The Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) based in Saudi Arabia has expressed its serious concern about the proposed banning of the Burqa in Sri Lanka and stressed that such blanket measures would violate Muslim women’s freedom to manifest their religion and would be an infringement of their human rights.
In a press release issued on April 29, the Commission pointed out that the ban on Burqa would (a) violate the Muslim women’s freedom to manifest their religion (ICCPR Art. 18(1); and exercise their choice for identity as guaranteed under (ICCPR: Art. 17(1); (b) expose them to religious discrimination (ICCPR: Art. 2(1), Art. 26); and (c) violate the rights of its minorities ‘to enjoy their own culture, and to profess and practice their own religion’ (ICCPR Art. 27). Such discriminatory measures will also cement negative stereotypes against Muslim women, disproportionately restrict their freedom to manifest their religion, cause intersectional discrimination and greater marginalization as well as stoke undue hostility/physical violence because of their clothing, it added.
The Commission indicated that such majoritarian rhetoric and discriminatory measures are contrary to the ideals of pluralism, counterproductive to societal cohesion and clear manifestations of Islamophobia. It, accordingly, urged the Sri Lankan Government to fulfill its international human rights obligations by ensuring to protect the rights of its Muslim minority to practice their religion, free from any coercion or discrimination. The Commission also urged the (a) Sri Lankan Muslim community and human rights organizations to exhaust all available domestic remedies including domestic courts for the redress of grievances and repeal of discriminatory laws; and (b) international community to engage with Sri Lankan authorities to seek redress for the aggrieved minority including by punishing those found guilty as per international human rights law.