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French Muslims Grapple with Coronavirus Burials

Funerals in Islam have always been simple with no elaborate services or extravagant caskets.

But finding an earthly resting place can be a challenge in France with the growing number of coronavirus victims and lack of enough Muslim cemeteries.

Concerned about the Muslim community, Mohamed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM), wrote to President Emmanuel Macron about potential issues with Muslim burials as a result of lack of space in municipal cemeteries.

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Macron responded, giving an assurance that Muslims who die in France during the coronavirus pandemic will be buried in accordance with their religious beliefs and traditions.

“The president made a commitment, along with Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, to respect religious traditions when burying deceased Muslims, even if it means making arrangements with neighboring areas when there are not enough burial sites,” Moussaoui said, Arab News reported.

He also asked the presidents about rumors that mandatory cremations might be carried out due to a lack of burial sites. For Muslims, cremation is not only prohibited, but it’s viewed as a desecration of the deceased.

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“The president assured me that this had been completely ruled out and that France would take all necessary measures to ensure that religious traditions pertaining to burials are respected,” he said.

“I stated clearly that cremation is prohibited in our religion and Macron gave me his word that it would not happen.”

Keeping Contact

Moussaoui and Macron also discussed ways in which Muslims can remain in contact with their religious leaders during this time of social distancing and self-isolation.

“(The president) mentioned a proposal made by the scientific council which suggested creating a telephone platform for citizens seeking comfort, or psychological and spiritual assistance, which they can get through imams and chaplains,” said Moussaoui.

“We at CFCM had already made the decision to create an assistance platform, so we were part of this collective approach.

“We already have our teams working 24/7 to answer questions from patients and their families as well as questions from families who have lost a loved one. Most of the questions relate to burial procedures, as well as what can and cannot be done.”

Funeral in Islam

France is home to a Muslim community of more than six million, making about 9% of the country’s population, the largest in Europe.

According to Pew Research Center, three million foreign-born Muslims in France are largely from France’s former colonies of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The number of Muslims in France will exceed 10% by 2030, the Center said.

As of Wednesday, April 8, the COVID-19 pandemic has infected 1,446,986 and killed other 83,090, according to the latest estimates by WorldOMeter.

France is grappling with over 109,000 confirmed cases of the virus. The country has reported 10,328 deaths so far.

Islam calls for respecting human beings whether alive or dead.

A Muslim’s dead body should be immediately taken to a mortuary for washing and preparation.

Two or three adult Muslims should wash the body and then put on the shroud (kafan). Before the burial, Muslims should perform a funeral prayer.

The burial should be done as soon as possible. It is makruh (reprehensible) to delay the burial of the dead.