Male’, Maldives – The recently announced talks to conduct Islamic funeral rites in the Maldives for Sri Lankan Muslims succumbing to COVID-19 was reportedly suggested to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa by former President of Maldives and current Speaker of the parliament, Mohamed Nasheed.
This was stated in an article by news outlet “News in Asia”, a detail left out by the official statement by the Maldivian government , which said that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressed a letter to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, requesting assistance in performing the Islamic burial rites as Lanka is currently facing difficulties in arranging proper burial proceedings for Muslims dying to the Covid-19.
The compulsory cremation rule was passed by Sri Lankan authorities in April, with Muslims in the country opposing this and suggesting to alternatively bury them in a body bag placed in a concrete coffin, with sand then filling the coffin.
While authorities considered this and showed approval at the time, this policy was not passed and Muslim victims were decided to be cremated. This was when Muslims in Lanka asked leaders of Muslim countries for assistance.
Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and other Muslim leaders were asked in an effort to convince Sri Lankan authorities. This is when Nasheed reached out to Sri Lanka’s president proposing his plan, which then led to Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing a letter to Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Although the Islamic religion does not support cremation, the Sri Lankan authorities have already cremated at least 15 Muslim coronavirus victims, including a 20-day old infant, against family consent. This sparked protests by the Muslim community in the Lanka, with the infants father saying “I didn’t have the heart to receive the ashes,” and “My wounds will begin to heal only when they put an end to the forced cremations.”
While Maldivian public reaction to this news was initially in favour of assisting fellow Muslims, the move has been greatly criticized since then. including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who said that “bringing the bodies of foreign Covid-19 victims to be buried in Maldives is something that I cannot support.” .
Major news outlets in Maldives wrote many pieces against the move, with Maldivian twitter users saying that the Maldivian government is playing along when our neighbors are being Islamophobic, and violating basic human rights of Sri Lankan Muslims.
On the other hand, several Islamic scholars supported the decision of President Solih and said that the Muslims must not be cremated and Maldives must assist Sri Lanka.
The former Islamic Minister of Maldives, Dr. Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeedh also fully supported the decision of President Solih and said that the bodies of Muslims must not let be cremated and that the closest Muslim country must assist in providing proper burial proceedings.
This proposal has now been abandoned by the Sri Lankan government following massive backlash, who have now opted to go for the previously suggested concrete tomb proposal.