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Muslim man takes Walsall Council to High Court over burial rules

Walsall | News | Published:

Atta Ul-Haq claims his human rights are being breached by the council's refusal to let him build a raised marble edge at Streetly Cemetery.

The High Court in London, where the case is being heard

Judges should dismiss a claim by a Muslim who says his human rights have been breached because he cannot erect a 4in raised marble edge around his father's grave, council bosses have said.

Atta Ul-Haq, a practising Barelvi Muslim, wants to erect the edging to stop people walking across Hafiz Qadri's grave in Streetly Cemetery in Walsall.

He says Islamic law forbids people from stepping on graves and claims that the council's policy breaches his human right to exercise religion - a right enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But Walsall Council leaders say they cannot accommodate Mr Ul-Haq's wish without harming the rights of other Muslims.

They say regulations permit the 'mounding of graves' and mounding is the way Muslims normally inhibit people from walking on graves.

Bosses say their approach has been 'careful, sensitive and accommodating'.

Two judges are analysing the dispute at the High Court in London.

Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Carr began considering legal argument on Tuesday, and the hearing is due to end on Wednesday.

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Mr Ul-Haq's lawyers say the case could have implications for the Islamic community.

"He 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," barrister Michael Fordham QC, who leads Mr Ul-Haq's legal team, told judges in a written case outline.

"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."

Barrister Jonathan Auburn, who leads the council's legal team, said Mr Ul-Haq's claim should be dismissed.

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He said Mr Ul-Haq wanted a rule change which would be unacceptable to other Muslim groups.

"(The council's) approach has been careful, sensitive, and accommodating," he said, in a written case outline.

"The one accommodation which (it) has declined to make is the one which it is not possible to implement without harming the rights of other Muslims."

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