Racist Vultures seeking Corona Cadavers – Part II
Posted on April 12th, 2020

By : A.A.M.NIZAM – MATARA.

Mr. Mass L Usuf, who is well versed in Islamic jurisprudence in an article titled Understanding the question of Cremation and Burial” written to Colombo Telegraph has said that almost everyone, some way or the other, is bounded by religion and religious traditions, the disposal of a dead body is also bound by religious significance since the deceased has departed from his/her earthly sojourn. Beliefs, traditions, rituals, and practices dictate as to how the dead has to be laid to rest. The ancient Zoroastrians believed that the burial or cremation of the corpse would pollute water and soil which was forbidden in their religion. Therefore, in India, a Parsi’s dead body is placed in a built-up place called a ‘Dakhma’ known as the Tower of Silence. Here birds of prey like vultures would devour it. This 3,000-year-old ritual is called ‘sky burial’, and the Tibetan Buddhists also practice Sky burials in their traditional methods of body disposals. It is their belief that such disposal illustrates the impermanence (anicca) of life.

In Islam, he says, the religious instruction is to bury the dead and cremation is forbidden. It is unimaginable for a Muslim to allow his/her loved one to be cremated. This religious sentiment has to be recognised with humanity and mutual respect. It is not something new that is demanded but has been in practise for thousands of years as is in all religious traditions.

It must be emphasised that this prohibition in Islam is flexible. Islamic jurisprudence has provision for cremation if that is what is medically required for the common good of all the living beings – malaah (public interest). Rationally, in addressing this topic, specific to burial, what needs to be looked at is the medical viewpoint.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the incubation period for the novel coronavirus is estimated at 5 to 6 days, ranging from 0 to 14 days. When compared with the Ebola virus, the incubation period, or the time interval from infection to onset of symptoms, is from 2 to 21 days. Comparatively, Ebola virus is a high-risk contagion identified as a fatal disease. 

Mortality Rates: The death rate for Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever) can go up to 90%. The mortality rate of the new coronavirus is around 1% according to the UK’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty. The World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, talked of 3.4%.

Infection After Death: Levels of Ebola virus remain high after death, thus bodies of those who have died from the Ebola virus disease must be handled only by people wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and must be buried immediately. WHO advises that bodies of people who may have died from Ebola virus disease should be handled only by trained burial teams, who are equipped to properly bury the dead, safely and with dignity.

In contrast, the after-death infection in COVID-19 is explained very clearly by the Royal College of Pathologists, the U.K as follows with regard to the risk to Mortuary staff, it is greater from visitors than the deceased from the COVID-19.”

Ebola virus can persist in used needles, syringes or vials for several weeks. The virus can persist in the body fluids of survivors for many months and can be transmitted well after recovery, or in rare cases can result in relapse – as we have already seen during the outbreak. Despite the high-risk levels of the Ebola virus disease 26,000 safe and dignified BURIALS had been conducted as per the remarks by Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall (World Health Organization Assistant Director-General, Emergency Response, 6 March 2020 Statement).

From a medical science point of view burial of a COVID-19 corpse has been accepted.

The protocols for BURIAL of the deceased of the COVID-19 are already in place in several countries.

Australia issuing a statement on the handling of bodies by funeral directors has said that Funeral directors and mortuary personnel are unlikely to contract COVID-19 from deceased persons infected with the virus, however, precautionary strategies should be used to minimise public health risks and to prevent the spread of disease.

In Nevada, U.S.A  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that decedents with COVID-19 may be BURIED or cremated according to the family’s preferences. The state of Nevada specifically clarified and said: Decedents with COVID-19 can be buried or cremated.”

Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) issued strict orders on how to prepare COVID-19 bodies for BURIAL. (THESTAR, 24.03.2020).

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India issued guidelines for its citizens with regard to protocols to be followed in the case of BURIALS.

The National Burial Council of the United Kingdom has been working with Public Health England to best plan for facilitating the BURIAL of Muslims who pass away from COVID-19.  In answer to the question, What is the UK Government position on enforced cremation?”, the following was the reply.

On 23 March, the UK Government has confirmed that the emergency legislation to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic will now recognise the importance of ensuring faith communities are able to bury the deceased instead of cremating in the event of significant deaths due to Coronavirus. The legislation has now made clear that enforced cremation against the wishes of the individual, will not take place when there are burial facilities available.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) Technical Report states that decedents with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 can be BURIED or cremated as usual. (Stockholm: ECDC; 2020).

An examination of these precedents will help us to formulate our local policy in this regard. It is very clear that there is no danger to the public in burying the dead from Covid-19. Of course, the final wish of the deceased and/or the family members have to be respected. Anyone who wishes to be cremated, such a wish has to be carried out. In any event, a Muslim’s wish will always be a burial. Those who died of the Ebola virus disease had been buried even though it was a more infectious virus. In comparison, there should not be an issue in burying the decedents of the Covid-19 virus. However, it is extremely important that guidelines for handling covid-19 bodies are strictly followed.

Meanwhile, Shiranthi Ranasinghe in an article written to News in, Asia website on Cremation over burial states that controversy over the cremation of Muslims began with a message posted on Facebook by Leader of the Muslim Congress MP Rauf Hakeem. Whether his post initiated the controversy or whether he simply articulated some discontent from within the Muslim community is difficult to say.

However, at the All Party Conference, he did not want to bring this issue before the assembly and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa then pointed out that there is nothing to hide and it is best to discuss this matter openly as all political leaders and officials responsible for decision making were present.

The article says that after much insistence from the Premier,  Hakeem noted his concerns as,

– According to the earlier guidelines issued by the Director-General of Health Services Dr. Anil Jasinghe, burial or cremation was permissible

– This is in line with the guidelines issued by the WHO as well

– WHO has clearly stated that the possibility of the COVID-19 spreading from a corpse is a myth.

Dr. Jasinghe, who was also present at this conference, then explained the reasons for the officials to eventually choose cremation as the best and most effective means to dispose of bodies of COVID-19 positive patients as,

– The WHO guidelines are only a general guideline. It has not taken into consideration the topography and other factors that are unique to each country.

– In Sri Lanka, the water table is high, which is the main issue in this matter.

– In addition, our soil is very porous and the composition itself is very absorbent. This might pose a danger of becoming a medium for the virus to spread.

– The topography in Sri Lanka changes within kilometers. This makes it difficult to separate areas with a clear demarcation line. Therefore, it is not possible to accommodate these variations when formulating a standard.

– It is the people that need to be taken into consideration. Then, differentiate people according to ethnic groups is not possible.

– When death occurs, the priority is to dispose of the body as quickly as possible. Thus it needs to be disposed at the closest possible location.

It must be also noted that,

However, according to the mathematical modeling done by the Medical Faculty of Colombo University, the number of infected can reach as high as 1,400.

Dr. Jasinghe assures that the free health service in Sri Lanka is getting ready to meet this challenge.

In the meantime, the Government Medical Officers Association has warned that if this number exceeds 2,500, our systems will fail and it is impossible at this stage to predict whether the numbers would reach 1,400 or exceed 2,500.

This virus is reported to be spreading exponentially. We do not have any immunity against it. Therefore, we must physically stop it from spreading.

Unlike in a war, where the outcome is dependent largely on the combatants, in this crisis, the outcome lies with each and every individual citizen. This means that we are dealing with a situation with a large number of variables.

For example, the third Sri Lankan patient to die of this virus has compromised at least 326 people through simple association. Thus it is clear that one person’s irresponsible act(s) can unravel even the best-laid plans. Hence, we must prepare for the possibility of dealing with a large number of deaths, as is the reality in many other countries.

As WHO notes, we still know very little about this virus. According to the findings so far, it is believed that while heat kills it, dampness helps it to thrive. What does this mean in an untreated body filling with fluids remains to be seen? Certain scientists claim that the virus can survive in the refrigerator for up to 28 days. This of course perhaps needs to be verified further by other scientific sources as well.

Even though this body is in a sealed body bag and in a sealed coffin, it is not possible for us to guarantee the outcome in 100 or more years. One may dismiss this as far fetched or an exaggerated worry. At the same time, let us not dismiss offhand accounts of scientists and excavators dying suddenly due to unknown causes after days of opening ancient tombs and coffins. It is easy enough to blame a mysterious curse, when in fact it might have been a virus as deadly as COVID-19. The last thing we would want is for this highly infectious, deathly virus to revisit our world – even 100 or 1,000 years later.

Taking all these factors on board, it is obvious to the logical mind that the best option is to destroy this virus completely. Yet, instead of reporting on Sri Lanka’s success or even mentioning it, certain international media channels have erroneously reported that the Government,

– Held hostage by extreme hardline Buddhist monks

– Had forcibly cremated the bodies of the Muslim patients

– To hurt the feelings of the Muslims.

Very mischievously, these journalists have completely omitted that the final rites of the other patients, who were not Muslim, were also not allowed. It must be noted that the Catholic to bury their dead. Buddhists also sometimes opt for burial than cremation.

This raises the question, whether these journalists who wrote these very erroneous and utterly irresponsible articles were truly ignorant that,

– Buddhists and a Catholic were also among the dead;

– Final rites of all were not performed;

– The disposal of the bodies was not in line with any cultural values or religious practices.

The bodies of the patients who were Buddhists were not treated any differently from those of other faiths.

Interestingly, though these articles appear on different channels, the same errors are seen to eclipse in most reports. Perhaps these journalists were too lazy to do their own homework. They may have copied each other’s work and instead of verifying, modified it enough to pass it off as their own work. It is also possible that these journalists might have been sponsored to write such tribal-minded, incendiary articles. Either way, the result is the same. Their unprofessionalism compromises the integrity of the media.

A fine example of attempting to use the current situation to espouse anti-Muslim sentiments in the Sinhala community was made by the notorious Pakiasothy Sarawanamuttu, who sustain two websites with foreign funds – The Ground Views and Vikalpa.org – mainly devoted to bloat the UNP, the terrorist diaspora, and the TNA scoundrels and heads an anti-Sri Lankan outfit called The Centre for Policy Alternatives. I think for the first time this Judas has got hold of some hitherto unheard so-called magnanimous Muslim ladies to write a joint article against the government’s disposal of the bodies of  Corona infected bodies.   

They say that it is with heavy hearts that they have listened to and observed the debates on whether or not burials should be permitted for Muslims who succumb to COVID-19 in Sri Lanka and parts of Muslim communities in Sri Lanka believe that the government acted unfairly in hastily cremating the remains of two Muslim victims of COVID-19, that the will and wishes of families of the deceased were not considered, and that there was no explanation of why WHO guidelines that allow for burials with strict conditions could not be followed.

Continuing, they say that grieving the dead and funeral rites are important to all people, regardless of religious affiliations and the rituals that each of adopts whether traditional or not, whether informed by religion or not, is based on a deep desire to secure dignity and peace for our deceased loved ones and the rituals also provide a degree of control over how we grieve and give us a meaningful way of honouring our loved ones as they pass from this world.

In epitomizing Pakysothy’s vicious racist and communal jargon these ladies state that Muslims are equal citizens of Sri Lanka and this equality transcends every aspect of their lives and ensuring this equality places responsibilities on the state, as well as the respective Muslim communities. Repeating the hollow remarks that had been made by Pakyasothy many times, they say the state has the responsibility of giving due consideration and respect to the views and beliefs of its citizens, and in today’s context to also set an example of respectful, non-xenophobic, non-discriminatory conduct and use language that does not place blame or incite ill will. The government and media must ensure the privacy of those in quarantine, patients, and the deceased and their loved ones. The strict protocols relating to COVID-19 deaths can be implemented with the utmost dignity and respect for human beings who have passed away. It is both an individual and a collective right to dignity.

The is a typical example that the abhorrent friction that was attempted to create by Hakeem and Mujibur Rehan is now being used by miscreants like Pakiasothy and it will not be a surprise if despicable pettifogger fellows like Sajith Premadasa’s mentor Victor Ivan (1971 JVP’s bomb manufacturing Guru) Sambandan, Sumanthiran and even JVP’s newfound ideologue Kumar David ventured in the forthcoming days to politicize the situation. 

It should be noted that the WHO has issued several directives against employing racial discrimination and prejudice related to Convid-19 matters and the Sri Lankan government has issued a new gazette notification on 12th April as well in addition to the previous gazette providing guidelines on the burial of COVID-19 dead bodies.

One Response to “Racist Vultures seeking Corona Cadavers – Part II”

  1. Ratanapala Says:

    Corvid burials – Dust to dust, Ashes to ashes!

    In the end, what matters is not the sensitivities of some followers of medieval religions but the safety of the general population now and in the future. The world has yet to understand the full implications of this new Coronavirus which causes Corvid-19. Are we to take chances and say sorry later if by chance the virus has other means of infecting as well as mutating into more virulent forms. If that happens, just as much as now, no God will come to help. It will be up to the people and their government to look after the situation.

    Sri Lanka Government has taken a firm decision on how to dispose of infected dead bodies. Let it remain so for the good of the many now and in the future.

    In the Abrahamic religions they say – Dust to dust, ashes to ashes! Our bodies are just what we took from Mother Earth, in other words – our physical form is just Topsoil. Whether you burn or bury in the end worms convert the remains to topsoil!

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