On March 31, when the Sri Lanka Ministry of Health published the mandatory procedure to follow for those succumbing to Covid-19, the country's Muslim community was shocked. From now on, all victims will have to be cremated, which is in total contradiction with Islamic funeral rites.
According to religious tradition, everyone of Muslim faith must have the right to his funeral prayer before his burial, called Janaza. The latter is accompanied by a precise ritual, where the body of the deceased is first washed, the head directed towards Mecca before being wrapped in a white shroud. With this new directive from the Sri Lankan government, lwith the body forbidden and the cremation must be done within twenty-four hours after death.
According to the media Al Jazeera, two of the four people who died from the Covid-19 in Sri Lanka were Muslim. They were cremated, much to the despair of the Muslim community and international organizations, including Amnesty International, who saw them as a way to put pressure on this religious minority. Tensions with the Buddhist majority have increased in recent years, especially since the Islamist terrorist attacks of April 2019 which have left more than 250 dead.
AT against WHO guidelines
If the government justifies this decision from a health point of view, to contain the spread of the virus which has already contaminated more than 150 people on the island, Muslim activists recall that the World Health Organization (WHO) considers that the burial and cremation of the dead from the disease are both possible.
“The directives issued by the WHO are applied by Great Britain, most European countries, Singapore, Hong Kong and all Muslim nations (except Sri Lanka)”, rebelled at the microphone of Al Jazeera the vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, Hilmy Ahamed.
In Europe, although burial is still an option, cremation is said to be increasingly favored by the families of the deceased for fear of catching the virus. This is the case in particular in the north of Italy, where cremations reach 50 to 60% of cases, according to VOA News. In other words, for 100 deaths, nearly 60 cremations are requested.
In France, the mode of burial chosen by the deceased remains respected, but the ritual toilets, Jewish or Muslim are no longer possible. The setting in beer must meanwhile be immediate in the event of burial, and be done without ceremony or passage in a funeral chamber.