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Sri Lanka's government proposes burqa ban

Burqa Credit DutchMen Shutterstock DutchMen/Shutterstock.

Despite concerns from religious rights groups, the Sri Lanka government is planning to introduced a ban on the wearing in public of full-face coverings, such as burqas.

According to UCA News, Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella said it is in response to security concerns. 

"Cabinet approval has been given to draft a complete ban on full-face coverings in public places in the country," Rambukwella said April 27.

"Many countries in particular have taken such measures for national security. There have been various discussions in this regard in the past. At a time when national security is important, it has been decided to focus on this issue.”

Before the proposal becomes law, it must be sent to the Department of the Attorney General and then approved by parliament. 

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In April 2019, bombings in Sri Lanka killed hundreds at several churches and hotels on Easter Sunday. Police recently arrested a former cabinet minister and his brother for alleged links to the bombings. Their attorney claimed the arrests were politically motivated.

Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, which represents 10% of the 22 million population, has decried the burqa ban proposal. 

Muslim Activist M. Saheel said the community is the victim of religious persecution, including the detainment of several Muslim activists and politicians, UCA News reported.

“Muslim-owned shops and houses were attacked just a few days after the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019,” she said. 

"In 2019, extremist Buddhists attacked Muslim-owned places of worship, businesses and homes in a host of cities across the nation just 22 days after the Easter carnage, but no culprits have punished,” she said. 

"There have been a number of such incidents in the last few years and this could be just another."

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Nilay Saiya, the senior member of the Religious Freedom Institute, also lamented the proposal. According to The Diplomat, he said the ban would likely contribute to religious extremism rather than prevent it. 

“The veil bans represent a state attack on Islamic culture and values, and they naturally breed resentment among stigmatized and marginalized Muslim groups,” said Saiya.

“The growing discrimination against Muslims by the state and the demonization of Muslims by Buddhist nationalists in society in recent years are contributing to their radicalization. The burqa ban will only exacerbate this reality. ”

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