Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 June 2020

UK promises that Muslims will not be cremated under pandemic laws

Religious beliefs will be taken into account if officials take charge of dealing with cremations and burials

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that Muslims would not be cremated against their wishes under emergency coronavirus rules. AFP
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that Muslims would not be cremated against their wishes under emergency coronavirus rules. AFP

The UK government promised to introduce changes to its emergency coronavirus laws to ensure that British Muslims who die during the pandemic will not be cremated.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said changes would be introduced to the 329-page proposed law to reassure Muslims that they will be buried in line with their wishes.

Mr Hancock told parliament that he had heeded lobbying from MPs who were concerned that the right of burial for Muslims would be limited in the event of the most extreme staff shortages for mortuary and funeral staff.

The law, being debated in parliament on Monday, includes provisions that would allow local officials to take control of the “death management process” and make decisions in case the system was overwhelmed.

It said that “personal choice will be respected as far as possible” but the system raised concerns that families of Muslim victims would not be able to veto cremations of their loved ones.

Mr Hancock said that the government had found a solution to concerns that loved ones would have to be cremated “to ensure that we can both have dignity in the case of a large proportion of the workforce not being available but also accede to the wishes of the families.”

The law was changed to ensure that any emergency action in the event of large numbers of deaths “appears consistent with the person’s religion, or belief” if known.

The change was success in a campaign by opposition party MP Naz Shah who secured the backing of more than 100 MPs to change the bill.

“I’m so relieved that the Government have listened to what we’ve said about religious burials for Muslim and Jewish people and have brought forward an amendment to address our concerns,” the MP said on Twitter.

Updated: March 23, 2020 09:21 PM

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