Sri Lanka to ban burqa and shut many Islamic schools, minister says

Sarath Weerasekera calls full face covering ‘a sign of religious extremism’

Ella Glover
Saturday 13 March 2021 17:08 GMT
A burqa is an outer garment that covers the entire body and the face
A burqa is an outer garment that covers the entire body and the face (AP)

Sri Lanka will ban the wearing of the burqa and shut more than 1,000 Islamic schools, the country’s minister for public security said on Saturday.

A burqa is an outer garment that covers the entire body and the face. It is different to a hijab, which covers only the head. 

Sarath Weerasekera called the full face covering worn by some Muslim women “a sign of religious extremism” and said the country was banning the burqa on the grounds of “national security”.

“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 government also plans to close more than 1,000 Islamic schools in the majority Buddhist country. 

Mr Weerasekera said the schools were going against national education policy. 

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

The burqa was banned in Sri Lanka temporarily in 2019 after a series of terror attacks by Islamic militants that killed more than 250 people in hotels and churches.

Last week, Switzerland voted to ban face coverings, including the burqa, by a tiny margin. 

The measure to amend the Swiss constitution passed by a 51.2 to 48.8 per cent margin, provisional official results showed.

Walter Wobmann, chair of the referendum committee and a member of parliament for the Swiss People’s Party, called the burqa “a symbol for this extreme, political Islam which has become increasingly prominent in Europe and which has no place in Switzerland”.

Fewer than 40 people in Switzerland wear a burqa or niqab, according to research by the University of Lucerne, and only around 5 per cent of the population are Muslim. 

Amnesty International called the ban “a dangerous symbolic policy that violates freedom of expression and religion”.

France banned wearing a full face veil in public in 2011 and Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have full or partial bans on wearing face coverings in public.

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