Muslims in Sri Lanka are outraged at last week’s forced cremation of a 20-day-old COVID-19 victim against the wishes of the family, the latest in more than a dozen such cremations since the pandemic erupted in the Buddhist-majority region.
Sri Lanka in March made cremation mandatory for people who die or are suspected of having died from coronavirus infection, ignoring the guidelines of the World Health Organization that allow both burials and cremations.
Baby Shaykh was forcefully cremated in a cemetery in Borella, the largest suburb of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, on December 9, the youngest of 15 Muslims to be cremated, refusing them Islamic funeral rites.
Fahim told Al Jazeera, “My friends and family asked the authorities how they could go ahead with the cremation when neither parent had signed a consenting document.”
They said that because a baby is a positive COVID-19 patient, they can be cremated.
But for those infected with COVID-19, Sri Lanka’s mandatory cremation policy has left minority communities feeling powerless and furious.
To add to the family’s grief, the government also asked them to pay to cover the cremation costs,’ he said.
“The international community was urged by Salley to put pressure on the Sri Lankan government to “respect minority beliefs and allow them to bury their dead.
On November 4, an expert committee was named by the government to reassess the mandatory cremation policy.
Following the end of a civil war between Tamil separatists and government forces in 2009, Muslims, who make up nearly 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million citizens, have faced increased attacks by majority Sinhala Buddhist hardliners.