A week after Easter suicide bombings, Sri Lanka announced a ban on all face coverings, including burqas and veils to prevent terrorists from hiding their identities.
President Maithripala Sirisena banned any form of face covering in public. All Muslim women in Sri Lanka will no longer be able to cover their faces with veils.
An MP Called for the ban last week, saying the religious clothes are used by terrorists to escape authorities by hiding their identities.
The emergency powers prevent the wearing of niqab, which covers the entire face except for the eyes, and the burqa, which has a veil across the eye opening.
However, the law doesn’t prevent women from wearing the hijab or chador, which leave the face exposed but cover the neck and hair.
President Siresena’s office said in a statement: “The ban is to ensure national security… No one should obscure their faces to make identification difficult.”
The announcement came a few days after Islamic clerics urged women not to cover their faces after the bombings carried out on churches and hotels by jihadists affiliated to ISIS.
The country’s cabinet had proposed laws on face veils at a meeting. It deferred the issue until talks with local Islamic clerics could be held.
Muslims in the country account for about 10% of its 21 million population. Most Muslims in Sri Lanka practice a liberal form of the religion and only a few wear the niqab.
The archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, delivered a homily before members of the clergy and Sri Lanka’s leaders in a small chapel. He told people watching across the country: “This is a time our hearts are tested by the great destruction that took place last Sunday.
“This is a time questions such as, does God truly love us, does he have compassion toward us, can arise in human hearts.”
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