Sri Lanka to ban burqa, close over 1,000 Islamic schools
Published: 11:25 AM, 14 March 2021
Sri Lankan government announced it will ban the wearing of the burqa and close more than 1,000 Islamic schools known as madrassas.
Separately, the government on Saturday announced using a controversial anti-terror law to deal with religious “extremism” and gave itself sweeping powers to detain suspects for up to two years for “deradicalisation”.
Sarath Weerasekera, the Minister for Public Security, told a news conference he had signed a paper on Friday for cabinet approval to ban the burqa - an outer garment that covers the entire body and the face and is worn by some Muslim women - on “national security” grounds.
“The burqa has a direct impact on national security,” he at a ceremony in a Buddhist temple on Saturday. “In our early days, Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa,” he said. “It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We are definitely going to ban it.”
The minister said he signed documents outlawing the burqa, but they need to be approved by the cabinet of ministers and Parliament where the government has a two-thirds majority to see its bills through.
Weerasekera also said the government plans to ban more than 1,000 Islamic schools, saying they are not registered with the authorities and do not follow the national education policy.
“Nobody can open a school and teach whatever you want to the children,” he said.
The wearing of the burqa in the majority-Buddhist nation was temporarily banned in 2019 after the Easter Sunday bombing of churches and hotels by armed fighters that killed more than 250 people.
Muslims make up about 9% of the 22 million people in Sri Lanka, where Buddhists account for more than 70% of the population. Ethnic minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindus, comprise about 15% of the population.