SLPP National List nominee Mohammed Muzammil yesterday (02) said whatever the religious dictates and sentiments, the Sri Lankan Muslim community should adhere to specific instructions issued by the government as regards the cremation of COVID-19 victims.
Muzammil emphasized that as the country battles to overcome the unprecedented threat, posed by Covid-19, the Muslim community had no option but to follow government guidelines, the former UPFA MP said in response to a query by The Island.
Muzammil served as a parliamentarian, from 2004 to 2010.
The government would have to take decisions for the benefit of all people. When The Island pointed out the stand taken by SLMC leader, attorney-at-law Rauff Hakeem, and National Unity Alliance (NUA) leader Azath S. Salley, who had strongly opposed cremation of Muslim victims and demanded burial in accordance with religious dictates, Muzammil regretted their stand. “Of course, they are free to express their views.
“Nothing wrong with them taking a stand on this sensitive issue,” Muzammil said, while urging the decision-makers, and the public, to try to understand the overall threat posed by Covid-19.
Both Hakeem and Salley condemned cremation of the second corona victim, a 64-year-old Muslim, from Negombo, early this week.
Muzammil warned of dire consequences if decision-makers succumb to political pressure and agreed to bury Muslim COVID-19 victims at the expense of, what he called, overall health of the country. “Let me explain how burial of bodies could cause a catastrophe. Unlike Catholics, we do not cover a hole dug in the ground to receive the body with sand. Instead, we place some planks and then cover them with sand. This can pose quite a health hazard. Therefore burials shouldn’t be permitted under any circumstances,” Muzammil said.
Responding to another query, Muzammil said that he might earn the wrath of a section of the community for taking a stand contrary to that of other former members of parliament. The former lawmaker said that he felt it was his duty to educate the Muslims of the need to follow government guidelines and also strengthen the government initiatives to contain the rapidly spreading virus.
The one-time MP said that no one should play politics with the issue at the expense of the country. The country should be told in no uncertain terms that decisions were taken by the government, in consultation with the health authorities, and the military, and it would be the responsibility of all communities, regardless of political differences, and the forthcoming 2020 general election, to follow specific instructions.
All communities, including the Muslims, should be prepared to forego traditions, and practices, for the greater good of the country, he said.
Muzammil also condemned those who recently conducted Friday prayers at a Mosque, in Horowpothana, jeopardizing the safety and security of people living in the area. Responding to another query, he said that a consensus was required on the issue, urgently, for the common good.
The outspoken National Freedom Front politician pointed out how the same lot caused a major rift between the Muslim community and the then government/security authorities by playing politics in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. Their irresponsible response caused a major crisis, Muzammil said while urging the community not to be deceived by those seeking political advantage at their expense.
The threat posed by COVID-19 was ever bigger than the Easter Sunday carnage. “We are so far lucky to contain the virus. But, we are certainly not in a position to take a chance. Decisions must be followed to the letter. I also believe Muslims have to be buried. I support that position. But the extraordinary situation on the ground makes my personal stand, on this matter, irrelevant,” Muzammil said.
According to him, whatever the politicians say, the vast majority of the people realized that the country should follow what was best for all.
Muzammil warned that burial of COVID-19 victims could, overnight, cause the rapid deterioration of the situation.
The former MP said that all political parties, represented in the last parliament, should reach a consensus on the matter, immediately, or face the consequences. “Please don’t let a few illogical men to jeopardize the health of all. Media can play an important role in educating the public,” Muzammil said.
According to him, Muslim burials were done in accordance with Arabian customs which the Sri Lankan Muslim community would have to give up to counter COVID-19. “We shouldn’t be part of the problem,” he added.
(Source: The Island – By Shamindra Ferdinando)