In fear of attacks by groups influenced by the growing anti-Muslim sentiments in Sri Lanka, Muslim organizations have initiated a campaign to persuade Muslim women to opt for coloured Abayas instead of the black ones that are being presently worn.
A New Indian Express report states that the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka (MCSL) – a network of Muslim organizations, has kick started a campaign titled ‘Bring your black abayas, we will give you coloured abayas’.
The report states this campaign is being implemented in the hope of making the Abaya- the loose outer garment worn as a cloak to cover the body from the shoulders to the feet by Muslim women – more acceptable to the Sinhalese majority in the country.
The black abaya and the niqab have been heavily criticized by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), which has attributed the garment to Islamic extremism. As a result, the two garments worn by Muslim women has turned into subjects that have aroused fear and suspicion among the Sinhalese majority.
President of MCSL has stated that they are currently in the process of getting new abayas made and that the distribution would commence in ten days.
New Indian Express report has also quoted the Advisor to the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU), Mohammad Dahalan as stating, “The back abaya and the niqab, the face covering which is less commonly worn, have been creating negative feelings among the majority Sinhalese-Buddhists. When everybody is in black, it gives the impression that we are a uniformed force. And the niqab has raised security concerns.”
Meanwhile, MCSL Vice President Hilmy Ahamed told Colombo Telegraph that the program was initiated so that particularly those from low-income families can continue to wear the abaya without being targeted. He said that the MCSL is donating zakath money (donations given to low-income families during Ramadan season) so that low income families can make their purchases. “We have managed to manufacture these Abhayas at a very reasonable price. The fabric importer has volunteered to give the fabric at cost,” he said adding the beneficiaries of the program are selected in order to ensure only those who are eligible to receive zakath benefit from the program.