Turkey's top religious body to investigate death of imam handling bodies of COVID-19 victims

Turkey’s top religious body has launched an investigation into the death of an imam after the cleric was allegedly forced to perform funerary rituals on infected bodies, Artı Gerçek news site reported on Wednesday.

Osman Çilenti, an imam in Turkey’s southeastern Ufra province, died of COVID-19 after he was reportedly forced by the local mufti office last month to wash and shroud the bodies of the victims of the deadly virus in accordance with Islamic rituals, it said.

Çilenti was allegedly assigned the task to oversee the burial rituals of a large district as a punishment and was not provided with any training or protective equipment following Çilenti's objections to some irregularities at the Diyanet, Artı Gerçek said. Çilenti soon began to fill sick and died shortly thereafter, it said.

Turkey’s Health Ministry has published a guidebook on morgue and burial procedures during the pandemic, which stipulates that officials involved in washing of the deceased should wear gloves, surgical masks and waterproof aprons. 

Many Muslim communities across the world have suspended the ritual washing and shrouding of the deceased in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly virus.