Sri Lanka moves to prohibit wearing burqas and to shut down more than 1,000 Islamic madrassas

"The burqa has a direct impact on national security," says Minister of Public Health Sarath Weerasekara.
Muslim woman wearing a burqa at a zoological park on the outskirts of Colombo

Pointing to national security, Sri Lanka officials have announced plans to prohibit people from wearing burqas and to shut down over1,000 Islamic schools, known as madrassas.

"The burqa has a direct impact on national security," Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara said Saturday, one day after signing a document seeking approval from the country's Cabinet of Ministers to prohibit burqas, which are coverings that some Muslim women wear, according to the Associated Press.

"In our early days, we had a lot of Muslim friends, but Muslim women and girls never wore the burqa," Weerasekara also said, according to video sent by his ministry. "It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We will definitely ban it."

Wearing burqas was temporarily prohibited in 2019 following Easter Sunday bombings on churches and hotels in the country that left more than 260 dead, the wire service also reports.

Weerasekara said the government will prohibit more than 1,000 madrassas, stating that the schools are not registered with authorities and fail to adhere to the national education policy, the AP reported. 

Muslims represent a minority of about 9% of the Sri Lankan population, while Buddhists represent more than 70%.