7 Muslims are buried in Southwark cemeteries every year, on average, against 244 Christians - a Freedom of Information request from the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries shows.
Include the 176 people of other, non-Islamic faiths, including Humanists, Hindus, and others and that's 420 burials to 7 - every year.
Muslim residents make up about 10% of Southwark’s population of just over 300,000 – that’s 30,000 people. But they are a third to a half of residents whose faith requires them to bury their dead with a range of Islamic funeral rites.
However, Southwark’s burial service excludes almost all of the borough’s Muslim residents - while subsidising burial suitable for other faiths.
‘Indirect discrimination’ under the Equality Act 2010 is when a council appears to deliver services fairly and proportionately to all residents – but in fact does not.
Southwark claims to provide burial for all residents irrespective of religious preference. This is far from the truth.
According to figures just released by Southwark Council under the Freedom of Information Act, 2,995 burials took place in Southwark between April 2010 and February 2017.
Of these, a total of 2,947 non-Muslims received local burials subsidised by the Council. That’s 98.4% of all burials.
Over the same period, only 48 Muslims were buried in Southwark’s cemeteries - 10% of the population, 30% - 50% requiring burial by faith, 1.6% of all burials.
Why is this?
In 2012, Southwark’s Burial Strategy admitted that “residents observing Islamic funeral rites and requiring graves prepared in adherence to Islamic law, must seek internment (sic) outside of the borough.”
Southwark has set aside a tiny so-called ‘Muslim area’ in Nunhead Cemetery which is unsuitable for the majority of Islamic residents who bury their dead in accordance with their faith.
Most need burial suitable for Islamic funeral rites, in a dedicated, consecrated cemetery and cannot be buried over other people’s remains.
But this would cost Southwark more money. So they ignore it. And claim to campaigners and reporters that they are providing burial for all when it is clearly not true.
Southwark is forcing Muslim residents to use the private sector for their own burial needs while providing subsidised burial for other faiths - in order to save the cost of providing burial suitable for all residents proportionately and fairly.
This, we believe, is forbidden by law.
On plans to create more burial spaces within Southwark, Councillor Ian Wingfield member for the environment and public realm said:
“Local people will now continue to have the choice to be buried locally, rather than being forced to pay higher costs for burials outside of the borough.”
Which 'local people' is he defending? Certainly not most of Southwark’s 30,000 Muslim residents.
“Southwark is treating thousands of residents like second-class citizens," said Blanche Cameron, Chair of the Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries.
"Religious discrimination – taking people’s taxes to subsidise burial they cannot use - is just one of many reasons why Southwark’s burial project must stop at once.”
“In 2017 a Council can’t provide burial for some residents and not others - especially a third to a half of residents who need burial.”
“The Camberwell Cemeteries are full. We are not campaigning to stop burial. Decades of burial land for all faiths is available now in Greater London which Southwark could buy to keep prices low for residents. Southwark Council must stop the religious discrimination immediately.”
The Friends of Camberwell Cemeteries' Save Southwark Woods campaign is fighting to protect the woods, graves and green spaces of the Camberwell Cemeteries and preserve them as Nature Reserves, like Highgate and Nunhead Cemeteries.
www.SaveSouthwarkWoods.org.uk | firstname.lastname@example.org | @southwarkwoods | Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods
Burial over the dead on Woodvale in Camberwell Old Cemetery.
The beauty, history, nature, woods and graves of the Camberwell Cemeteries are being destroyed for shoddy burial plots over the dead, crammed in cheek by jowl, costing millions, flood regularly and exclude by faith one third of residents who require burial.
Human remains dug up illegally in Camberwell Old Cemetery in 2008 and left by the side of graves.
Southwark has not done a Burial Needs Assessment. It would show the burial service discriminates against 30%-50% of residents whose faith requires burial. Many cannot be buried over the dead.
Local MP Harriet Harman brought in the 2007 law cancelling burial in perpetuity, paving the way for mass grave exhumation - Southwark's burial plan.
Above: Two acres of woods felled and chipped to mound over the 48,000 graves of the poor below to sell off as 'new' burial plots over the dead.