Letter to the World Health Organization
Respected Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director General of World Health Organization (WHO),
The Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW) was established in 2005 under Turkey’s Council of Ministers resolution number 3335, and until this day it has continuously work towards empowering sustainable development throughout the Islamic world through its 354 NGO members across 66 countries.
At the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (UNIW), we aim to ensure sustainable development, unity and coordination among our non-governmental organizations, as we carry out significant initiatives at various countries in all areas; from education to family, from humanitarian aid to human rights, from youth development to economy. We had provided a shortlist of our activities in the attached appendix. You may also find visual and written documentation regarding our organization and our projects at our website, www.idsb.org.
Respected Director General,
As we had known, humanity is currently facing great challenges, regardless of religion, race and language. Since the initial cases was reported at China, the World Health Organization has been leading the way to identify the nature of the then epidemic, not only by working alongside state officials, but also listening to experts and addressing concerns from ordinary citizens, to ensure international coordination to contain it. It had published important guidelines in the fight against the virus, covering from its diagnosis and treatment, to the sensitive issues of individual rights and freedom during this pandemic. In regard to the burial of COVID-19 patients, the respective state governments should be urged to be respectful to the beliefs of the deceased and support the calls by international institutions such as Amnesty International to ensure that religious practices are respected, within the limitation of international guidelines on this pandemic.
Under these circumstances, it seems that in many countries including the developed nations, their treatment of minority communities have become worse, especially towards Muslims. It is due to the Islamophobic approach by sinister domestic political groups, that they even went on confiscating Muslim corpses. Not only that they confiscated the corpses and being indifferent to the dead’s religious burial rites, but they even perform cremation without any consent by the dead’s relatives. Such reckless acts heavily disrupts social relations and threatened social integration as it violates not only the religious practice of the deceased but also the fundamental rights of their loved ones.
According to the many researches and experts from various countries, performing burials with the necessary measures would not resulted in the spread of the pandemic. Besides, in all affected Muslim countries where the number of cases are relatively low compared to other countries, burials are performed with Islamic methods. In addition, the real question is how far did the general public comply and implemented the precautionary measures.
Another painful picture is related to “refugees”. Millions of people, who lost their homelands have to leave their country due to civil wars or for different reasons. They are trying to survive in camps in different countries. Rohinya, Syrian and African refugees come first in this list. If we exclude camps in Turkey and some countries worthy of praise by UN, those people living in makeshift camps in miserable conditions struggle to survive in a way far from the human dignity and have no access to proper health, food, water and shelter services let alone any means against COVID-19.
In many western countries, and in Sri Lanka, we fear that the hate speech against Muslims had come to a point where Muslims were held accountable for COVID-19 outbreaks and such narratives are intensified by political motives. We also have concern about keeping camps out of health care.
In order to protect the rights of minorities and Muslims who are exposed to infringement of rights, and to ensure they could fulfill their last rites for the affected relatives, we call upon the World Health Organization, the United Nations and Amnesty International to continuously develop a more effective approach towards these countries.
Throughout the epidemics in these 20 years, be it either SARS, MERS, EBOLA and now COVID-19, it has become more evident that the dynamic relationship between state government and institutions are of absolute importance in order to defend our community from pandemic threats that are increasing from day to day along with the growth of globalization. As strict quarantine measures are proven effective to curb the pandemic, it has proven that unity and togetherness are key to face such challenges.
In this regard, we call upon the countries to stop the incitement of hate speech and discrimination against Muslims, while underlining support for religious freedom and uphold minority rights in these difficult times. We also calls upon the WHO to develop an effective approach in this context.
UNIW, as an international institution with 354 NGO members from 66 countries globally would like to underline that we will be pleased to explore prospects of cooperation and work with you in protecting human dignity and health under all circumstances and without any discrimination, even during this pandemic outbreak.
We respectfully offers you our best regards and we wish you all the best in your good endeavour.
Atty. Ali Kurt