The Shiv Sena mouthpiece on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban the burqa, pointing to a prohibition on the garment in Sri Lanka following serial blasts on April 21 that killed at least 253 people.
“People who wear face masks or other kinds of face covering in public can pose a danger to national security,” the Shiv Sena said in its mouthpiece, Saamana. “This is why Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, in a display of courage, declared that wearing the burqa or niqab will be a criminal offence.”
“When will that which has happened in Ravana’s Sri Lanka take place in Ram’s Ayodhya?” the editorial asked. “We ask this question because Narendra Modi is on his way to Ayodhya today.”
The Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece claimed that many Muslims have failed to understand their religion and therefore women continue to wear the burqa. “When any voice is raised against these practices, immediately there are cries of ‘Islam is in danger’, and it seems religion takes precedence over nationalism among Muslims,” it said.
The publication said the burqa has been banned in France, New Zealand, Britain and Australia. The Shiv Sena mouthpiece added that if such religious practices put national security at risk, they must be ended. “Modi will have to do it now,” the party said.
Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Bhopal, Pragya Singh Thakur, backed the Shiv Sena, News18 reported. Thakur, who is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, said Muslims should express solidarity in the matter in national interest.
However, Union minister Ramdas Athawale, who heads the Republican Party of India (A), said that all Muslim women who wear the burqa are not terrorists, ANI reported. “If they are terrorists their burqa should be removed,” he added. “It’s a tradition and they have the right to wear it, there shouldn’t be a ban on burqa in India.”
Nationalist Congress Party MP Majeed Memon asked the Election Commission to take action against the Shiv Sena, News18 reported. “Why this issue has been raised when the polling process is still on?” he asked. “Shiv Sena has no business, it is a political party. It can’t make this kind of a statement in middle of the polling to influence voters in Ayodhya and other places.” He said a debate on the burqa can be held after the elections are over.
Hindu Sena, a Hindutva organisation, had on Tuesday demanded a ban on face coverings, burqa and niqab in public places and in government and private institutions. Hindu Sena chief Vishnu Gupta wrote to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs demanding the ban, PTI reported.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi urged the Election Commission to take action against the Shiv Sena for demanding a ban on burqas, ANI reported. “They [Sena] should read the Supreme Court judgement where it says that the burqa is a choice,” News18 quoted him as saying. “These are the same people who had earlier said that women should not wear jeans. Women in India also put ghunghat, will they remove that too.”
Sri Lanka declared a state of emergency last week after the serial bombings in churches and hotels on Easter Sunday. The attacks have been blamed on an Islamist group called the National Thowheed Jamath, though the Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility.