Asia Coronavirus Health Sri Lanka

Mandatory cremations of COVID-19 victims an act of institutionalised Islamophobia- Prominent US scholar

Omar Suleiman the prominent Islamic scholar based in US says Sri Lanka’s decision to make cremations mandatory for COVID-19 victims is an act of institutionalised Islamophobia.

Writing to the Middle East based Al Jazeera News agency he said in ‘India, since the emergence of COVID-19, members of the country’s 200 million-strong Muslim community have repeatedly been accused of being “super spreaders” of coronavirus both by the media and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).’

“In neighbouring Sri Lanka, the government chose to use the pandemic as an excuse to stigmatise Muslims and pander to Islamophobia. Sri Lanka is an island nation with a vibrant multireligious and multi-ethnic heritage. But Islamophobic propaganda persistently spread by the media and politicians over the years, coupled with attacks by radical Muslim groups in Sri Lanka and the mainstreaming of Islamophobia across the world, led to the marginalisation of Muslims in the country. Muslims faced waves of violence at the hands of Buddhist nationalists. The government was accused of not doing enough to protect this minority community and bring those who attack them to justice.” he said.

“So, unsurprisingly, when COVID-19 reached Sri Lanka, some prominent media organisations and nationalists who are close to the current government were quick to blame Muslims, who form nearly 10 percent of the population, for the spread of the virus. Just like in India, Muslim religious practices were singled out as “super spreader events” and Sri Lankans who belong to the Buddhist majority were warned not to buy food items from Muslim vendors.” he wrote.

Read the full article: Like India, Sri Lanka is using coronavirus to stigmatise Muslims

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.

International appeals as well as local politicians have written appealing for reconsideration of the local policy but government has remained unmoved. 

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