—FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—
JAMAICA, New York (January 02, 2021) – The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) strongly condemns the forced cremations by the Sri Lankan Government of Muslim and Christian COVID-19 victims. Forced cremations are a violation of basic human dignity and international laws of religious freedom. It further marginalizes Sri Lankan religious minorities. The COVID-19 victims should be allowed to be buried according to their religious funeral rites.
The Sri Lankan Health Ministry made cremations compulsory for victims of COVID-19. Having a majorly Buddhist population, this ruling has been seen to have an adverse effect on Muslim and Christian minorities, further marginalizing these small communities. Muslims are less than 10% of the Sri Lankan population.
The cremation of these victims was carried out without the approval of the families. The family members of these victims, composed of both Muslim and Christian faiths, brought the case of forced cremation to the Supreme Court, yet the courts have refused to hear their case. The government then charged the families up to $3,000 for the cremation services, despite being forcibly enacted.
Furthermore, there have been anti-Muslim sentiment brewing in Sri Lanka – Muslims have been repeatedly blamed for the spread of the virus in Sri Lanka. The Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Sinhalese Buddhist group, called for a ban on halal products and a boycott of Muslim owned-businesses.