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

COLOMBO – Sri Lanka will ban the wearing of the burqa and close more than a thousand Islamic schools, a minister said on Saturday, recent actions affecting the country’s Muslim minority population.

Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera said at a press conference that he signed a cabinet approval paper on Friday to ban the full face covering of some Muslim women on “national security” grounds.

“In our early days, Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa,” he said. “It’s a sign of religious extremism that has recently emerged. We will definitely ban it.”

Wearing the burqa in the Buddhist-majority nation was temporarily banned in 2019 after Islamic militants bombed churches and hotels, killing more than 250 people.

Later that year, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, known for cracking down a decade-long uprising in the north as defense minister, was elected president after promising crackdown on extremism.

Rajapaksa is charged with widespread legal violations during the war.

Minister Weerasekera said the government plans to ban more than a thousand Islamic madrassa schools that he said violate national education policies.

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

The government’s moves regarding burqas and schools follow an order from last year mandating the cremation of Covid-19 dead – against the religious will of the Muslims who bury their dead. The ban was lifted earlier this year following criticism from the United States and international rights groups.

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