COLOMBO: In the aftermath of the tragic Easter Sunday bombings, President Maithripala Sirisena announced new regulation that have banned Muslim women in Sri Lanka from wearing any form of face veils in public form. The new rule was announced on Sunday, a week after the coordinated blasts hit three churches and three luxury hotels, killing over 250 people and injuring over 500. In a statement, the President's office said, “The ban is to ensure national security... No one should obscure their faces to make identification difficult.”
Sirisena used emergency powers to prohibit the use of face coverings of all sorts which is an obstacle to ensure the identity of the people and a threat to national and public security. The order clarifies that the key criterion for establishing the identity of a person is the need to clearly expose the face. It also adds that the President took the decision to establish a peaceful and cohesive society which does not provide inconvenience to any community people as well as ensure national security.
Sri Lanka has a sizeable Muslim population, with just under 10 per cent of the country's 21 million following the religion. Only a small number of women are thought to wear the face-covering niqab or the burqa. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, an organisation of Muslim clerics in Sri Lanka, was highly critical of the president's decision. Hilmy Ahmed, the group's vice-president said, “It is the stupidest thing to do. Three days ago we took a voluntary decision regarding this. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema told all Muslim women not to wear face veils for security reasons. If they wanted to wear a veil, then they were told not to come out.”
They added, “We see this as a reflection of the conflict between the president and the prime minister. We strongly criticise the decision. We will not accept the authorities interfering with the religion without consulting the religious leadership.” This isn't the first time a country has banned the burqa. Several countries have permanently banned full-face veils in public places, including France, Belgium and Denmark. Chad, Gabon and the Republic of Congo in Africa also have restrictions in place.