Blogpost: Cllr Abbas asks “Where will you bury me?”

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Where will you bury me?
By Cllr Qaisar Abbas

THE people of Thurrock have proud history of welcoming people from different backgrounds and religions. They have always opened their arms and hearts for those in need. The world has recently witnessed the generosity and compassion of Thurrock residents when 39 bodies were found in a lorry container. People from all back backgrounds and religions came together as one community and paid their respect for those unknown victims. The whole Thurrock was in shock and felt the pain of that tragic incident. 

Due to current COVID-19 situation; we are all confined inside our homes and our lives have changed dramatically. The authorities are expecting thousands of more patients and deaths in England because of Coronavirus.

According to the information for Thurrock from the national census of 2011, more than 2.01% population of Thurrock is Muslim. It should also be noted that the overall population of Thurrock is increasing by over 10% every decade (https://www.thurrock.gov.uk/thurrock-facts-and-statistics/population).
 
The members of the Muslim community are living in Thurrock for decades. They are from diverse backgrounds, but they have one thing in common; they always uphold British values. Most of them were born here and others moved to Thurrock from various parts of the world including from within the United Kingdom. Their children and grand children were also born in Thurrock. They studied here and some are working locally in different sectors. Some are running their businesses and some are now retired. The members of local Muslim community are positively contributing towards local and national economy by paying their taxe. They are law abiding and peaceful citizens of this borough and country. The local Muslims have strong connections here and they feel proud to be living in Thurrock.

Yes, they were born here, lived here and worked here, but unfortunately when they die; there is no place in Thurrock for them to be buried.

There is no burial place or cemetery for the Muslims in Thurrock. In case of death, they have to take the dead body to cemeteries in Newham, Redbridge or sometimes even in other parts of the country, far from their home borough of Thurrock. After burial, it becomes almost impossible for the families to visit the graves of their loved ones due to long distances.

If, God forbid, someone’s loved one dies. Where do they want to bury the dead body?  Far from their home town, or in Thurrock, where the deceased was born and lived all his or her life? Of course, in their home borough, so that the family members can visit the grave whenever they want. But unfortunately, the Muslims cannot do this in Thurrock. 

It feels like someone is playing lyrics of a song by the Waifs in my mind;

When I die won’t you bury me
In the town where I was born 
Most of my life I’ve been rambling free
When I die I want to come back home
Ever since I was a baby child
I knew I was born to roam
I had to climb to the top of the hill
Just to see what lies beyond
Now seasons change and I am still the same
I don’t belong to anyone
Still a piece of me will always be
Sitting in my hometown sun…

The COVID-19 is a global crisis and we need to act fast. We also need to uphold human values for dignified burials for those who will die. It is need of the time that the Muslim community should be allowed to bury their deceased loved ones here in Thurrock. Therefore, some area should be allocated in any existing cemetery in Thurrock for Muslim burials. This will show that we not just value your contribution, but we also respect you when you die. 
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By: Cllr Qaisar Abbas

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