Sri Lanka's plan to bury Muslim Covid-19 victims on islet sparks outcry

WION Web Team
Colombo, Sri Lanka Published: Mar 03, 2021, 07:00 PM(IST)

Protests in Sri Lanka Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Colombo banned burials of Covid victims in April, despite evidence they would not spread the virus. This resulted in forced cremations.

Sri Lanka on Wednesday faced criticism over its plan to bury Muslim coronavirus victims on a remote islet.

Colombo banned burials of Covid victims in April, despite evidence they would not spread the virus. This resulted in forced cremations.

Sri Lanka's majority Buddhists, strong backers of the current government, are typically cremated, as are Hindus.

Muslims, who make up 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, challenged the policy, pointing out that cremations are forbidden under Islamic law.

The policy was revoked last week after a visit from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who urged Colombo to respect Muslims' religious funeral rites.

However, in an apparent U-turn on Tuesday, officials proposed burying Muslim victims of the pandemic on the remote islet of Iranaitivu, 8.6 miles (13 kilometres) off the country's northern coast, sparking protests from locals as well as from Muslim leaders.

They held banners saying the one-square-kilometre (0.4-square-mile) island should not be used as a "graveyard" for the pandemic.

Ahead of Khan's visit to Colombo in February, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation criticised the cremations policy at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, citing similar religious concerns.

By Wednesday, Sri Lanka had recorded more than 83,000 coronavirus infections, with 483 related deaths.

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