Sri Lanka Proposes Complete Burqa Ban, Outlawing Madrasa Education For Minority Muslims

Following last year’s deadly bombing that killed over 250 people including 11 Indians, a Sri Lankan parliamentary committee on national security has proposed an immediate ban on the burqa.

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The proposal brought about by MP Malith Jayatilaka, Chairman Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, stated that the police should have the leverage to ask anyone wearing a covering in a public place to take off such clothing in order to identify the person. If such a request is not obeyed, police can arrest the individual without the need of a warrant.

The suggestions featured in a special report presented in Parliament to resolve 14 controversial issues following the April 21 Easter attack last year and also recommended suspending the registration of political parties on an ethnic and religious basis. It also endorsed the country’s Election Commission to enact legislation to suspend the registration of these political parties.

The registration of political parties who have some racial or religious conflict on their name should also get prohibited. Such a party should convert themselves into a non-religious political party within a specified period of time, the report said.

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The report also states that all students studying in traditional madrassas should be engrossed in the normal school system under the Ministry of Education in three years’ time. The report proposed to start a special committee to regulate the madrasas under the Department of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs.

Nine suicide bombers from a local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) carried out a series of distressing blasts that bombed three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians.

How many people does it affect?

10% of the country’s population constitutes Sri Lanka’s century-old Muslim minority. However, it is only a small fraction of Muslim women that take to the hijab or burqa.

As the outcome of the Easter Sunday bombings last year, the then President Maithripala Sirsena evoked emergency powers to ban all forms of face-covering garments citing security reasons. Sirisena’s decision was not well received by the country’s Muslim groups at the time.

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Amongst many European nations, France was the first one to ban Islamic face veils, almost a decade ago. European countries such as The Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Chad have banned the burqa since.