Shadrack Smith burial row laid to rest
The family of Roman Catholic Shadrack Smith have been assured he will not be exhumed despite a complaint from a Muslim family that a ‘non-believer’ had been buried next to their relation.
According to this report, Smith, 89, will stay put after the Ministry of Justice, the only organisation with the power to grant an exhumation licence, said there was “no way” he would be moved.
Smith was buried in the multi-denominational Burbage Cemetery in Leicestershire on January 30. His burial plot was next to the grave of Muzaffar Khan, 87, whose family reportedly raised concerns over a non-Muslim being buried next to their relative.
Mr Smith’s family say they were warned by Burbage Parish Council that exhumation was one possibility, though the council now denies this was ever discussed.
When we reported this story on Tuesday, the Council posted a comment, saying that initial coverage in The Hinckley Times was wrong:
An inaccurate, divisive and inflammatory article printed in The Hinckley Times appeared to indicate that Burbage Parish Council has considered the exhumation of a person recently interred at Burbage Cemetery – this is totally untrue and without foundation.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman has since said said that without the permission of Smith’s family, no exhumation licence could be granted.
MoJ rules state that anyone applying for an exhumation licence will:
Need to get the signature of any close relatives, the owner of the grave plot and the burial authority. The only exception is when a corner issues a warrant for an exhumation in the course of a criminal investigation.
The council said in a statement that the first Muslim burial at the site took place several months ago.
Khan’s grave was the first in a row of plots that had not until then been allocated.
After the Smith family bought the adjacent plots:
A number of complaints followed and the council initiated their correct procedures and considered the matter carefully.
The statement added:
Burbage Parish Council has sought to resolve this matter in a fair and transparent manner and has had extensive dialogue with both families concerned. We have also taken extensive legal advice on all matters associated with the issues raised.
Burbage Cemetery is a non-denominational, multi-faith facility and requests from all communities living in and around Burbage will be treated equally and fairly in line with our policies and the law.
At a meeting of the parish council on Tuesday, the council discussed the matter and confirmed its existing policy. It said it “regrets any distress”.
A member of Khan’s family said that the row had been “blown out of proportion”.
Dr Sheik Howjat Ramzy, Director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre and an adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain, said:
There is nothing in the Koran which says that you have to be buried separately [but] there are some traditions that in the time of the Prophet it was good to be separated.
[Graves] are separated in some Muslim countries but Islamic jurisprudence is different from one country to another and in this country it is allowed.
Tim Morris, director of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, added:
In 33 years I have never come across another case like this, apart from a man who moved his wife because some Hell’s Angels bought some plots nearby.