Sri Lanka elections: Muslim women asked to remove veil

Sri Lanka elections: Muslim women asked to remove veil
A Sri Lankan Muslim woman (R) looks on at a checkpoint in Colombo on April 30, 2019. - Religious tensions and a government ban on covering the face since the Easter Sunday suicide attacks have forced conservative Muslim women in Sri Lanka to shun veils, head scarves and long robes in public. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)

Election authorities in Sri Lanka requested veiled Muslim women to show their face at polling centers when they go to cast their vote in the presidential election on Nov. 16.

The top contenders are ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa and opposition candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Saman Sri Rathnayake, commissioner general of the Sri Lanka Elections Secretariat, told Anadolu Agency that it was mandatory for veiled women to show their face when they go to cast their vote.

He assured that there was no ban on veils but this was a formality to ensure the holder of the identity card was the same person who will be casting the vote. The face cover or niqab practiced by a small minority of Muslim women has been at the center of controversy since the Easter terror attacks in April this year which claimed 250 lives.

Days after the blasts, the government announced a complete ban on all types of face covers including the niqab worn by Muslim women to quell growing mistrust among the multi-ethnic communities and to help security forces who were carrying out investigations and spot checks.

The ban was however lifted with the withdrawal of the emergency law in August.

However, Muslim women fear backlash from hardline Buddhist groups who continue campaigning against the niqab.

Sri Lanka’s Muslim community accounts to nearly 10% in the predominantly Buddhist nation.

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