Sri Lanka Mulls Banning Burqas and Closing 1,000 Madrassas

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Local evangelical alliance favors religious freedom for Muslim women in majority-Buddhist island nation.

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka’s government said Tuesday it would take time to consider a proposed ban on the wearing of burqas, which a top security official called a sign of religious extremism.

The minister of public security, Sarath Weerasekara, said Saturday he was seeking approval from the Cabinet of Ministers to ban the outer garment worn by some Muslim women covering the body and face.

“The burqa has a direct impact on national security,” he told a ceremony at a Buddhist temple, without elaborating.

“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.”

However, government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said a ban was a serious decision requiring consultation and consensus.

“It will be done in consultation. So, it requires time,” he said without elaborating, at the weekly media briefing held to announce the cabinet decisions.

The wearing of burqas in Sri Lanka was temporarily banned in 2019 soon after the Easter Sunday bomb attacks on churches and hotels that killed more than 260 people in the Indian Ocean island nation. Two local Muslim groups that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group were blamed for the attacks at six locations: two Roman Catholic churches, one Protestant church, and three top hotels.

Earlier, a Pakistani diplomat and a UN expert expressed concern about the possible ban, with Pakistani Ambassador Saad Khattak tweeting a ban would only injure the feelings of Muslims. The United Nations’ special rapporteur on …

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