23 September, 2023


A Dignified Closure To A Covid-19 Death Of A Sri Lankan Muslim In The UK

By Arshath Zameek –

Dr. Arshath Zameek MD

Son-in-law of the deceased, a medical doctor who served for many years in Sri Lanka until recently, pens down his own experience via his Twitter account as follows. He urges all Sri Lankans to raise their voice against the injustice done to Sri Lankans who die due to COVID-19 and their burial rights being denied:

Sri Lanka, my home country has continued to deny “Sri Lankan” Muslims who died contracting COVID-19 the dignity and the right to be buried despite scientific evidence, WHO guidelines and countless pleas by families.

I recently lost my beloved father in law to COVID. He was buried in the UK after his passing. He was a great human being, kind and generous. He often worried about his family in Sri Lanka and the plight they might have to undergo in case they succumbed to COVID-19.

Fear amongst the masses about burials, political agenda, organized disinformation campaigns; misinformation and racism are contributing factors to the situation in Sri Lanka.

Though Sri Lanka refuses to bury the dead, UK and every other country in the world allow for burials to be conducted safely. Muslims are a minority in the UK and only make up 4.4% of the population.

This thread is an account of the events and an attempt to share what dignified healthcare looks like.

One week before his passing the consultant contacted us to know if we wanted a representative from the mosque to be with him in his last moments in case things spiralled out of control. We requested for a Muslim Chaplin to be present and the hospital coordinated it in advance.

We were contacted by the hospital as his situation worsened the night before. COVID wards are restricted to visitors but the medical staff knew the importance of allowing families the need to meet their loved ones before its late. We were given full PPE. We spent 3 hours with him. He passed away peacefully a few hours later. The Muslim Chaplin had been with him since we left the ward reciting for him until his last breath.

The hospital contacted us to know if we wish to bury him according to our religious values and rituals. They were committed to helping us perform our rituals and directed to contact the local mosque to arrange the funeral proceedings.

Muslims bury their dead within 24 hours. With the current situation, a delay in obtaining the death certificate could mean a delay in the burial in about five days. To make the situation worse death certificates are usually given out after 24 hours. However, after we explained our sentiments the ward and the administration took the extra step to provide the certificate to us within 24hours. We were able therefore make preparations for the burial a day later.

There was no special area allocated for COVID-19 burials and was to be done at the main cemetery in the center of the city.

Muslims wash the deceased before burials. The hospital arranged a special area for this and assigned a doctor to instruct the washing. I took part in the washing. The hospital provided us full PPE. The body was washed according to our customs and sealed off in the coffin.

We then took him to the mosque for the funeral prayer. There were no restrictions on the number of people who could attend the prayer but there were strict social distancing measures. However, the number of people who could attend the burial was restricted to 20 people. After the prayer, we finally brought him to the graveyard, recited for him and lay him to rest peacefully.

The burial brought us closure. It healed our pain. We were able to grieve his loss and found solace in seeing him rest peacefully. Anyone who lost a loved one knows the importance of the need for closure.

The pandemic has been raging on for almost a year and all the other countries in the world are burying their dead except Sri Lanka. To this date, there hasn’t been any case of COVID-19 that seemed to have been contracted by water. If science one day tells us that there is a risk caused by burials, I will assure you we Muslims will comply. Muslims like any other Sri Lankan have put their religious obligations aside throughout the pandemic.

Muslims stopped the Friday congressional prayer for months and did not attend them because we understood the science and logic behind it. The danger it poses to society.

The current situation back at home and the denial of burial is nothing but an act of blatant injustice. If every other country can bury their dead safely then why can’t we? Why has that option been taken away from us? Ask yourselves if it’s right.

I am urging Sri Lankans, leaders and friends to understand the injustice being done and to raise your voice against it on behalf of fellow Sri Lankans.

*Dr. Arshath Zameek MD is a former employee at Nawaloka Hospitals Colombo and the National hospital Kandy. He has recently moved to the UK and is in the process of joining the NHS. He actively engages on social media to raise awareness on public health and patient education.

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Latest comments

  • 10

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It seems the more advanced and developed countries have no qualms about respecting the rights of the minority, listening to their needs, and making it easy for them, at their time of sadness. I guess that is the difference between having intelligent and reasonable leaders, who do not make the minority feel discriminated, and racist leaders, catering to their extremist base, showing discrimination even when it comes to burying the dead, and why a multi religious country like ours, never progresses, and always being criticized by world bodies, and international organizations. We have heard enough of lame justifications for their racist policy about cremations, and they all stink.

  • 7

    Dr. Arshath Zameek,
    Can you please tell us who conducted research and where to provide scientific evidence. We are not aware of such research and even scientists are still grappling to understand the behavior of COVID-19 virus.

    “Sri Lanka, my home country has continued to deny “Sri Lankan” Muslims who died contracting COVID-19 the dignity and the right to be buried despite scientific evidence, …”

    • 10

      You want real scientific evidence? Here is the scientist who played a part in sequencing the SARS virus:
      World renowned Pathologist and Virologist Professor Malik Peiris has refuted claims that the burial of dead bodies of COVID-19 victims could lead to the spread of coronavirus, adding that it is nonscientific. https://t.co/c1mVPzAtD5
      #LKA #SriLanka #COVID19SL #StopForcedCremations

      Will you stop spouting racist rubbish even now?

      • 2

        old codger,
        I will if Demalu (aka Tamils) and Muslims stop spouting racist rubbish against Sinhalayo. I have my own experiences how racist Tamil Diaspora carried out a vicious propaganda campaign against Sinhalayo all over the world. When Tamils do it that is fine!

        “Will you stop spouting racist rubbish even now?”
        Prof. Malik Peiris has not done research on COVID-19 virus and he is making an assumption. Majority in this country cannot take a risk because of few Muslim extremists want to play politics using dead bodies.

        • 4

          “Prof. Malik Peiris has not done research on COVID-19 virus and he is making an assumption.”
          I knew you would make some idiotic statement. Tell me please, were any of your Sinhalayo ancestors closely related? You know, incest produces mentally deficient offspring. Not your fault of course.

  • 4

    Sri Lanka has a Muslim Minister of Justice (???). Sri Lanka has number of Muslim Parliamentarians and always with the governments and had number of ministerial posts in several governments. They also supported for ethnic cleansing of Tamils of this nation. They even did the Easter Bombing to kill follow Christians. So, Muslims (politicians) in Sri Lanka are not worried about minority rights including their own cmmunity rights.

  • 2

    It is impossible for the mustard heads to accommodate the rights of the living.

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