Sri Lanka has declared its plans to ban the wearing of burqas and said it would close more than 1,000 Islamic schools, also known as madrassas, citing the reason as national security.
Separately, the government on Saturday announced using a controversial anti-terror law to deal with religious “extremism.”
The government also gave itself sweeping powers to detain suspects for up to two years for “deradicalization.”
The minister of public security, Sarath Weerasekara, said he had signed a paper on Friday seeking the approval of the consent of ministers to ban burqas.
“The burqa has a direct influence on national security,” Weerasekara told a ceremony at a Buddhist temple on Saturday.
“In our early days, we had a lot of friends who were Muslims, yet Muslim women never wore the burqa,” Weerasekara said.
“It is a sign of religious fundamentalism that came about recently. We’ll definitely ban it.”
Weerasekera also said the authorities plan to ban more than 1,000 Islamic schools that he said were defying national education policy.
“Nobody can establish a school and teach whatever you want to the children,” he said.
The authorities’ move on schools and burqas follow an order last year mandating the cremation of COVID-19 victims against the wishes of Muslims, who bury their dead.
This ban was lifted after criticism from international human rights groups.
The wearing of the burqa in the majority-Buddhist country was temporarily banned in 2019 after the Easter Sunday bombing of churches and hotels by armed fighters that killed more than 250 people.
Muslims make up around 9% of the 22 million people in the South Asian country, where Buddhists account for more than 70% of the population.
Tamils, who are mostly Hindus, comprise about 15% of the population.
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