Sri Lanka’s cabinet has approved a ban on wearing full-face veils, including Muslim burqas, in public, citing national security grounds.
The cabinet approved the proposal by Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, Weerasekera said on his Facebook page.
The proposal will now be sent to the Attorney General’s Department and must be approved by parliament to become law.
The proposal should easily be passed as the government holds a majority in parliament.
Weerasekara has called burqas a “sign of religious extremism” and said a ban would improve national security.
But the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Ahmed Shaheed tweeted that a ban would be incompatible with international law and the right to free religious expression.
Sri Lanka’s Muslim community, which makes up 10 percent of the 22 million population, has complained of facing discmrimination at the hands of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.
Tensions between Muslims and the majority Buddhist Sinhalese population have been simmering since Easter 2019 after local “jihadists” were accused of suicide bombings at three hotels and three churches that killed 279 people.
Weeks later Sinhalese mobs attacked Muslims, killing one and wounded dozens more. Hundreds of homes and vehicles were destroyed and the authorities were accused of failing to stop the violence – a charge denied by Colombo.