Sri Lankan Cabinet approves proposed ban on burqas in public

Sri Lanka’s Cabinet has approved a proposed ban on wearing full-face veils including Muslim burqas in public, citing national security grounds, despite a U.N. expert’s comment that it would violate international law

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lanka's Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposed ban on wearing full-face veils including Muslim burqas in public, citing national security grounds, despite a U.N. expert's comment that it would violate international law.

The proposal will now be sent to the Attorney General's Department and must be approved by Parliament to become law. The government holds a majority in Parliament and the proposal could easily be passed.

Weerasekara has called burqas, a garment that covers the body and face worn by some Muslim women, a sign of religious extremism and said a ban would improve national security.

Last month, Pakistani Ambassador Saad Khattak tweeted that a ban would hurt the feelings of Muslims. The U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, tweeted that a ban would be incompatible with international law and the right to free religious expression.

Muslims make up about 9% of Sri Lanka's 22 million people, with Buddhists accounting for more than 70%. Ethnic minority Tamils, who are mainly Hindus, comprise about 15%.