Man loses UK High Court fight over grave edging

January 24,2019

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LONDON: A British Pakistani Muslim who claimed his human rights have been breached because he cannot install a raised marble edge around his father's grave lost a High Court battle on Tuesday.

Attaul Haq wants to erect 4in (10cm) edging to stop people walking across Hafiz Qadri's grave in Streetly Cemetery in Walsall, West Midlands. He maintained in his court claim that Islamic law forbids people from stepping on graves and claimed that council rules relating to cemeteries breached his human right to exercise religion. He said the right was enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore the court should rule in his favour and against the local council.

Walsall Council leaders said they couldn’t accommodate Haq's wish without harming the rights of other Muslims. They said that regulations permit the "mounding of graves", and mounding is the way Muslims normally inhibit people from walking on graves. The council maintained in the court that their approach has been "careful, sensitive and accommodating".

On Tuesday, Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Carr in London High Court handed down the verdict, ruled against Attaul Haq and dismissed his challenge to the lawfulness of the council's policy on "rules and regulations in respect of cemeteries and crematoria".

The two judges had analysed arguments at a High Court trial in London in December. Judges said, in a written ruling, that what council bosses had decided fell within their "margin of judgment". They concluded that council bosses had "acted in a way which is justified".

A spokeswoman for Walsall Council said: "The judgment has confirmed that the council’s cemetery and crematorium rules and regulations do not discriminate against any individual or community and are appropriate and fair. Nor do they breach Article 9 of the Human Rights Act, nor discriminate on the grounds of age. The court also stated that the council as the burial authority is best placed at a local level to make rules and regulations which are appropriate.” Haq’s father Hafiz Qadri died in 2015 and is buried in Streetly Cemetery in Walsall.

Haq's lawyers said the case could have implications for the Islamic community. Barrister Michael Fordham QC, who led Haq's legal team, told judges during the trial last year: "Haq seeks a judicial review of the (council's) 'rules and regulations in respect of cemeteries and crematorium', by which it has and continues to refuse to permit him to erect a raised marble edging around his father's grave. "The request is borne out of a fundamental religious belief that the grave is sacrosanct and stepping on the grave is a deeply offensive religiously prohibited act."


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