Southwark Council is claiming that there is no religious discrimination in its Burial Service.
Cllr Wingfield, Southwark Member for the Environment and Public Realm, has claimed to the press:
“We do not discriminate against residents of the Muslim faith or any other faith in Southwark” (South London Press, 16th March).
But Cllr Wingfield claims to be unaware of the burial needs of Southwark’s 30,000 Muslim residents – whilst also claiming to provide for them.
He stated in Southwark News on 9th March:
“It could be that there is provision for them elsewhere in London. It’s not for us to second guess their needs.”
But that’s exactly the Council’s job – if it is actively working to avoid or eradicate religious discrimination as the Human Rights Act 1998 requires.
He then states:
“If the demand for Muslim burials increases we would have to make that provision for them.”
But lack of complaint isn’t proof of lack of religious discrimination. And the demand is already there – Muslim residents are 10% of the population but at least 30% of borough burial need.
The ONS reports around 9 deaths per 1,000 per year – meaning Southwark’s 30,000 Muslim residents experience approximately 270 deaths a year.
Southwark has what they laughably call a “dedicated Muslim burial area”, with “space for 48 grave plots”. Southwark records show fewer than 7 Muslim burials take place here each year – around 2.6% of Muslim residents’ burial need.
This area is unsuitable for the burial rites of the vast majority of Muslim residents. Southwark is effectively saying all Muslim residents could be buried in Southwark – if they changed their religious burial rites.
In the Southwark News 9th March, Cllr Wingfield is quoted as celebrating Church of England approval: “We are delighted that the Diocese has approved our plans to create more burial spaces in Southwark. 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.”
But Muslim and Jewish residents are already forced to pay for burial in private cemeteries outside the borough, while Southwark subsidises burial plots suitable for other faiths in its municipal cemeteries.
Southwark Council’s blatant religious discrimination is yet another reason why Southwark are unfit to run a burial service.
Our letter today to the press in response to Southwark’s denial is below.