Sri Lanka to ban burqas over ‘national security’ concerns

The Sri Lankan government on Saturday said it would soon outlaw the burqa, a loose garment which is sometimes worn by Muslim women to completely cover their face and body in public.

It was unclear whether the ban included the niqab — another type of garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the face but leaves the eyes open.

The Buddhist-dominated nation has already introduced a temporary ban on burqas following terror attacks which killed over 260 people in 2019.

Curbing ‘religious extremism’

“The burqa has a direct impact on national security,” said Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara on Saturday.

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

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

Weerasekara said he would be seeking approval from the Cabinet of Ministers to make the ban permanent.

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Islamic schools to close

The minister announced the move during ceremony in a Buddhist temple. He also said the authorities were closing over 1,000 Islamic schools, known as madrassas, in the Asian country.

The madrassas, according to the minister, were not registered and were not following the national education policy.

“Nobody can open a school and teach whatever you want to the children,” he said.

Government to detain extremists for ‘deradicalization’

Muslims make up some 9% of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population.

Following the 2019 bombings of hotels and Christian churches, a presidential commission called for a ban of Islamist extremists and ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups, saying those factions were feeding off each other.

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Also on Saturday, President Gotabaya Rajapksa announced that the government would grant itself new powers for “deradicalization” of suspected extremists.

Under the new measures, authorities would be able to detain anyone suspected of “acts of violence or religious, racial or communal disharmony or feelings of ill will or hostility between different communities” — and keep them in detention for up to two years.

The new rule, according to the AFP news agency, does not apply specifically to Muslims and can be used against any religious group or community.

Burqa, hijab or niqab? What is she wearing? Hijab Most Islamic scholars agree that the hijab, which covers the head and neck, and comes in any number of shapes and colors, must be worn by Muslim women. American teen Hannah Schraim is seen wearing one here while playing with her brother.

Burqa, hijab or niqab? What is she wearing? Chador The chador, which is usually black, is a body-length outer garmet often worn in Iran and among modern-minded women in the Gulf States, as here in Saudi Arabia. It is not fastened with clasps or buttons and therefore has to be held closed by the wearer.

Burqa, hijab or niqab? What is she wearing? Niqab A niqab is a veil and scarf that covers the entire face yet leaves the eyes free. It covers a woman’s hair, as it falls to the middle of her back and some are also half-length in the front so as to cover her chest. Here it is being worn by women attending a rally by Salafi radicals in Germany.

Burqa, hijab or niqab? What is she wearing? Abaya An abaya is a loose-fitting, full-length garment designed to cover the body. It may come in many different styles, as seen here at an Arab fashion show, and is often worn in combination with hijab or niqab.

Burqa, hijab or niqab? What is she wearing? Burqa The burqa is the most extensive of all Muslim garments, covering the entire body from head to toe. It traditionally has a woven mesh area around the eyes, severely restricting the wearer’s vision. Here they are seen casting their ballots in Pakistani parliamentary elections.

Burqa, hijab or niqab? What is she wearing? No veil Queen Rania of Jordan says that Islam does not coerce women to wear any head coverings and that it is more important to judge a woman by her ethics and values, rather than what she wears. She is seen here meeting refugees in Greece. Author: Jon Shelton

dj/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters)