Recent Thefts Prompt Jewelers in Inida to Seek a Burka Ban

Muslim women wearing the head-to-toe Islamic robe, or burka, could be banned from shopping at jewelry stores in Pune, India, after a series of thefts carried out by burka-clad robbers, The Associated Press reports.

The Pune Jewellers Association has applied to police for permission to bar people who cover their faces from their stores, association president Fattechand Ranka told the AP. Ranka said the move comes after closed circuit cameras in stores showed that three recent thefts, each of jewelry valued at more than $8,500, were carried out by customers wearing burkas. Their faces could not be seen by security cameras.

Ranka reportedly said his move was not aimed at Muslims, who are a minority in the western Indian city in Maharashtra state, but would target anyone who refused to show their faces to the security cameras. Many Hindu women in India also wear veils.

Ranka said he had sent a letter to Maharashtra’s police chief but that he had not yet received a response.

Pune police commissioner D.N. Jadhav said police would not allow the ban fearing it could spark tensions with the Muslim community, the AP reports.

Relations between Muslims and Hindus have often been tense since the subcontinent’s bloody partition and the creation of Muslim-majority Pakistan at independence from Britain in 1947.

“If they are really concerned about security, they can appoint saleswomen and women security guards in their shops,” Jadhav told the AP.

Reaction among the Muslim community was mixed.