“Racist agenda”: Fear, worries about the ban on the burqa in Sri Lanka | Religion news


Sri Lanka’s decision to ban the burqa on “national security” grounds while labeling its use as “religious extremism” has been called a “racist agenda” used to cause divisions in the country.

A burqa is an outer garment worn to cover the entire body and face and is used by some Muslim women.

Sri Lankan Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera said on Saturday he had signed a document for cabinet approval to ban the burqa, adding that the government also plans to ban more than 1,000 schools. Islamists who challenged national education policy.

Sri Lankans have expressed disapproval of the proposal, with many seeing the act as an attempt to appease Sri Lanka’s Buddhist majority and cause divisions.

Sri Lankan-born Muslim women wait in line for COVID-19 blood test in Colombo, Sri Lanka [Chamila Karunarathne/EPA]

“It’s a racist agenda,” Hilmy Ahamed, deputy chairman of the Sri Lankan Muslim Council, told Al Jazeera. “They are trying to convince Buddhists to go after Muslims.”

Sinhala Buddhists make up around 75% of the country’s 22 million people, with Muslims making up around 9%. Tamils ​​from ethnic minorities, who are predominantly Hindus, make up about 15 percent.

The signed documents banning the burqa were submitted on Friday, according to Weerasekera. The proposal requires Cabinet and Parliament approval, where the government has a two-thirds majority, before it becomes law.

“The burqa has a direct impact on national security,” Weerasekara said during a ceremony at a Buddhist temple on Saturday. “This is a sign of religious extremism that has emerged recently. We will certainly ban it.

Weerasekera’s announcement came weeks before the second anniversary of the 2019 Easter attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in the country, which killed at least 269 people.

Two local Muslim groups who had pledged allegiance to the ISIL group (ISIL) have been blamed for the attacks.

“He [wearing a burqa] should be seen as a right of choice for women, ”Ahamed added.

“They forcibly cremated over 350 Muslims [COVID-19 deaths] against their religious beliefs and now they want to ban madrasas and the burqa. Will there be the same scrutiny on Christian and Buddhist education that serves the same purpose as madarasas to educate theologians?

In March of last year, the government imposed regulations that the bodies of COVID-19 victims could not be cremated. The rules banned burial, saying the virus could be spread by contaminating groundwater.

The ban was lifted last month after criticism from international rights groups around the world and months of protests mainly by Muslim groups.

True Cally Balthazaar, a gender activist based in the capital, Colombo, said the move would affect the lives of Muslims in the country after the government ordered the cremation of COVID-19 victims.

“I don’t think anyone making decisions about the burqa is doing so for national security purposes or with women’s rights in mind. I think the burqa has become the symbol of a power struggle that the state wants to control, ”Balthazaar told Al Jazeera.

“Having solved the cremation problem, we now have to face it. It affects the lives of Muslims, especially women, in the country. “

‘Public awareness of what the burqa is’

The burqa was temporarily banned after the 2019 bombings, sparking a mixed reaction with activists claiming it “violated the right of Muslim women to practice their religion freely.”

Jamila Husain, a Colombo-based journalist, said there was a need to “educate the public about what the burqa really is.”

“Few people other than Muslims know the difference between the burqa, the hijab and the niqab. Lack of awareness could lead to discrimination or targeting of Muslim women, ”Husain told Al Jazeera.

“After the Easter Sunday attacks, when the burqa was temporarily banned, Muslim women even covering their faces or heads with shawls were abused or threatened because some non-Muslims assumed that covering their heads was prohibited. So there needs to be adequate awareness before it becomes law. “

Sri Lanka was called on by the United Nations Human Rights Council last month to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses to account and bring justice to victims of its 26-year-old civil war , including for their treatment of Muslims.





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