Sri Lanka has reportedly made it compulsory to cremate people who are dying due to the novel coronavirus despite facing protests from rights groups and the country's Muslim population. The Muslim population in the country has said the new government order goes against Islamic tradition that requires them to bury the body of the deceased. According to reports, seven people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 in Sri Lanka so far, of which three belonged to the Muslim faith. All the bodies were reportedly cremated by the authorities despite protests from relatives of Muslim patients.
Sri Lanka's Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi on April 12 reportedly said that the bodies of all the people who have died of coronavirus or suspected to have died of coronavirus, shall be cremated. The decision has received a lot of criticism from rights groups and other religious freedom monitoring bodies. Amnesty's South Asia Director Biraj Patnaik had earlier this month said that the government should be working on bringing communities together rather than creating a divide at this difficult time.
Sri Lanka's main political party that represents the country's Muslim population has accused the government of 'callous disregard' for religious freedom and the families' wishes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, both cremation and burial of coronavirus patients are permitted. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has also expressed concern with reports of forced cremation of Muslims who died from coronavirus in Sri Lanka.
USCIRF is concerned with reports of forced cremation of Muslims who died from #coronavirus under new govt guidance in #SriLanka; a violation of Islamic burial practice which forbids cremation. Under @WHO guidelines, both burial and cremation are permitted.https://t.co/JM0Fg4FZMB— USCIRF (@USCIRF) April 7, 2020
The deadly coronavirus infection has claimed more than 1,14,000 lives across the world and has infected over 18,53,000 people globally since it first broke out in December 2019. China was the most affected country until last month before Italy and Spain surpassed it to record the most number of deaths anywhere in the world due to COVID-19. The virus is believed to have originated from a seafood market in China's Wuhan city, the epicentre of the disease, where animals were reportedly being traded illegally.
The United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Iran have also overtaken China in terms of the COVID-19 death toll. The latest country to join the bandwagon is Belgium, where 3,600 people have died so far, compared to China's 3,341. Germany is on its way to surpass the East Asian country as it has crossed the 3,000 benchmark last week.
(Image Credit: AP)