Muslim Burial Dilemma in Germany
to a friend
Getting more integrated in the German society, Muslims are facing a dilemma of the lack of proper burial cemeteries in Berlin, doubling their grief of the loss of a beloved one.
"They live here in the second and third generation and they want to be buried where they lived and worked," Ender Cetin, the chairman of the Muslim association at the Sehitlik mosque in Berlin, told the Emerati newspaper The National on Saturday, May 26.
"This is a problem that urgently needs to be solved."
Berlin is home to a 300,000-strong Muslim community, basically the ancestors of Turkish workers who came to Germany in the middle of the twentieth century and stayed.
Berlin has only two operational cemeteries dedicated to Muslims, which are attached to public Christian cemeteries and their 2,000 gravesites will be full by early next year.
The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) has applied for permission to expand one of the cemeteries bordering the former airport of Tempelhof, but the city government has other plans for the area.
The other graveyard is located in the western suburb of Gatow that is far away from the central Berlin districts where the mainly ethnic Turkish Muslims live.
A number of German cities have Muslim sections in their municipal cemeteries, yet the lease arrangements are still deterring many Muslims from being buried in Germany.
At present, about 80 to 90 per cent of Muslims are still being interred outside the country.
Islam calls for respecting human beings whether alive or dead.
A Muslim’s dead body should be immediately taken to a mortuary for washing and preparation.
Two or three adult Muslims should wash the body and then put on the shroud (kafan). Before the burial, the funeral prayer should be done.
The burial should be done as soon as possible. It is makruh (reprehensible) to delay the burial of the dead.
Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Born and raised in Germany, increasing numbers of Muslims wanted to be buried in their homeland rather than be taken to their countries of origin after their death.
"The younger generation thinks differently," said Eyup Ilgün, a Turkish undertaker based in the city of Stuttgart, referring to older generations who wanted to be buried in their countries of origin.
The high cost of burying Muslims in Germany was another factor that led to transferring bodies to be buried in countries of origin
"A transfer to Turkey costs €2,000 (Dh9,250), whereas a dignified burial in Germany costs €5,000 to €6,000," said Ilgün.
Some 200,000 ethnic Turkish families in Germany pay into a burial fund run by DITIB, the Muslim association, which organizes the transport to and interment in Turkey.
"If we get a deceased person reported to us in the morning, we quickly take care of the ritual washing and the prayer for the dead so that the person can be on the plane in the afternoon," Ilgün added.
Many European countries face similar pressures to find burial space for Muslim immigrants.
In February, France inaugurated its first municipal Muslim cemetery in the city of Strasbourg, a move Islamic leaders described as a step towards recognizing one of the country's largest minority groups.
Berlin officials have also pledged to try to find solution for burials problem.
Petra Roland, the Berlin city development spokeswoman, said the government was checking whether existing municipal sites had space for Islamic sections.
"We're intensively working on a solution," said Roland.