In response to the Easter attacks that left more than 200 people dead, Sri Lanka’s government announced that face coverings would no longer be allowed in public.
“[President Maithripala Sirisena] has made this decision to strengthen national security, as well as to not inconvenience any demographic group so as to create a peaceful and harmonious society in Sri Lanka,” the government said in a statement on Sunday.
“All sorts of face covers that hinders the identification of individuals in a way that threatens national security shall be banned with effect from 29 April 2019, as per Emergency Regulations,” the statement said. “The order specifies that the base criterion for identification is the ability to see the face of an individual clearly.”
Islamic scholars in Sri Lanka endorsed the emergency law and encouraged Muslim women to not wear burqas or niqab— religious pieces worn by some Muslim women which covers the face.
“As Muslims, we are obliged to be responsible citizens and protect our motherland and maintain peace and order,” the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama said in a statement. “We appeal to all, or cooperate with the security forces and law enforcement agencies. In particular, we strongly appeal to our sisters to be mindful of the critical emergency situation now prevalent in our country and the difficulties faced by the security officers in performing their functions in situations where the identity of a person cannot be ascertained. Hence, we advise that in the prevailing situation our sisters should not hinder the security forces in their efforts to maintain national security by wearing the face cover (Niqab).”
Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, called the new rule “needless” and said that the move may prevent some Muslim women from leaving their homes.
“No indication that recent Sri Lanka bombers covered their faces but Pres Sirisena bans face covering,” Roth tweeted. “That needless restriction means that Muslim women whose practice leads them to cover up now won’t be able to leave.””
The Daily Wire previously reported that the attacks on April 21 were coordinated and carried out by suicide bombers and targeted churches and hotels. Police later said that the bombs included shrapnel and acid to make wounds “incurable.” ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement issued by its Amaq propaganda arm.
Following the attacks, Sri Lankan authorities raided several homes and warehouses to crack down on terrorism, The Daily Wire reported. The raids have led to the discovery of explosives and explosive devices, as well as an ISIS flag. Some of the raids have led to more bombings and conflict, including one in which terror suspects exchanged gunfire with authorities before detonating several explosives, killing themselves and their families.
Although 48 people were arrested at checkpoints outside the capital city of Colombo, many more terrorists involved are reportedly believed to still be at large.
The massive security threat led Catholic leaders in Sri Lanka to recently cancel Sunday masses and instead encourage Catholics to celebrate Sunday services from their homes.