OIC states’ Heads of Mission write to President over cremation of Muslims who succumb to COVID-19

Wednesday, 13 May 2020 01:32 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Ambassadors, HCs from 16 OIC states sign letter saying matter needs forthright addressing through frank consultation with SL Muslims 
  • Say reaching out to President collectively in spirit of longstanding friendship
  • Emphasise outreach should not be constructed as interference in internal affairs of SL by any measure
  • Say WHO Guidelines carefully and adequately provide for individuals and communities to make choices in respect to burial and cremation in keeping with person’s faith
  • Applauds President for exemplary leadership given to country during COVID-19 crisis

The Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states in Sri Lanka have written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, insisting the cremation of members of the Muslim community who succumb to COVID-19 needs to be addressed forthright, through frank consultation with the Muslims of Sri Lanka and the Government.

In the letter signed by 16 Heads of Mission in Colombo, all close international allies of Sri Lanka, they applauded the President for the exemplary leadership he has given to the country at the time of the COVID-19 crisis but the handling of bodies of Muslims who die from the coronavirus has received the attention in these countries.

“Back in our capitals, there is much appreciation of the ways Sri Lanka has moved in responding to the unprecedented crisis. There is an issue in Sri Lanka that has, however, received attention in our countries, i.e. handling of the bodies of Muslims who have passed away due to COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. To date all three Muslim COVID-19 deceased have been cremated,” the letter to President Rajapaksa seen by the Daily FT said. 

The letter, signed by the Ambassadors of the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Palestine, Kuwait, Indonesia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Turkey as well as the High Commissioners of the Maldives, Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh and the Chargé d› Affaires of Libya, Iran and Iraq, has been copied to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as well.

The Ambassadors and High Commissioners said that scientists, public health functionaries and medical practitioners across countries affirm that the WHO Guidelines carefully and adequately provide for individuals and communities to make a choice in respect of burial and cremation, in keeping with the person’s faith.

“The guidelines take full account of the public health considerations. During the pandemic, across countries, the display of the body of a deceased is decided upon by upholding the honour and sacredness of the body and taking into account the person’s faith. It is also a matter which the public figures need to conduct with exceptional responsibility and leadership,” the letter said.

The OIC member nations pointed out that decision on conduct of the final rites of a deceased, in accordance to his/her religion, is not imposed anywhere else on the ground of varying topography or conditions of physical environment (i.e. soil, water) and noted that the OIC Member States represent countries with considerable diversity in respect of physical/geographic conditions/circumstances or attributes.

“While Islam places overwhelming emphasis on knowledge and scientific inquiry and also accords flexibility, there is no conclusive evidence that suggests the possibility of spread of virus through burial. We are afraid the issue of cremation of dead bodies of Muslims in Sri Lanka causes grievance to the Muslims of Sri Lanka and the world over,” they said.

The Heads of Mission emphasised that they were reaching out to the President collectively in the spirit of longstanding friendship that each of the countries enjoys with Sri Lanka and with the incumbent Government, under the President’s able and visionary leadership.

“Our outreach is intended only to strengthen the bonds of fraternity with Sri Lanka and all women and men in the society irrespective of any distinction or faith; and should not be constructed as interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, by any measure. We strongly believe that this matter must not arise as an issue and reach across Muslims elsewhere as such and dent the impeccable standing of a pluralist-inclusive-harmonious Sri Lanka. We candidly view that this is a matter that can, and needs to, be addressed forthright through frank consultation with the Muslims of Sri Lanka under the leadership of Your Excellency and Honourable Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa,” the letter said.