Mar 13, 2021 - World

Sri Lanka takes step toward banning burqas

Picture of two women in Sri Lanka wearing burqas

Two Muslim women in Sri Lanka wearing burqas. Photo: LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP via Getty Images

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.
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