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Sri Lanka to ban burqas, close Islamic schools

Sri Lanka on Saturday announced a ban on burqas and the closure of more than 1,000 Islamic schools in the country, according to The Associated Press.

"The burqa has a direct impact on national security," Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara said about the one-piece, full-body garb worn by some Muslim women.

He added, "It is a sign of religious extremism that came about recently. We will definitely ban it."

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Weerasekara said he signed a paper on Friday that advances the burqa measure to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval. He also addressed the closure of Islamic schools known as madrassas, citing their lack of adherence to national education policy, according to Reuters.

According to the U.S. State Department's 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka, the island country in South Asia officially recognizes four religions: Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. 

The country's population is 9.7 percent Muslim, compared with 70.2 percent Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu and 7.4 percent Christian.

The report states that Sri Lanka's government officials have practiced "systematic discrimination against religious minorities, especially Muslims and converts to 'free' (nondenominational and evangelical) Christian groups."

The last time burqas were banned in Sri Lanka was in 2019 after Islamic militants killed more than 250 people in the bombings of churches and hotels, according to Reuters.

Other countries have enacted burqa bans in recent years as well, including Switzerland and Denmark.