As a result of the of the suicide attacks on Easter Sunday that killed at least 250 people and injured hundreds, the Sri Lankan government have decided to ban face coverings in public.
The President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, said he was using an emergency law to impose the restriction from Monday.
According to a statement he made from his office, he said, any face garment which “hinders identification” will be banned to ensure security even as Muslim leaders have criticised the move.
The niqab and burka – worn by Muslim women – were not specifically named, even as the move is perceived as targeting the garments.
Sri Lanka remains on high alert eight days after Islamist attacks that hit churches and hotels.
Dozens of suspects have been arrested, but local officials have warned that more militants remain at large.
Sri Lanka has a sizeable and centuries-old Muslim population – out of 21 million, just under 10% are Muslim.
Only a small number of women are thought to wear the face-covering niqab, or the burka – a one-piece garment that covers the face and body.
Last week a Sri Lankan MP had proposed a ban on women wearing the burka, saying it should be outlawed on security grounds.
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, an organisation of Muslim clerics in Sri Lanka, was highly critical of the president’s decision.
“It is the stupidest thing to do. Three days ago we took a voluntary decision regarding this. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulema told all Muslim women not to wear face veils for security reasons. If they wanted to wear a veil, then they were told not to come out,” Hilmy Ahmed, the group’s vice-president, told reported to BBC.
“We see this as a reflection of the conflict between the president and the prime minister. We strongly criticise the decision. We will not accept the authorities interfering with the religion without consulting the religious leadership.”
The people have decided to take destiny into their hands as thousands of Sri Lankan troops stood guard on the streets, protecting churches and mosques over the weekend.
Considering precautionary measures, worshippers in the capital gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s Shrine, which was badly damaged in the attacks; more so, Sunday church services were cancelled across the country.
Authorities are also hunting for around 140 followers of the jihadist group Islamic State, which has said it was involved in the bombings, but has not given details.
The number of people arrested in connection with the bloodshed have risen to 150.