Rt. Hon. Imran Khan.
Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Dear Prime Minister,
SRI LANKA- FORCED CREMATION OF MUSLIM, CATHOLIC AND CHRISTIAN MINORITIES.
To the global population, the effects of COVID-19 are already painful enough. The fear of contracting the virus, the fear of spreading it to others, the fear of seeing loved ones suffer, the fear of someone close dying. But for Sri Lanka’s Muslims and other minorities who through religious and/or traditional practices/customs there is a real fear, the fear of not being able to bury your loved ones and being denied dignity in that final moment. Sri Lanka is the only country in the world which has made cremations mandatory for people who have died or are suspected as having died from COVID-19. In a country where minorities are marginalized and discriminated against, minorities who fall victim to COVID-19 are unjustly prevented from being laid to rest in accordance with their religious beliefs and are forcibly cremated. A recent report even details at least one instance where the body of a Muslim who tested negative for COVID-19 was forcibly cremated.
Communities worldwide unite in condemnation of the enforced cremation of a 20-day-old baby who authorities claimed had contracted COVID-19. Mohammed Fahim stood outside the cemetery, weeping. As he watched his son’s body being placed in the crematorium. “How could I watch my baby being burned,” he demanded, ‘Islam’ prohibits cremation and any form of mutilation of the body after death. infant son Mohammed Shaykh was diagnosed with pneumonia upon admission to hospital. An antigen test conducted on the 20-day old infant revealed he was positive for the corona virus. His parents, including the mother who was breast-feeding little Shaykh, have tested negative.
Sri Lanka has been exposed to the rest of the world as a country that is violating fundamental human rights by depriving people to bury their family members who succumb to Covid – 19. To add insult to injury, families are being forced to bear the cost of cremation, typically around $-350. There has been national and international criticism of the government of Sri Lanka on its rare decision to cremate COVID-19 and COVID-19 suspected dead, in spite of clear guidelines by the World Health Organization explaining that the burial of such victims poses no danger to public health.
Resident Coordinator of the United Nations office in Sri Lanka, United Nations special experts and regional human rights groups have separately written to the government calling for the policy to be changed to ensure COVID-19 dead were handled with dignity and human rights. Numerous National Civil Society Organizations, religious groups and individual activists have also written letters and signed petitions to the government calling for a change to the policy.
The faith the victims of Covid-19 forced cremations, had in the highest court in Sri Lanka has been shattered. The country’s Supreme Court, by a majority decision refused to grant leave to proceed to the 11 applications filed by petitioners belonging to minority communities challenging the Sri Lankan government’s forcible cremation policy on the grounds that it violates their Fundamental rights and the constitution of Sri Lanka.
We Muslims and other minority faith migrants from Sri Lankan are calling for renewed attention on the abuse of fundamental human rights of the minorities in Sri Lanka. Failing to respect the fundamental rights of the minority communities and to do so deepens impunity and erodes any notion of the rule of law.
We appeal to you to express your displeasure based on our Islamic values of a citizen’s fundamental rights and human decency and convey a strong message to the Government of Sri Lanka from the Prime Minister’s Office and the National Assembly of Pakistan.
A.G.A. Barrie. P.Eng.
Chairman Board of Trustees.
Sailan Muslim Foundation of Canada.