- Sri Lanka bans any form of face covering in public including burqas and niqabs
- Ban introduced citing ‘national security’ and not making ‘identification difficult’
- President Maithripala Sirisena announced emergency laws a week after atrocity
- Over 250 killed after suicide bombs went off at six luxury hotels and churches
Sri Lanka announced a ban on face coverings, including veils and burqas, in the wake of the Easter suicide bombings that killed 253 people.
President Maithripala Sirisena used emergency powers to ban any form of face covering in public.
The new decree announced today means Muslim women in Sri Lanka will no longer be able to wear veils covering their faces.
An MP called for the ban last week, citing the religious garment’s use by terrorists to escape authorities by concealing their identities.
The powers prevent the wearing of the niqab, which covers all but the eyes, and the burqa, which includes a veil across the eye opening.
But the law does not prevent women wearing the chador or the hijab, which leave the face exposed but cover the hair and neck.
The restriction will take effect from Monday, President Sirisena’s office said in a statement today.
It read: ‘The ban is to ensure national security… No one should obscure their faces to make identification difficult.’
The announcement came days after local Islamic clerics urged Muslim women not to cover their faces amid fears of a backlash after the bombings carried out on luxury hotels and churches by jihadists affiliated to ISIS.
The Sri Lankan cabinet had proposed laws on face veils at a recent meeting.
It had deferred the matter until talks with Islamic clerics could be held, on the advice of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Muslims in the majority Buddhist nation account for about 10 per cent of its 21 million population.
Most Sri Lankan Muslims practise a liberal form of the religion and only a small number of women wear the niqab.
The law takes effect eight days after the Easter bombings of churches and hotels that killed more the 250 people.
Dozens of suspects have been arrested but local officials and governments around the world have warned that more militants remained on the loose with explosives.
Just days after the co-ordinated suicide attacks, Sri Lankan MP Professor Ashu Marasinghe called for the burqa to be banned across the country to prevent male and female terrorists using it to cover up their identity.
Professor Marasinghe, who is a member of the United National Party, declared on Facebook that he was going to present a private member’s bill about the issue.
He went on to claim that both male and female terrorists have used the burqa in the past while committing atrocities. Marasinghe also called for the niqab to be outlawed.
Defence sources told Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror that female accomplices had escaped from a Dematagoda apartment complex wearing burqas.
Officers had been questioning a suspect in the building hours after the initial attacks when they set off a suicide bomb, killing three police officers, where three suspects were detained.
The effects of Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings reverberated across two faiths today, as Catholics shut out of their churches for fear of new attacks and left with only a televised Mass.
Many across the nation knelt before their televisions as Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, delivered a homily before members of the clergy and the country’s leaders in a small chapel at his residence in the capital.
Ranjith told those watching across the nation: ‘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.’
The closing of all of Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches – an extraordinary measure unheard of in the church’s centuries on this island off the southern tip of India – came after local officials and the U.S. Embassy in Colombo warned that more militants remained on the loose with explosives a week after initial bombings.
Before services began, the Islamic State group claimed three militants who blew themselves up on Friday night after exchanging fire with police in the country’s east.
Investigators sifting through that site and others uncovered a bomb-making operation capable of spreading far more destruction.
Police said they had arrested 48 suspects over the last 24 hours as checkpoints mounted by all of Sri Lanka’s security forces sprung up across this country of 21 million people. Those arrested include two men whom authorities recently appealed to the public to locate.
The government also warned that it would crack down on those spreading false information and making inflammatory remarks.
Police, meanwhile, entered the main mosque of National Towheed Jamaat on Sunday afternoon, just a day after authorities declared it and another organisation terror groups over the bombings.