Multifaith leaders have confirmed Southwark’s burial service discriminates against most Muslim residents.
Faith representatives have told Cllr Wingfield and Southwark senior officers including Director of Leisure Fiona Dean that most Muslim residents rely on private cemeteries out of the borough because Southwark does not provide for their needs.
Southwark Council invited Imam Bilo Barrie of Peckham BECA Mosque and Mr Musharraf Chaudhury Chair of the Southwark Multifaith Forum to this week’s Cemetery Stakeholder meeting and asked Habiba Taslim of Haji Taslim Funerals to make a written statement.
They all agreed Southwark’s burial service does not provide for the majority of Muslim residents. Mr Chaudhury said: “I think most people almost come to realise that there are no facilities for burial in Southwark so they make provision elsewhere.”
Habiba Taslim wrote: “If our families want a non-coffin burial we direct them to Kemnal Park.” It was also revealed at the meeting that a complaint had been made by a Jewish resident demanding equal rights.
Cllr Wingfield can no longer deny religious discrimination in Southwark’s burial service.
Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries and Friends of Honor Oak Park called for an immediate investigation and a Burial Needs Assessment. Cllr Wingfield said only that they might investigate it at some future point.
Cllr Wingfield had claimed ignorance of the discrimination, but FOCC has raised the issue many times with him and all Southwark Councillors and local MPs Harriet Harman, Helen Hayes and Neil Coyle for over two years - and they have all done nothing.
‘Indirect discrimination’ under the Equality Act 2010 is when a Council appears to provide a service fairly and proportionately to all residents – but in reality discriminates. Southwark claims its burial service provides for all residents’ needs regardless of faith.
But Southwark’s 30,000 Muslim residents experience around 270 deaths each year, for whom Southwark provides just 7 burial plots unsuitable for the majority. In 2012, Southwark had an opportunity – and a legal duty – to end its religious discrimination. Instead the Council adopted a burial plan that embedded it.
Mr Chaudhury of Southwark’s Multifaith Forum said to the Stakeholder Group: “I guess we all in life want to be treated equally.”
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Southwark's burial service excludes the majority of Muslim residents while subsidising plots for Christians and others by millions of pounds. The photos above shows 'new' burial grounds developed in Camberwell Old Cemetery. The plots were created in 2012 when the memorials of the poor scraped away and tons of earth were mounded on top of thousands of graves.
Above photo: Gardens of Peace Muslim burials grounds in Hainault, Ilford, where many Southwark Muslims are buried as Southwark makes no provision for them in the Borough while providing and planning for burial for residents of other faiths.