A week after Islamic terrorists attacked Easter Sunday worshippers and tourists at multiple locations that killed 253 people across the island nation, President Maithripala Sirisena announced yesterday that he was exercising his emergency powers to ban the use of any form of face covering in public. An official statement from the President’s office announced that the decision will take effect on Monday. The ban “… is to ensure national security” and “…no one should obscure their faces to make identification difficult…” the statement said.
The ban comes shortly after local Islamic clerics urged women not to cover their faces amid fears of backlash after bombings carried out by Jihadists. There were reports of multiple casualties in shootouts and detonation of incendiary devices following raids by security forces to capture the remaining extremists still at large following last week’s bombings. Muslims form a minority of the 21 million population of Sri Lanka. While the vast majority of them practice a liberal form of Islam, the emergence of extremists has put the preparedness of the security establishment to deal with such threats into question. It has come out that multiple intelligence reports regarding planned attacks provided by the Indian security agencies were ignored.
An earlier presidential declaration under emergency powers had imposed a ban on National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibraheem (JMI) – the two organizations that are believed to have carried out the attacks at the behest of the Islamic State (ISIS).