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Amnesty International express concern over 'worrying trend of increased marginalisation' of Sri Lanka's Muslims

Amnesty International have expressed concern over  "a worrying trend of increased marginalisation and targeting of Sri Lanka’s Muslim community" in a new report as discrimination of Muslims continues to rise on the island. 

In their report, Amnesty International highlighted four new Sri Lankan government proposals and regulations that have been proposed this month which target the Muslim community on the island.

Cabinet proposal to ban the burqa and the niqab 

Last week, Sri Lanka's Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara announced that Sri Lanka is to ban the burqa and close 1,000 Islamic schools on the grounds of 'national security'. 

The ban "targets, stigmatises, and marginalises women who choose to wear the face veil according to their religious beliefs. In practice this would mean that women who choose to wear the burqa and the niqab will be forced out of public spaces to stay at home, and will be unable to work, study or access basic services," Amnesty International stated. 

Cabinet proposal to ban madrasas

Weerasekara's proposal to close 1,000 madarasas (Islamic schools) "would almost certainly amount to discrimination solely on the ground of religion and may also violate the freedom to manifest religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching," the rights group said. 

Mandatory scrutiny of all Islamic religious books arriving in the country

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka issued a ban on importing Islamic religious books except for those that the Ministry of Defence approve after it "scrutinises and reviews the books as a part of its counter terrorism measures."

The mandatory scrutiny "violates Sri Lanka’s international obligations to respect the right to religion and belief, and to respect the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas as protected under the right to freedom of expression." 

New regulations issued under the PTA on de-radicalisation of people from holding violent extremist ideology

Last week, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, issued new regulations under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) which will refer individuals arresed or detained under the PTA to a 'rehabilitation programme' which have previously been "rife with serious human rights violations such as torture and other ill treatment including, sexual and gender based violence."

Moreover, the new regulations allow for detainees to be held in rehabiliation and detention for up to two years without a trial. "The new regulations intend to restrict the liberty of movement and penalise the suspect without any access to due process guarantee, without charge or trial," Amnesty International wrote. 

The rights group noted that the new regulations are "overly broad" and "run the risk of being used against civic dissent and legitimate criticism of the government."

Amnesty also expressed concern "that the regulations empower many agents, including mmebers of armed forces and persons authorised by the President, to make arrests."

These latest developments follow a trend of stigmatisation and discrimination of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, "without consecutive governments taking any concrete measures to decry, desist and hold perpetrators of violence to account." 

Read the full report here

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