The Sri Lankan cabinet on Tuesday approved a controversial proposed ban on wearing full-face veils (including Muslim burqas) in public places, citing a threat to national security.
“The Cabinet has approved the proposal…it will now go to the legal draftsmen and then be brought to parliament,” cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella told the weekly media conference.
The cabinet’s move came weeks after the Minister of Public Security, Sarath Weerasekara signed a note in march, seeking the approval of the Cabinet to ban burqas. Also at a time when the government is urging the public to wear face masks to prevent the spread of the virus, and a likely third wave in Sri Lanka .
In 2019, wearing a burqa in public was banned due to a wave of coordinated terror attacks on hotels and churches on Easter Sunday, that killed more than 250 people.
“All forms of face covers are a threat to national security,” he said. However wearing a face mask in public is allowed. The covering will include burqa and niqab.
The proposal now must be approved by Parliament to become a law.
The proposed ban was seen as an attack on Muslim women who wear burqa and has triggered concern domestically and internationally.
Last month, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Ambassador Saad Khattak criticised the attack, tweeting that the ban would hurt the feelings of Muslims.
Of the 22 million people living in Sri Lanka, Muslims make up to about 9 percent of it.