Colombo plan

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Life under the pandemic can be very difficult in most countries, but in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, it is dreadful for Muslims and Christians.

Dead or alive, the minorities have plenty to fear there. Sri Lanka has made it mandatory to cremate those who die of COVID-19 when the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines clearly allow burials of those who succumb to COVID-19.

There is more science in the guidelines than there is in any of Sri Lanka’s discriminatory mandatory cremation rules. Sri Lanka should be advised to not let extremists dictate the course of medicine. Instead, it should look to WHO and the more than 185 countries that allow burials of the dead. Besides, cremation is forbidden in Islam and among some Christians.

Sri Lanka must be condemned for denying the final rites of its minorities. The dignity of the dead must not be allowed to be stolen thus. Amnesty International, a human rights organization, has joined international media in condemning the Sri Lankan government for forced cremations of Muslims who die of COVID-19 as it goes against the teachings of Islam.

If Amnesty International is right, 50 Muslim victims have been forcibly cremated despite protests by their families and relatives, as well as Muslim organizations.

In the most recent case, the body of a 20-month-old baby who died of COVID-19 was taken away from its parents for cremation, says Tasnim Nazeer, a Sri Lankan Muslim, in her op-ed titled ‘Islamophobia on the rise in Sri Lanka as deceased Muslims forced into cremation’ in The Diplomat, a magazine that covers the Asia-Pacific region.

She tells of cremation being forced on Muslims who died of ailments other than that of COVID-19. She said COVID-19 is a new excuse for the government’s discriminatory actions against its minorities.

AFP, the international news agency, too, has been alerting the world to how Sri Lanka’s mandatory cremation is hurting the minorities there. As if the stealing of the dignity of the dead isn’t enough, family and relatives of the deceased are forced to pay between US$ 270 and US$ 375 for the cremation they didn’t even want, says Amnesty International.

“The cruelty of not only having to stand idle as a loved one’s body is desecrated but being forced to shoulder the cost of this act has led some Muslim families to refuse the ashes and the associated payment, in an act of protest.”

As if to lend support to The Diplomat’s op-ed, Amnesty International tells of how the Muslims are being “racially profiled” by the Sri Lankan government.

Consider the concept proposal to fight COVID-19 put together by the country’s Government Medical Officer’s Association (GMOA) and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA).

In an exit strategy presented to Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the two organizations assigned the Muslim population the highest weightage of risk when determining the risk of the spread of the virus in each district, says Amnesty International.

After many criticisms, the organizations have relented somewhat. For ICTA, it is disassociation from the discriminatory report while for the GMOA, it is a republication of the controversial document without the racial profile.

Hate has a way of distorting not only medicine but an entire science. A case of doctored science?

-New Straits Times

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