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Sri Lanka to ban burqa, shut many Islamic schools, minister says

Sri Lanka will ban the wearing of the burqa and shut more than a thousand Islamic schools, a government minister said on Saturday, with the latest actions set to affect the country’s minority Muslim population.

Minister for public security Sarath Weerasekera told a news conference he had signed a paper on Friday for cabinet approval to ban the full-face covering worn by some Muslim women on “national security” grounds.

“In our early days, Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa,” he said. “It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We are definitely going to ban it,” he added.

Rajapaksa is accused of widespread rights abuses during the war, which are charges he denies. Weerasekera said the government plans to ban more than a thousand madrassa Islamic schools, which according to him, were flouting the national education policy.

“Nobody can open a school and teach whatever you want to the children,” he said. The government’s moves on burqas and schools follow an order last year mandating the cremation of Covid-19 victims, which is against the wishes of Muslims who bury their dead. This ban was lifted earlier this year after criticism from the United States and international rights groups.

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