Sri Lanka announces plan to ban burqa and close Islamic schools

13 March 2021, 15:34

Sri Lanka has announced a plan to ban the wearing of the burqa
Sri Lanka has announced a plan to ban the wearing of the burqa. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Sri Lanka's government has announced plans to ban the wearing of burqas and close more than 1,000 Islamic schools due to "national security".

The south Asian country's minister of public security, Sarath Weerasekara, confirmed he signed a paper on Friday with the aim of obtaining the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers to ban the piece of clothing.

Burqas are outer garments worn by some Muslim women that cover the body and face.

On Saturday, Mr Weerasekara told a ceremony at a Buddhist temple: "The burqa has a direct impact on national security.

"In our early days, we had a lot of Muslim friends, but Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa," Mr Weerasekara said, according to a video shared by his ministry.

"It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We will definitely ban it."

Wearing the religious garment was temporarily banned in Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday bomb attacks on churches and hotels in 2019, which left more than 260 people dead.

Two local Muslim groups that had pledged allegiance to Isis have been blamed for the attacks across six locations - two Roman Catholic churches, one Protestant church and three top hotels.

Mr Weerasekara also said the government will ban more than 1,000 Islamic schools, also known as madrassas, saying they are not registered with the authorities and do not follow the national education policy.

Banning burqas and madrassas would be the latest measures affecting the Indian Ocean island nation's minority Muslims.

Those who follow Islam make up about 9 per cent of the 22 million people in the country, 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.