the cabinet of ministers and Parliament, where the government has a two-thirds majority, per Al Jazeera.
What they're saying: "In our early days, we had a lot of Muslim friends, but Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa," Weerasekara said, according to a video obtained by AP.
- "It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We will definitely ban it."
- The other side: "It’s part of the Islamophobic reaction in Sri Lanka," Shreen Saroor, a Sri Lankan peace and women’s rights activist, told Al Jazeera.