Ebola and Islamic burial ritual

Oh-oh! This is the most politically incorrect dimension of the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Which is why you won’t see any of the mainstream media touch it with a ten foot pole.  Paul Sperry reports in Investor’s Business Daily:

Islamic burial rituals are a key reason why health officials can’t contain the spread of the deadly disease in West Africa.

Many of the victims of Ebola in the three hot-spot nations there — Sierra Leone and Guinea, as well as neighboring Liberia — are Muslim. Roughly 73% of Sierra Leone’s and about 85% of Guinea’s people are Muslim. Islam, moreover, is practiced by more than 13% of Liberians.

When Muslims die, family members don’t turn to a funeral home or crematorium to take care of the body. In Islam, death is handled much differently.

Relatives personally wash the corpses of loved ones from head to toe. Often, several family members participate in this posthumous bathing ritual, known as Ghusl.

Before scrubbing the skin with soap and water, family members press down on the abdomen to excrete fluids still in the body. A mixture of camphor and water is used for a final washing. Then, family members dry off the body and shroud it in white linens.

Again, washing the bodies of the dead in this way is considered a collective duty for Muslims, especially in Muslim nations. Failure to do so is believed to leave the deceased “impure” and jeopardizes the faithful’s ascension into Paradise (unless he died in jihad; then no Ghusl is required).

Before the body is buried, Muslims attending the funeral typically pass a common bowl for use in ablution or washing of the face, feet and hands, compounding the risk of infection.

Oops! This is a great way to spread disease, because corpses are capable of spreading Ebola, which is why Thomas Duncan, the first Ebola patient to die in America was cremated. The WHO recognizes the problem:

“Funerals and washing dead bodies in West African countries have led, to a great extent, to spread the disease,” a World Health Organization spokeswoman recently warned.

WHO has issued an advisory to Red Cross and other relief workers in African Muslim nations to “be aware of the family’s cultural practices and religious beliefs. Help the family understand why some practices cannot be done because they place the family or others at risk for exposure.”

The document added: “Identify a family member who has influence with the rest of the family and who can make sure family members avoid dangerous practices such as washing or touching the body.”

I am familiar with the provision of Jewish law that permits observance of law to be suspended if it it endangers life, but I do not know is sharia law has a similar escape clause. According to Sperry:

Last month, Red Cross workers in Guinea were attacked by family members while trying to bury Ebola dead safely. In Sierra Leone, moreover, a family took Ebola-ridden bodies secured in body bags from the Red Cross, opened them up and exposed all members of the family to Ebola. They all contracted the disease.

All the more reason to quarrantine the hot zone countries.

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