The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and local opposition leaders have raised concerns over recent targeting of Muslims in Sri Lanka amid COVID19 deaths.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation -OIC in a statement has expressed concern regarding ‘the escalation of hate speech and hostility towards Muslims in Sri Lanka’ as Health authorities continue to burn bodies of Muslim victims of COVID19 against religious beliefs.
Sri Lankan authorities have been accused of violating the Islamic burial rites of Muslims with forced cremations of two Muslim COVID-19 victims in April. It had sent shock waves through the minority community, with many high level pleas being made to reconsider the stance. Such discussions had not changed the local policy as two similar recent deaths in May were cremated promptly.
OIC lashes out against perceived Muslim hostility
The statement in Arabic said that the OIC General Secretariat expressed its deep concern regarding the escalation of hate speech and hostility towards Muslims in Sri Lanka as well as publication of allegations that Muslim community was responsible for the spread of the new Corona epidemic (Covid-19). The statement continued to point out that the authorities continue ‘cremated bodies of the Muslim victims of the pandemic and arrested community members who rejected these practices.’
The OIC in its statement, in what appears to be strongly worded added that it ‘reaffirms its persistent stance that rejects all policies and practices targeting the rights of Muslims anywhere and calls on the authorities in Sri Lanka to ensure the safety and security and rights of the Muslim community, a commitment to respect their practices and religious rituals, safeguard their dignity and stand firmly against all parties behind the publication Feelings of hatred, Islamophobia, and hostility towards Muslims in Sri Lanka.’
Opposition Politicians demand change, Ranil silent
On March 31 the country’s Ministry of Health reversed an earlier directive that was in line with WHO guidelines allowing burial and instead ruled cremation as the only method of disposing bodies.
Two of the first four people to die of the virus on the Island were Muslims, both were cremated against family wishes and guidelines by WHO that permits burials.
Two more recent deaths also followed the same procedure prompting opposition politicians to question the basis of the policy employed by the government.
The United National Party (UNP) embroiled in internal leadership issues have not taken a stance as its leader Ranil Wickremsinghe has remained silent, not providing any indication of the party’s position.
Former Presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa tweeted that if last rites cannot be carried out in a non-discriminatory, non-prejudicial manner, Sri Lanka would be a failed state due to racism, inherent ethnic and religious bias and marginalization.
JVP’s Bimal Rathnayake also echoed similar thoughts as he called upon the President to stop targeted discrimination of Muslims against Buddhist teachings.