April 06, 2020

The Cremation of Muslims Covid -19 victims in Sri Lanka

- DR SLM RIFAI:UK -

                 This issue has generated some heated debates among some sections of Sri Lanka communities today. Various media personnel and politicians have been debating this issue in public to create some unwanted social bitterness and misunderstanding. These days social media are full of debates and discussions about this issue. It’s regrettable that we may create a big fuss about this issue. Today, this nation needs the support and cooperation of all communities at this crucial movement to wipe out this deadly pandemic.  Security forces, medical professionals and civic servants are working hard, day and night to prevent the spread of this virus. Yet, some section of politicians and religious groups are creating an unnecessary rift on this matter. 

           This is a health problem. Sri Lanka is blessed with some of the best medical experts (Doctors and health workers). Doctors should decide whether to bury or to burn the dead bodies of the victims. Due to their deep insight and knowledge regarding the infectious diseases and virology, they could decide what to do.  They’re educated and trained to be objective in their profession. They cannot read this issue on any racial or religious line, instead they will seek to aid this problem from a medical perspective.  They are trained in certain medical ethics and moral principles. They must follow some professional code of conducts in their careers. Neither politicians nor religious leaders could interfere in their profession.  They should never mix up their professional ethics with politics and religion. They know well what is best in a critical situation like the one currently. Sri Lankan government should have sought advice of medical experts on this issue. A team of Sinhalese and Muslim doctors should have studied this issue from an objective medical and health perspective. Yet, politicians want to put their noses in all matters, rather than seeking the advice of experts in their fields. Politicians in western countries follow the instruction of experts and yet, in Sri Lanka politicians influence experts so much so, that they are told what to do and what not to do. I personally, do not think Muslim community would have objected any decision taken by medical professionals on this matter.  Sri Lanka has some of the best medical experts. Why don’t they have a say? There is no unanimous agreement on this issue among medical experts. W.H.O (World Health Organisation) clearly says that people's religious rites must be respected when people die by this deadly virus.  It clearly stipulates that bodies can be buried or cremated. It states that “the families” needs and social customs for funeral should be respected. If customs vary, each social group should be provided with a designated area, with the relevant materials, to be able to exercise their own traditions with dignity”. 

               It is reported that the Sri Lankan government has studied the guidelines of W.H.O on this matter.  According to the guidelines of W.H.O, dead bodies of corona virus victims could be buried, and many countries bury dead bodies of corona victims. If W.H.O could stipulate that dead bodies can be buried as UK and Italy, why is it that Sri Lanka don’t do the same? It’s because they have created their very own guidelines, so they can cremate the dead bodies.  It is reported that the Sri Lankan government too agreed to let the Muslim community bury the corona victims. However, some extreme political influencers have decided to cremate dead bodies of Muslims for some political reason. As far as evidence goes, it could be suggested it was done to punish the Muslim community. This is nothing but a scandal for political revenge on the Muslim community. This is because of their vote who overwhelmed the opposition candidate in the last presidential election.  This is a sensitive issue for ordinary Muslims. Nevertheless, the Sri Lankan government has failed to honour the religious feeling and sentiment of Muslim community. This is indeed a political disgrace and humiliation for the Muslim community.  Some argue that this is a violation of fundamental human rights for Muslims in Sri Lanka. 

This action by this government is a slap on the face for the Muslim community. This government lacks the political will to respect the minorities and honour their religious sensitivity. Sri Lanka will never become another Singapore. If some section of this government is holding grudge to suppress the minorities… It’s sad to say that some section of Sinhalese politicians and media are doing this. Hiru TV and Derana have been doing this for long time. They have been picking up some isolated events and incidents out of contexts to incite violence against the Muslim community. They have been using (cut and paste) tricks to defame Muslims. Unfortunately, some politicians have been supporting these media outlets. This is a violating a fundamental human right of Muslims in Sri Lanka. The final wish of each Muslim on earth is to be buried peacefully in a Muslim burial ground and yet, to deny this basic human right is morally and ethically wrong. 

What can Sri Lankan Muslims do?

 What can Sri Lankan Muslims do at this moment in time? Unfortunately, Sri Lankan Muslim are divided on this issue. There is not any unanimous agreement among Muslims on this subject.  Some argue that Muslim victims of this virus must be buried otherwise, it would be a disrespect to human dignity. Islam tells us to respect the human body after death. Islam tells us to bury it on earth. Muslim community find it hard to absorb the notion of cremation of Muslim bodies. For some cultural, religious and social reasons, they cannot oppose on this. It is the duty of Muslims to fulfil some funeral rituals upon dead bodies. If reliable medical experts’ advice that the performance of these rituals on the dead bodies is detrimental and harmful to communities, Islamic law allows Muslim community to avoid the performance of some funeral rituals. This is a highly unlikely situation. 

 According to some schools of thought, cremation of dead bodies of Muslims is allowed in Islamic law in some critical conditions. If this is only way to protect human lives, there is no harm in doing this. Islamic law permits to do some unlawful things under compelling conditions. If someone is compelled to do some un-Islamic rituals or un-Islamic practice under some compelling circumstance, there is no guilt for Muslims to do such thing. There are many textual evidences to substantiate this point. If, Muslims are under immense compelling situations, then they can’t help but to obey what government dictates. So, the Muslim community is not sinful in this case if they can’t bury their dead bodies. If It is beyond their control and capability to do so.  We are living as a second minority in Sri Lanka, and the application of Islamic law is not always viable in this country. So, we are not asked by the Almighty beyond our limit and limitations. Therefore, we may consider this option if we are forced to do this by coercion. This is to avoid some unwanted rift and communal bitterness.  Furthermore, the general philosophy of Islamic law is to always protects human welfare and human interest. Protecting human lives is one of the most important fundamental principle of Islamic law. So, if there is no option for the Sri Lankan government except to burn bodies of corona virus Muslims, the we must cooperate with that move. Yet, Italy in its peak in the corona crisis has allowed for the burial of Muslim victims. Likewise, many other countries too have given permission for Muslim communities to bury their victims. Sri Lanka is not in any critical situation such as Italy or any other European countries. Therefore, allowing the burial of Muslim victims is not yet a problematic issue   

       99% of Sinhalese people aren’t bothered if Muslims are to be buried, yet some element of far-right extreme political wings and their cohorts are trying to make politics out of it. The Muslim community should not try to generalise this issue or exaggerate this issue. We have been living for centuries with the Sinhalese community. The Muslim community has been immensely contributing to this nation in many ways. This has been duly acknowledged and appreciated by Sinhalese leadership throughout Sri Lankan history. 
        Sri Lankan communities are united in time of disasters, and calamities. We have seen them during the tsunami and flood disasters. This corona virus has united the entire nation. It’s pleasing to see temples, churches and mosques all are cooperating with one another to abolish this virus. It’s also pleasing to see people of different faiths care about each other in this difficult time. it’s gratifying to see that Buddhist temples are distributing food to Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil families without any discrimination or prejudice. It’s also wonderful to see that people are coming together as one family in this difficult time. it’s magnificent to see a sense of blooming brotherhood, love affection, kindness and humanism among Sri Lankan communities during this time. Although, politicians are showing their true colours, Sri Lankans are kind and loving. So, this kind of political miscalculation and revenge should not create any communal tension or any unnecessary social problem in Sri Lanka. 

Finally, it is reported that some prominent persons and members of some Islamic organization have met his excellency president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to discuss this matter and come to term with it.  They have agreed to form a team of committee to study this issue objectively. This is an excellent idea to examine both sides of argument and find some viable solutions. Sri Lanka badly needs unity among all communities to fight this virus. This is a health hazard to this nation. So, we should not play politics with it. the health and welfare of nation should get priority above all communal and political interest.  The post corona period will be a challenging one for Sri Lanka. So, unity among all Sri Lankans is a must to survive all economic troubles in coming days.  We must be wise and sensible in this difficult time. All communities put the country first beyond all our communal and racial limits and limitations.

         This does not mean that minority communities should lose their legitimate rights and fundamental religious freedom. The Sri Lankan constitution guarantees these fundamental rights yet, some racists elements play politics with this. The minority community should avoid the confrontational politics rather they should develop the politics of cooperation as we see in Malaysia and Singapore. Most Sri Lankan people are kind and compassionate. They do not want make any racial discrimination and yet, some far right political elements create unwanted troubles to gain a political millage. 

2 கருத்துரைகள்:

Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar,

In this planet over 180 countries allowed to bury so Sri lanka also in this planet not mars or any other planet.In UK Government Advisiory body who are top scientists not objected Muslims to bury.
We are not allowed to burn even animals only Allaah has the right to burn i.e in the hell.
We have to respect dead body because the journey to Aakhira start after the death and also we were created by sand on earth and we have to end up under the earth as we buried in our normal practise from 1400 years onwards.

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