Muslim-majority Malaysia rejects ‘offensive’ proposal to ban burkini

Malaysia is set to vote on a proposal to outlaw the burkinis worn by some Muslim women, a move which is expected to cause uproar among some communities and a diplomatic headache for the country’s president.

The proposed law would ban women from wearing head coverings during public places, including shopping centres, restaurants, public transport, bars and beaches.

But it also says anyone found wearing the full face veil or face coverings while working or attending public events, including in schools and universities, would be prosecuted.

Supporters say the legislation would be a blow to extremism and is aimed at protecting women from harassment, but opponents argue it would infringe on women’s religious freedoms.

Malaysia has one of the world’s highest rates of religious persecution, with some 3.7 million Muslims estimated to have been killed.

Critics say the bill will not tackle the root causes of discrimination, such as poverty, lack of education and the failure of some Muslim communities to share power.

Some Muslim organisations have said they will challenge the proposal, saying the burka and burkinabes are symbols of Islamic extremism.

Islamic law prohibits wearing the face veil and other face covering in public and it requires women to cover their face for the entire day.

Earlier this year, the country banned the face coverers of women over 40, a measure which was widely criticised.

Muslim leaders said the legislation could lead to discrimination against women in Muslim-dominated Malaysia, where the majority are Muslim.

They have warned that the proposed ban could lead the country to a situation of religious extremism similar to what was seen in Indonesia in the 1980s and 1990s, when women were required to wear head covering during prayers.

Many Malaysians have criticised the proposed legislation as a “slander” aimed at Muslim women.

Opponents also say the proposal will further marginalise the countrys Muslim minority, who make up about 20 per cent of the population.

More to come.