Disputes erupt over official decision to cremate Muslims in Sri Lanka

Cremation of COVID-19 deaths in srilanka - Photo: Daily News

The Sri Lankan government has decided to cremate the bodies of 19 Muslims who died of Corona virus infection. This has been done by ignoring the objections of the families of these individuals. In Sri Lanka, the corpse is first handed over to relatives according to a rule set for the funeral of people who have become victims of the corona virus. He is then cremated under the supervision of health officials. But cremation of the body is forbidden according to Islamic belief. Muslims bury their dead relatives.

The relatives of the 19 dead bodies, which have just been decided, refused to take them. This created controversy. These bodies lay in the dead house of Colombo. On Wednesday, Sri Lankan Attorney General Dapula de Livera ordered that the bodies be cremated. He said that the victims of Covid-19, whose bodies are not being taken by their relatives, can be cremated under the Quarantine Rules. After this decision, the dead bodies were cremated on Wednesday itself. According to the official information, the cremation of the remaining bodies will be completed by the end of this week.

Cases of corona infection have increased sharply since October in Sri Lanka. So far, about 29.5 thousand cases have been reported in the country, while till Wednesday 142 people had died. The rules set for funerals of people killed by corona infection were challenged in the Supreme Court by minority Muslim communities and some organizations of civil society. A total of 12 petitions were filed in this connection. But last week, the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions without giving any reason.

A researcher associated with the human rights organization Amnesty International told TV channel Al Jazeera that it is unfair to disrespect the religious faith of Muslims and to cremate their dead bodies. He noted that the international guidelines clearly state that dead bodies of persons suffering from Covid-19 can be burnt or buried.

But the Sri Lankan government is using the epidemic to push Muslims further marginalized. The Sri Lanka Muslim Council has said that most of the people infected with the corona virus in the country are Muslims. But most Muslims are not going to conduct their own investigation for fear that if their investigation is positive and they die, their bodies will be burnt.

The Organization of Islamic Co-operation, an organization of Muslim countries, last month requested Sri Lanka to allow Muslims to perform funerals of their families according to their religious beliefs. The World Health Organization has said that burning or burying the body is both valid.

Last April, when the Corona epidemic spread, Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka launched a campaign that the last rites in the country should be performed only through cremation. He claimed that the burial of the dead body could infect the water inside the ground and spread the infection further.

The Buddhist community is the main vote base of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. It is alleged that under the pressure of radical elements of this community, the government made the current rules of funerals. The country has witnessed an anti-Muslim atmosphere since the terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in April 2019. The attack was accused of a Muslim organization, which is not known much. Sri Lanka has a population of 20 million, of which ten per cent are Muslims.

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