Samer Allawi

Rights activists and leaders of the Muslim minority in Sri Lanka are likely to be racially and politically motivated behind the government's insistence to cremate the bodies of Muslims who die from the emerging Corona virus.

In their view, these motives are reinforced by a meeting held by a member of the government with extremist Buddhist leaders, and a leaked video was revealed that included racist language against Muslims.

Lawyer and human rights activist Shah Khan linked "government disregard" with the rights to religious freedom of the Muslim minority and the expected legislative elections. He said that President Gutapaya Rajapangsa aspires to obtain the votes of the Sinhalese majority (Buddhist) so that he can amend the constitution to strengthen his powers.

Referred to the repercussions of the Corona virus, which forced the authorities to postpone the elections, which were scheduled for this April 25.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera Net, Shah did not rule out that the goal of burning the dead bodies of Muslims was to cover up the government's failures to take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the disease, in addition to that "burning the body without the consent of the deceased's family prevents her autopsy to verify the causes of death, which is considered another crime ".

In a statement, by the way, the Sri Lankan human rights activist said that the Ministry of Health's amendment of the laws of the funeral of epidemic victims is in violation of WHO instructions. He added that burning the bodies of two Muslims last Thursday, contrary to the wishes of their families, was a clear violation of human rights.

Amnesty called on the government to respect religious rituals in the funerals of people who die due to the Coronavirus. In a statement, it denounced the burning of the bodies of Muslims, despite the refusal of the families of the deceased and the insistence that they should be funeral.

The statement added that the funeral of corpses in accordance with religious traditions is a right of minorities, while adhering to health and security restrictions that aim to prevent the spread of the disease.

The organization reminded of what it described as the authorities' failure to prevent attacks against Muslim property and population gatherings last year, despite the state of emergency and the curfew imposed after the Easter attacks on April 21 last year.

Amnesty International's statement added that Sri Lanka’s insistence on burning the dead bodies of Muslims reinforces the prevailing belief that they will be persecuted, especially when the authorities last year used the emergency law to limit the personal freedoms of Muslim women by preventing the wearing of the headscarf and veil.

Condemnation and frustration

The Council of Sri Lanka Scholars considered the Mahinda Rajapangsa government’s position to adopt the views of the Buddhist extremists, an explicit violation of the constitution, principles of Islamic law and WHO instructions.

He said in a statement sent to Al-Jazeera Net that the Islamic parties and organizations demanded the government - in its meeting held Thursday in the capital Colombo - to respect the freedom of belief stipulated in the constitution.

The Council of Ulemas expressed the frustration of Islamic parties and organizations from the government’s neglect of calls for dealing in dignity with the dead and funeral of Muslims according to the provisions of Islamic Sharia, while ensuring the safety measures followed for the mourners and society.

And Islamic leaders said after a meeting held on Thursday that the government’s adoption of the position of extremists - on the issue of cremation - clearly indicates religious and ethnic discrimination between groups in society.

In their meeting, the Islamic parties and organizations affirmed their strict adherence to the standards declared by the Health Organization to "burn or bury" victims of the Covid-19 virus, and that the burial procedures are in full compliance with the safety and medical and scientific standards announced by the international organization.

A member of the Islamic Endowments Council, Ahmed Zaki, said that the government rejected the Muslim minority’s objection to amending the law dealing with Covid-19 patients taken at the end of last month, which requires burning all the bodies of those who are infected with the virus.

Zaki pointed out that the Muslims' objection is based on two principles: The first is that it violates international standards, and that the funeral and burial ceremonies are followed in all countries of the world without causing any danger to society.