Hate groups in Sri Lanka have made the attire of Muslim women a key target in their onslaught against Muslims. They have used security and the need for uniformity as reasons to attack Muslim female attire such as the hijab, the punjabi attire and the niqab.
The Punjabi dress/shalwar khameez
Although the Ministry of Education by a directive issued in 1980 permitted Muslim girls to go to school attired in a punjabi attire, since 2009, school authorities have prohibited this in many schools in the country. Various excuses have been made out such as the need for uniformity or the simple and oft used one ‘this is a Buddhist school/country’.
A father of Muslim child took the issue to the Supreme Court in SC (FR) 688/2012 and the matter was settled before the court with the school authorities giving a solemn undertaking to comply with the circular. However the situation has not changed drastically given that parents fear that their children will get victimized in school if they go against the school authorities.
Hijab and Abaya
At the height of the Bodu Bala Sena anti-halaal protest in 2013 there were several incidents of women being attacked for wearing the hijab or the abaya or even being asked to remove them. There was an incident of a female Muslim doctor at a hospital in the Colombo who was attacked by a man when she was performing her professional duties attired in a hijab.
Recently the University of Moratuwa stopped three Muslim girls from attending the university because of the niqab.Two students have filed cases in the Supreme Court in SC (FR) 424/2013 and SC (FR) 427/2013. Both these matters are fixed for support on April 29th, 2014. One student has made an application to the National Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission took the matter for inquiry on February 19th, 2014. The matter is pending a determination by the Commission.sever
The Bodu Bala Sena at several of its meetings publicly referred to this as the ‘goonibilla’ dress.
However the days ahead are not going to be easy for Muslim men, women or children because this is not just about the niqab or the hijab and its time that the Muslims saw the bigger picture.