MEND STATEMENT ON PROPOSED ‘FORCED CREMATION OF DECEASED MUSLIMS’ WITHIN EMERGENCY CORONAVIRUS BILL
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Saturday March 21 2020
MEND is deeply concerned by an element of the draft, emergency ‘Coronavirus Bill 2019-21’ due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday 23rd March.
As it is currently drafted, the Bill will allow designated local authorities to disregard section 46(3) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which is designed to prevent a local authority from being able to cremate a body against the wishes of the deceased.Whilst the purpose of the legislation is to deal with a potential surge in deaths and lack of grave space capacity arising from the current tragedy, we urge the Government not to neglect their responsibilities in upholding Article 9 of both the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This includes the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance.
The sanctity of the dead body and the importance of religious burial is an integral component of religious practice for Muslims, as well as Jews. Cremation is forbidden in Islam and Judaism and therefore, the possibility of forcing a cremation upon the loved ones of these communities would add further anguish and trauma to bereaved families, who themselves may be in self-isolation.
We, therefore, call on our political representatives to amend the Bill as it currently stands in order to reflect the UK’s commitments to human rights and to protect communities from the compounded grief of, not only potentially losing loved ones, but having the religious beliefs of these loved ones dismissed. MEND has also issued an action alert to British Muslims on this issue.