A ban on women wearing burqas came into force in Sri Lanka on Monday, a week after eight suicide bombers claiming links to Islamic State blew themselves up, killing more than 250 people in churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.
Maithripala Sirisena, the president, issued the ban citing security reasons under the emergency law that he set in motion in the wake of the attacks.
Although the face veil ban will be automatically lifted with the emergency law, a presidential spokesman told The Daily Telegraph that the government is looking at imposing a more permanent ban on the Muslim face veil.
“The government is studying the legislations of countries such as France and Belgium that have banned the face veil, and are looking at bringing in a regular legislation banning it,” Sugeeswara Senadhira the media secretary to the president told The Telegraph.
In 2011, France became the first European country to ban the full-face veil in public places.
Under the ban, no woman is able to leave their home with their face hidden behind a veil without running the risk of a fine.
Read more | Sri Lanka attacks
On Sunday night, a statement issued by the presidential media said that Mr Sirisena “has taken steps to ban all forms of face covers that may hinder one’s identity been ascertained, as a threat to national security and public safety.”
Currently “all forms of face covers” banned include full face helmets, that were outlawed during the country’s three decade civil war, and again in 2011 during a rise in bank thefts by men in helmets with visors.
The burqa ban has been met with a mixed response. “It should have been banned immediately, not a week later,” says 52-year-old Safra Cassim, who has been wearing the face veil for many years, but has taken it off since Sunday’s attacks.
“My daughters and I have been asking our friends and relatives to take off their face veils since the attacks. Most have, but some of the ladies are feeling a bit shy, and are staying indoors for now. I understand, because after more than 20 years of covering (my face) – I feel naked without it. But we have to stand together and cooperate at this time of need and security threat, don’t we?” said Mrs Cassim.
However, some feel that the ban, especially a permanent one, may encourage more extremism and create a “breeding ground” for more terrorists.
“While the government has the complete support of the Muslim community in bringing in this temporary (the burqa ban) law against terrorism, we need to be careful as it may touch the sentiments of some people, creating a breeding ground for more extremists,” said Mohamed Hashim Abdul Haleem, the Minister of Muslim Affairs.
“We should of course as a community ask women to take it off at this hour of need,” he added.
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