The Government of Sri Lanka(GoSL), withdraws the option which was available under Public Health Guidelines to allow the burial of the deceased Covid-19 victims, which adversely affects the religious rights of the Muslim Community of Sri Lanka. This adverse decision was taken contrary to the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) relating to the disposal of bodies affected by the Corona Virus, which are being followed by many countries, including United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, Israel, Malaysia, Iran and Italy. In the absence of any scientific evidence of spread of disease after the body has been sealed in a body bag from respiratory or gastrointestinal fluids (and therefore there is no difference in cremation or burial with regard to spreading of the virus), this decision appear to be taken on other considerations. This will continue to cause much anxiety and anguish to the affected Muslim families in particular and the community in general. The GoSL should therefore reconsider reintroducing the amendment to provide the burial option too with strict conditions to avoid infection spread, as provided in the WHO guidelines, in addition to the cremation option.
COVID-19 Related Incidents, News & Other Activities in Sri Lanka
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the forced cremations, in violation of traditional Islamic funeral practices, of Muslim individuals who have died in Sri Lanka from COVID-19.
Australian Advocacy for Good Governance in Sri LankaAppeal to End Forced Cremation of Covid-19 Victims in Sri Lanka – 1 January 2021
Mujahid Talks with Imam Malik Mujahid in conversation with Sir Iqbal Sacranie – Senior Advisor Muslim Council of Britain, Hilmy Ahamed – Vice President of Muslim Council of Sri Lanka and Muslim Community Leader Faris Husain
FIMA President Prof. Dr. M. İhsan Karaman explained that FIMA (Federation of Islamic Medical Associations), which has member IMAs in 50 different countries from the USA to South Africa, reacted to the practice of cremating covid-19 dead bodies of Muslims in Sri Lanka.
Noting that they took action immediately upon the news that came to them from Sri Lankan Muslim community, Karaman said, “The Muslims in the country asked us to take this action. ‘As doctors from all over the world, support us sending appeal to our government and explaining that this is wrong.”
Prof. Dr. Karaman reminded that they sent a kind, diplomatic and scientific letter to the Sri Lankan government in April, which included both scientific and religious aspects of this action, and said:
“In the letter, we stated that there is no danger and risk in terms of medical and public health issues in the burial of the deads with covid-19; there are statements by the scientific authorities like WHO, CDC or ECDC in this direction and according to the religion of Islam, cremation of the dead is not permissible. And we request you to review your general decision and allow people to carry out their final duties according to their culture, religion and tradition. ” Expressing that they learned that the practice of cremation, which was lifted for Muslims for a short time, started again 2 months ago, Karaman said that they, as FIMA, are preparing to send a new letter to the Sri Lankan government.
We are gathered here today to express our anger, horror and disgust about the most cruel and lowly practice of the Sri Lankan government and its so called scientific advisors. That is of forcibly burning the bodies of Muslim and Christian victims of COVID 19. Since March this year, since the first COVID victim died, the Sri Lankan government has forcibly cremated dozens of bodies of victims despite protests, pleas and appeals of not only the victims’ families but of the entire international community.
Cremation is against our faith. Losing a loved one is a misery big enough for the families. On top of that, forcibly preventing them from giving the last respects to their loved ones has added to the psychological trauma and shock. This is not only a despicable act that goes against all moral values and civilized behaviour, It is a violation of the right to practice and manifest religious beliefs. It is a suppression of the rights of minorities.
The United Nations has written to the Government of Sri Lanka to stop this inhumane practice. The Organization for Islamic Cooperation has written to the Government. International human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have asked them to stop it. And civil society organizations like People’s Rights Group and Universal Human Rights Council have asked them. But they are continuing their immoral oppression of minorities.
The WHO in its guidelines, has allowed burial as a method of disposing bodies of COVID victims. More than 190 countries allow burial of COVID victims. We ask the government of Sri Lanka: Why can’t you allow innocent victims to pay last respect to their dead according to their faith? Why can’t you act as a civilized government? What pleasure do you get from oppressing minorities?
You killed innocent minority Tamil civilians during the war and got away with it. Now you are oppressing the minority Muslims. We know it has now become an irresistible habit to oppress minorities in your country. Please do not think you can do it all the time. One day you will face international justice.
Sri Lanka, stop forced cremation!
Sri Lanka, stop violating human rights of minorities!
International Community, Speak up against this violation!
“I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees” said the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.
The decision by Sri Lankan government to cremate all Covid19 related death with no sensitivity to ethnic minorities and their basic human rights has distressed many Sri Lankans all across the world. Had there been a valid reason for such cremation, peace loving Sri Lankan Muslims would not object to such a decision but would also extend their fullest cooperation. However, despite evidence produced by WHO as well as Sri Lankan and international experts, the government continues its discriminatory and racist policies towards Muslims.
The systematic racism unleashed on Muslims in places like hospitals have become unprecedented. Not only they are forcibly cremating Covid victims, they are also conspiring to cremate Muslims who die of other causes. Recently a government hospital conspired to cremate a Muslim man who died of renal failure. A woman who died of heart failure was cremated. A 20 days old baby who had died of pneumonia was cremated without the consent of the parents. Man, woman or child –no one is safe from the institutionalized racism in Sri Lanka. All these while WHO strongly suggests burial of covid19 deceased doesn’t cause any environmental issue let alone contamination.
The fake scientist Channa Perera said Muslims can try to use the dead bodies as biological weapons. The fear mongering government of Sri Lanka should stop their anti-Muslim fake news propaganda. It is propaganda based on false assumption that burial of covid-19 victims results in contamination of ground water.
Government of Sri Lanka, if you have proof, present your proof to the world. And we demand evidence for all these claims. If there is none, then they MUST abide by the international rules and guidelines which are followed by over 185 countries, or face international justice for the crimes they are committing.
Our request is NOT to perform the last rituals the dead body. We are NOT demanding the corps to be handed over to us either. All we demand is allow what the rest of the world including UK had allowed, which is the right of a person who died to be disposed according to his or her beliefs. In other words we are asking our dignity to be restored.
We urge the government of Sri Lanka to allow the rights of minorities by allowing them to bury their loved ones. Don’t witch hunt your opponents to cover your failings. We are not scapegoats to be used in your political games. And we ask our non-Muslim brothers and sisters to stand with us in this fight for our rights.
I quote Martin Niemöller to end my speech.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”