Yes, I know the title might be perceived as distasteful – I find the whole idea of what follows distasteful, if not downright offensive.
There is, apparently, a campaign by a Hindu, Davender Ghai, in the High Court, to get outdoor funeral pyres allowed, because that’s the only way to “set the soul free”. I don’t think so… Interestingly, Jay Lakhani, writing in the Guardian, says:-
“The demand for such a ritual is illogical, morbid and risks damaging the credibility of Hinduism in the UK.”
Can’t argue with that.
You know, I get awfully tired of people coming here from other countries and trying to turn Britain into a replica of the country they left (if it was so wonderful, what are you doing here?). More often than not, the culprits are Muslims, but this time it’s Hindus, and I’d say to them what I’ve said in the past. You, or your forebears, left your homeland behind – for whatever reason – and came to live here. OK, that’s fine, but by living here you get to abide by the same laws and customs as the rest of us – you can’t pick the laws you approve of and disregard the rest. Nor can you be allowed to make Britain into a cold and foggy version of India, any more than Muslims can be allowed to make it into an Islamic state (yeah, yeah, I know it’s not all Muslims, but even the most moderate make little attempt to integrate).
Despite my atheism, I’m happy to accept that Britain is officially a Christian country, with Christian traditions (and a few laws), governing the disposal of the dead (and even if I objected, by the time I’m dead, I’ll be past caring – as will my soul, if such a thing exists). If, however, you want to live by the laws and mores of your native land (or the land of your forbears), including those that govern the disposal of the dead, I have no objection to that, and it’s quite easily achieved – go and live there.
It is, by any measure, wholly unacceptable to have bodies burnt outdoors here in Britain. For a start, where would this take place? In the back garden? On the beach, or a mountain-top – where, exactly? Actually, the beach, below the high-tide line, is the only viable option. Above the high-tide line, the Crown Estate controls about 45 per cent of England’s foreshore, the rest is in a variety of private hands. There is little land, possibly none at all, in Britain that isn’t owned by somebody.
There’s a problem with funeral pyres, as there is with any outdoor fire – your fire is someone else’s bloody nuisance and pollution. How, for example, would you prevent people downwind inhaling wind-born particles of the incinerated corpse – a gruesome prospect? Maybe this is acceptable in India, it’s sure as hell not acceptable here. And who clears up afterwards, and what happens to unburned parts of the body?Even crematoria can’t burn all bony structures to ash (they’re pulverised when cold).
Crematoria also reach temperatures that are sufficiently high to ensure the destruction of pathogens and toxins, and the chimneys are, I believe, filtered – open fires can’t reach such temperatures or contain the pollution the generate.
Anyway, it’s bad enough – for those of us with respiratory problems – encountering garden fires, I don’t want to be enveloped in a cloud of smoke from a burning corpse! Nor does anyone else, respiratory problems or no. The idea offends the sensibilities of most people, I should think.
I seem to recall that there have already been some unauthorised funeral pyres — here in the Northwest, I think — and that’s entirely unacceptable. If you want to live here, people, then you abide by our laws, and burning a body in a public place is an offence. If you want to do that, then bugger off to where it’s legal – that’ll solve the problem for all concerned.