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The burqa is a sign of “religious extremism” says Sri Lanka’s Public Security Minister

Just over a week ago, Switzerland was planning the enforcement of a ban on the burqa and niqab. More recently, Sri Lanka has announced to do the same as the country’s Public Security Minister called the burqa a sign of “religious extremism”

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[1], CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just over a week ago, Switzerland was planning the enforcement of a ban on the burqa and niqab, also known as the Islamic Veil, following a public referendum. More recently, Sri Lanka has announced to do the same as the country’s Public Security Minister called the burqa a sign of “religious extremism”. Sri Lanka has seen an increase in Islamophobia ever since the Easter bombings that devastated the country in 2019. The government argues that the ban is being introduced on “national security” grounds and that it intends to tackle extremism and terrorism through this measure. Critics of the ban, however, call this to be a restriction which limits the freedom of women on what to wear and what not to. The order also includes forced closure of more than 1,000 Islamic schools in the country. The Public Security’s Minister has justified this by saying: “Nobody can open a school and teach whatever [they] want to the children.” 

Sri Lanka’s population is predominantly Sinhala Buddhist, making up 75% of its total population while the Muslim community make up about 9%. The recent development specifically targeting the Muslim minority in the country is not a first. In fact, during the ongoing pandemic, Sri Lanka enforced the cremation of all those who died due to Covid-19. This policy received overwhelming international criticism due to its disregard of the belief systems of minority groups such as Muslims who follow the practice of burial. Only recently did the Sri Lankan government retreat on this policy allowing people the freedom to hold funerals as they deemed appropriate. Consequently, the recent “Burqa Ban” comes as another attempt by the Sri Lankan government to restrict the freedom to practice one’s religion. 

Expressing her disappointment on this development, one female member of the Muslim community from Sri Lanka says that her country has the potential to do better yet it has chosen the path of division. She states: 

“We have so much to offer, and this saddens me. That I live to see this happen. You secretly hope that everything would turn out okay but when you know that there are forces at work to divide and to marginalize the Muslim community, I see this as revenge. Revenge on us for all those times when we slipped through the cracks and they wouldn’t really pinpoint at something. It’s like being a pawn in a chess game. You don’t know what move is going to be made. And with restrictions in press and media freedom what can we do? This is how Muslims are made to live here now. This doesn’t feel like our country anymore. It feels like you are living on a lease.”

She claims that arguing against this would only mean more trouble for the Muslim community as the government has only recently restored the burial rights and the community cannot afford more confrontation with the state. With regards to the Easter Bombings and the consequences it produced for Muslims in Sri Lanka, she further adds: 

“The bombings that happened in April [2019] were definitive in how it shaped us and the insecurities and racist ideas that poured out afterwards. […] Any Sri Lankan Muslim would tell you that the fear that we lived in was unprecedented and still is… being victimized because the bombers identified themselves as following an extremist agenda.”

The idea that terrorism is linked to Islam, and thus Muslim women’s use of face and body veil could be a potential threat for the peace of the countries, is not uncommon. Many European countries that have banned the burqa, including Switzerland which we covered recently, use this notion to justify their discriminatory measures. But one cannot help but highlight the irony which is clear as crystal. On one hand, governments enforce the use of face masks to control the spread of Covid-19 while on the other, the same governments ask women to remove their face veils because they believe it poses a risk to national security. So, what you get is a complete contradiction in stance because how can we determine that face masks, which also hide one’s face, be secure for the nation while face veils are not. Furthermore, beyond the security aspect, it is simply inconsistent to penalise one person for not wearing a face covering while asking another to remove it. 

It is also interesting to note that Sri Lanka has still not recognised, let alone admitted, to the human right abuses that were committed during the nation’s decades long civil war against the separatist Tamil Tigers. Therefore, the claim that the ban on the burqa and the closure of Islamic schools is in public interest and is an act that would help the state combat extremism, falls weak. According to the report published by the UN Human Rights Council, approximately 100,000 people were killed during the civil war, including at least 40,000 Tamil civilians who were murdered by the Sri Lankan forces in one of the final onslaughts. This government denounces this allegation and has failed to fulfil the repeated promises about investigating what really happened. 

There is a sense of apathy that becomes apparent when governments and states refuse to acknowledge the human tragedy that occurred in nations they represent. This only worsens when there is also no sense of urge to find truth transparently. Human right abuses are a form of extremism in themselves. Hence, the governments which fail to admit to them, especially when it is concerned with the country they are ruling, they inevitably expose their own discrepancy by claiming to combat extremism of other kinds. The same appears to be the case with Sri Lanka. 

The solution in defeating terrorism and extremism does not lie in placing restrictions against one particular group. Instead, what’s needed is an open-minded approach to understand how security threats can be averted. Face veils are not the cause of terrorism and bloodshed, mindsets are. It is the indoctrination of vulnerable groups who fall prey to extremists, it is about confronting the rooted issue of why extremism is thriving in a world which is meant to be harmonious and civilised. Ultimately, it has nothing to do with what one wears.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Ayesha Naseem
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Historian of Modern World History, with special interest in history of modern Europe and Britain. I also have a keen interest in politics, systems of rule, international relations and current affairs.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Daniyah Y

    17 March 2021 at 12:35 pm

    Great article. Personally, quite disappointed by this move… Sri Lanka has added itself to the long growing list of countries who have stolen the rights of hijabi women to practice their faith in public

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Politics

Anthony Albanese: Australia’s Newly elected Prime Minster

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International Transport for Aus via flickr.com

Anthony Albanese is officially Australia’s 31st Prime Minister after a swearing in ceremony in Canberra ahead of a crucial international dialogue with the US, India and Japan.

Australia’s prime minister-elect, Anthony Albanese, looks increasingly likely to form a majority government, with the party inching ahead in 78 seats across the country, as the Liberal party (Ex-Prime Minister Scott Morrison political Party) descends into turmoil following Saturday’s election (Election was conducted on 21stmay 2022) rout.

As counting continued on Sunday, Labor (Winning Political party)  leader Albanese took part in briefings with senior public sector officials to prepare him for Tuesday’s meeting of the quadrilateral security dialogue in Tokyo, which he will attend with the incoming foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong.

Albanese is expected to have one-on-one meetings with the US president, Joe Biden, Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the official Quad summit before returning to Australia on Wednesday.

Inside the lavish Government House the five ministers awaited Governor-General David Hurley and Linda Hurley before they and gathered guests sang the national anthem.

The Prime Minister was joined by his partner Jodi Haydon and son Nathan Albanese as he became only the fourth Labor leader to win government from opposition since World War Two.

The entire ministry has been divided among the five senior members, with the remaining frontbench to be sworn in once Mr Albanese returns from Tokyo.

Visiting a cafe in his home suburb of Marrickville on Sunday, Albanese said the result was a “really big moment” in his life, and he wanted it to be a seminal moment for the country.

He has flagged that on his return he will convene his first meeting of the national cabinet with all the state and territory leaders, which is now overwhelmingly comprised of Labor leaders.

With a national two-party swing towards the party of almost 4%, counting on Sunday showed that Labor was on track to increase its gains across metropolitan Australia, ahead in Bennelong in New South Wales and Deakin in Melbourne, and within striking distance of picking up the formerly safe Adelaide seat of Sturt, the seat of Moore in Perth’s north, and Menzies in Melbourne’s north-east.

If Labor is successful in winning these seats, the Liberal party will hold no ground in Adelaide or Perth, and only Alan Tudge’s seat of Aston across greater Melbourne after it lost the seats of Higgins and Chisholm to Labor, and Kooyong and Goldstein to teal independents.

Labor has also clawed back ground in the NSW south coast seat of Gilmore which has seen a swing towards former NSW transport minister Andrew Constance, and was ahead in the Tasmanian seat of Lyons.

As shellshocked Liberals were coming to terms with the electoral loss, which has seen them lose more than 15 seats to Labor, the Greens and teal independents, MPs were preparing for a change in leadership to the former defence minister Peter Dutton.

The final result has been projected as 77 for Labor, 59 for the coalition and 15 on the crossbench.

Outgoing deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said his future as Nationals leader was in the hands of his party room colleagues.

Independent candidates elected on Saturday will be pushing the government to deliver on three issues: a more ambitious climate policy, a national integrity commission and women’s equality.

Monique Ryan, who is on track to seize the seat of Kooyong from outgoing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, said voters had responded to a coalition government shifting “too far to the right”.

Moderate Liberal and outgoing minister Simon Birmingham said the party needed to step up its 2030 emissions target and do more to preselect women in safe seats.

The Greens, having secured a record primary vote, are on track to hold 12 Senate seats in the new parliament and up to five lower house seats.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Biden signs $40B support package for Ukraine while overseas

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Four months into the Russian invasion in Ukraine, Biden has signed a support package of $40B to help in Ukraine. 

The breakdown of the package would be $20B in military assistance, $8B in general economic support, $5B to address global food shortages and more than $1 billion to help refugees. 

The bill was passed in the Congress by support of both parties and as the president of the United States of America is visiting Asia right now, a copy of the bill was flown to him by a U.S. official traveling on a commercial flight to Seoul for his signature. 

These unusual circumstances display the urgency of the matter and while helping Ukraine is a noble thing to do but, as the author Kenneth Eade has pointed out “War is the most profitable business on earth.” 

We wonder about the prioritization of the breakdown. Half of the support package is intended for lethal weapons. Which also means more damage, more innocent lives that will be lost a longer uncertainty for our future.

As noble as this gesture of supporting the Ukraine is, who is benefitting from this deal? Or is it just a means to prolong the war? Where do their priorities lie with the fight against Russia or the support of Ukraine? 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Hungary Announces State of Emergency Due to War in Ukraine

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  • Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has officially declared a new state of emergency for Hungary in a Facebook video that was posted on Tuesday. Orban stated that the war in Ukraine poses “a constant threat to Hungary” and that the state of emergency would allow the Hungarian government to respond more efficiently to difficulties that arise due to the war.
  • The state of emergency will allow the Hungarian government to pass laws without the involvement of the Parliament and will offer them the opportunity to temporarily digress from existing laws. This is the third state of emergency that Orban has passed while in office. Previously, Hungary dealt with a state of emergency due to the European refugee crisis as well as one declared due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Emese Pasztor of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union criticizes Orban and his government stating that another introduction of a special legal order “will become the new normal, which will threaten the fundamental rights of all us, and rule by decree will further diminish the importance of the Parliament.”
  • A few have criticized the introduction of another special legal order stating that it makes Orban’s government too powerful considering that his party, the Fidesz party, already holds a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. Orban has stated in the Facebook video that the first measures will be announced on Wednesday. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Samar Idlibi
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Samar is a UC San Diego graduate with a degree in Communication and a minor in Business. In addition to her passion for research and writing in relation to current events, she also utilizes her skills in areas such as digital marketing. Furthermore, she is deeply interested in positions that involve oral communication skills such as leadership roles and public speaking.

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Russia-Ukraine

Russian Soldier Gets Life in Prison

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21 year old Vadim Shishimarin was the first guilty verdict in the first war crime trial within Ukraine following Russia’s invasion earlier this year. Shishimarin was convicted of killing a 62 year old unarmed Ukrainian civilian on February 28th of this year. The court officially stated that Shishimarin “saw a civilian on the pavement, Oleksandr Shelipov…knowing that Shelipov is a civilian and is unarmed and does not pose any threat to him — fired several shots at Shelipov from his AK-gun.”  

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to the three-panel court for firing at Shelipov, but claimed he did not do so with intention to kill him, a point his lawyer argues should invalidate Shishimarin for being accused of murder. He apologized for killing the civilian, stating he was “nervous the moment it happened,” and claiming, “I didn’t want to kill. But it happened and I do not deny it.” The court has sentenced Shisimarin to the maximum sentence of life in prison, which Shisimarin and his attorney plan to appeal. Judge Serhiy Agafonof stated that regardless of intent, his actions violated international laws of war  “provided by the Geneva convention.” 

Dmirtry Peskov, Spokesperson to the Russian President stated his concerns regarding the verdict, calling it “unacceptable,” “staged,” and “outrageous.” He stated the Kremlin’s hope to intervene within this case to assist Shishimarin. 

The Ukrainian report states that over 10,000 other war crimes involving 600 suspects are to be investigated. Shishimarin’s case paves the way for future trials, while also giving insights into how Ukrainian judges will be conducting these trials. The case also sends a message to Russian soldiers still occupying Ukraine, giving them reason to reconsider their position and actions. 

It remains to be seen if Russia would enact a similar law to America that bypasses accountability for war crimes. In 2002, former US President George Bush passed the Hague Invasion act, limiting Americans from being held accountable for war crimes. Wars in the past, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria have totaled over half a million civilian deaths as a result of ongoing conflict by a foreign invasion. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Russia-Ukraine

Russian Diplomat Resigns Due to “Witless” War, Condemns Russia

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After 20 years of service, Russian Diplomat Boris Bondarev has resigned over the war incurred by Russia in Ukraine through a letter posted on social media. Bondarev has called Russia “witless” for its invasion within the Eastern European country. He stated that “Those who conceived of this war want only one thing – to stay in power forever…To achieve that, they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this.”

“Today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy,” he went on to write. “It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred. It serves interests of few, the very few people thus contributing to further isolation and degradation of my country. Russia no longer has allies, and there is no one to blame but its reckless and ill-conceived policy…When you see that your country is doing the worst things and being a civil servant you’re somehow related to that, it’s your decision just to terminate your connection with the government. We all must be responsible. And I don’t want to have any responsibility for what I don’t approve of.”

Bondarev stated his decision to quit was made in February, but took him two months to find the resolve to publicly announce his resignation. Bondarev is the first to make his resignation public, praised by the UN watch. Moscow has yet to respond to his departure. However, Russian news agency Kommersant did report on this, stating they also knew the names of other diplomats who have resigned following the invasion but have not announced it. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Daily Brief

Starbucks Leaves Russia After 15 Years

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  • Starbucks is leaving Russia and closing its 130 locations after fifteen years of operating there. McDonalds, Exxon Mobil and other companies made similar moves in recent weeks.
  • Starbucks will pay its estimated 2,000 employees for the next six months, while also helping them find new jobs. The company has not disclosed the financial impact of these actions.
  • The decision to leave Russia was made in March, with the CEO at the time, Kevin Johnson, stating that the company condems “the horrific attacks on Ukraine by Russia and our hearts go out to all those affected.”
  • The US placed many economic sanctions on Russia after they invaded Ukraine, some of which make it more difficult for western companies to operate there.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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