Sri Lanka bans burqa, niqab face coverings under emergency law

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has banned face coverings, invoking emergency law, his office said, effectively outlawing attire like niqab and burqa following suicide attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.

President Sirisena said the regulation will come into effect from April 29.

Any face coverings which can be a threat to national or public security, and make it difficult to indentify persons will be banned, the statement said.

During Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war, full face helments which cover the chin were also banned, though activists went to court against the move after the war ended. They said full face helmets improved the safety of riders.

It was not immediately clear how the emergency regulation will affect full face helmets. The statement did not make any distinction on face coverings and referred to a standard law.

Most Muslim women of Sri Lankan origin wear the saree, Western dress and other attire similar to the hijab, which leave the face uncovered.

But covered faces had become more common in recent years.

Following Easter Sunday attacks by extreme Islamists, there had been increasing calls for the burqa to be banned, though the suicide bombers themselves were men with uncovered faces. Those caught on camera were shown wearing Western dress.

However, the police had published pictures of several wanted women. These women did not have their faces covered.

The office of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said in a statement earlier in the day, that he had asked the Justice Minister to prepare laws after consulting the Muslim community since Sri Lanka’s main organization had passed a resolution endorsing such a ban. (Colombo/Apr27/2019-SB)