In the News: Sri Lanka’s Emergency Law

A ban on face coverings in Sri Lanka following the Easter Sunday attacks has once again highlighted the issue of restrictions on religious freedoms in response to public safety concerns. According to the ban:

No person shall wear in any public place any garment, clothing or such other material concealing the full face which will in any manner cause any hindrance to the identification of a person. (Emergency Regulation 32A(1)(a))

Although the ban does not specifically mention the full-face veils worn by some Muslim women, it has been widely referred to in the media as a “burqa ban.”

In 2016, following the attacks in Nice, dozens of French municipalities passed “burkini bans.” In her commentary on the SHARIAsource Blog, Rachel Mazzarella explained how the Council of State – France’s highest administrative court – evaluated the security justification for the ban, ultimately finding that the ban “seriously, and clearly illegally, breached […] fundamental freedoms.” According to Mazzarella, one of the main challenges for France following the attacks was attempting to

reconcile its tried and true methods of maintaining public order with a changing reality and, in thus adapting, to avoid losing sight of the democratic and liberal values that have formed the very backbone of its existence.

In recent months, the Blog has also featured journal articles about France’s burkini ban from the perspective of the country’s colonial history, as well as comparisons with Belgium’s burkini ban. Together, the articles and commentary shed light on the different religious practices and legal debates behind media headlines on clothing bans.