SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 26 September 2021, Sunday |

Sri Lanka plans to ban abayas and close Islamic schools

Sri Lanka announced on Saturday plans to ban the wearing of abayas and to close more than 1,000 Islamic schools known as madrassas, citing national security.

Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara said he signed a paper on Friday seeking the approval of the Cabinet to ban garments worn by some Muslim women that cover the body and face.

Such dress “has a direct impact on national security,” Weerasekara told a ceremony at a Buddhist temple on Saturday, according to video footage sent by his ministry.

“It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We will definitely ban it.”

The wearing of abayas was temporarily banned in 2019 after the Easter Sunday bomb attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 260 people. Two local Muslim groups that had pledged allegiance to ISIS have been blamed for the attacks at six locations — two Roman Catholic churches, one Protestant church and three top hotels.

Weerasekara also said the government would ban more than 1,000 madrassas, saying they were not registered with the authorities and did not follow the national education policy.

The bans are the latest move affecting the Sri Lanka’s minority Muslims.

Muslims make up about 9 per cent of the 22 million population, while Buddhists account for more than 70 per cent. Ethnic minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindus, comprise about 15 per cent of the population.