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DECEASED MUSLIMS COULD BE FORCEFULLY CREMATED UNDER EMERGENCY CORONAVIRUS BILL

Sunday March 22 2020

Assalamo Alaykum,

MEND is writing for your assistance on an urgent and very serious consequence of the Coronavirus Outbreak relating to possible forced cremation of deceased Muslims.

The emergency Coronavirus Bill 2019-21 (as its currently drafted) 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. The Bill is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons this Monday 23rd March.

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, the Government should not 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 thus call on political representatives to urgently amend the Bill to reflect the human rights of religious minorities.

What you can do:

  1. Download the template letter here and then urgently email this to your MP today.

  2. Find your local MPs details and email address from here: www.members.parliament.uk

  3. Add you details to the template letter above asking your MP to support this amendment to the bill.

[ADDRESS]
[DATE]


[NAME]
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Urgent – Distress over proposed Coronavirus Bill and cremation of deceased Muslims

Dear [NAME]

It has come to my attention that, as it is currently written, Schedule 27 of the Coronavirus Bill 2019-21, 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.

As your constituent, I am writing you to express my concern regarding the impact that this legislation may have on minority communities. Whilst I understand 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, I ask you to 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.

With this Bill due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday 23rd March, I ask you as my political representative to work 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.

Naz Shah MP, with the support of cross-party colleagues, has tabled an Amendment to the Emergency Coronavirus Bill, to ensure if local authorities do reach their capacity, they do not proceed to cremating the deceased from faith backgrounds automatically, without the consultation of family/legal guardians and/or local faith institutions.

The Amendment will formally be tabled on Monday 23rd March. It is as follows;

In the Coronavirus Bill

SCHEDULE 27 – PART 2 IN RELATION TO Disapplication of legislation relating to deceased’s wishes

Insert 5(d):

"In respect of sub-paragraphs 5 (a), (b), (c) where a deceased is to be cremated and it goes against their religious belief the designated authority must consult the next of kin or Power of Attorney or the relevant local faith institution in so far as reasonably possible to find a suitable alternative before proceeding with the cremation"

In Paragraph 6 (1), INSERT: “having had due regard to paragraph 5(d) of this Part”

Explanatory notes: Only in unprecedented circumstances, these clauses may be needed as the local authority has capacity issues and therefore the next of Kin, Power of Attorney or local faith institutions i.e. Church, Mosque, Synagogue can support in providing the relevant support, in order to respect an individual’s wishes.

I thus request you to support this amendment

Yours faithfully,

[NAME]

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