Mosques have raised concerns over new proposed guidelines and rulings for the new burial section at Blackburn cemetery.

A document was shared during Ramadan which details some of the changes which were being proposed.

This included a number of updates to the existing terms and condition and relates only to the new section in Pleasington cemetery.

This week, 16 mosque representatives wrote to Blackburn with Darwen Council asking for any consultation to be extended and separately a petition was also launched calling for further clarifications on the rulings.

Although not listed in any correspondence it is believed there were particular concerns over the placings of flowers and plants on graves which is a common tradition amongst many Muslims. This is also a tradition for non-Muslims who visit graves.

An update from the council said this would still be permitted but these ‘would be removed after two weeks’.

The proposals also asked for family members of the deceased to list an estimated number who may attend the funeral and rulings would also limit the height of a mound to six inches.

Earlier, Blackburn with Darwen Council had said the consultation period was ongoing and said this would run until Friday, April 21. This date coincided with the end of Ramadan.

In response to a letter from some mosque representatives the Council have now clarified the proposals and said the period of consultation will be extended by three weeks to May 12.

The council said it would ‘also arrange a meeting with a nominated group of up to 12 representatives from the Mosques along with the members of the Blackburn Muslim Burial Society as soon as possible after the consultation has ended’.

A source close to the Blackburn Muslim Burial Society (BMBS) had earlier said it had already raised objections to specific sections of the document already and it had not been given suitable time to study the proposals.

The new Muslim section of the cemetery includes a prayer facility, with Muslim funeral prayers themselves tending to last less than 20 minutes, and many people leaving the cemetery once prayers have concluded.

The proposals relate to a number of issues including traffic management, parking and the use of registered stonemasons for grave-stones and kerb sets.

However, it is the issues relating to the placing of flowers and ornaments on the graves which has caused some people to speak out.

The document said owners must also ensure their grave is ‘kept as a lawned cemetery and nothing should be placed on to the grave, mound or mid-feather at any time. This includes concrete, flowers, plants, ornaments, fencing, trees, bricks etc. If any items are placed they will be removed immediately.’

The council has now clarified concerns raised by people.

Martin Eden, Strategic Director of Environment and Operations, said: “We are currently consulting with members of Blackburn Muslim Burial Society and the Mosques on burial arrangements in the new extension at Pleasington Cemetery, and these discussions include issues around the height of the grave mound, the use of kerb-sets or fencing, the planting of flowers and trees and memorial displays around the graves.

“Mourners of all faiths are welcome to continue bringing flowers to a funeral, the flowers can be left on the grave, where they will remain for up to two weeks after the funeral, and flowers can be brought and left at the grave from visitors.

“We have been made aware many mosques, masjids and religious centres have not yet had the chance to reply to the consultation so we are now extending the consultation deadline until Friday, May 12, to give people more time to do this.

“We have also offered to meet with a nominated group of up to 12 representatives from the mosques, masjids and religious centres along with members of Blackburn Muslim Burial Society after the consultation has ended to discuss the feedback from the consultation further to agreement is reached on the new burial site.”

Speaking this week, Abdul Rehman Adam from the Masjid E Raza Altom Street and Noorani Education Centre on Hartley Street said: “We only became aware of the proposals and deadline date when we read it in the Lancashire Telegraph.

“A lot of concerns have been raised by the members of the community. We have requested an immediate hold on the proposals and have asked the council for a 30-day extension.

"We are also asking for a consultation meeting as vast majority of the community are against the proposals.”

Maulana Siddiq, from Masjid-e-Ghousiya based on Leamington Road, added: “We have been contacted by numerous people who are concerned over the guideline changes.

"One of those issues was the placing of flowers on the graves. This is part of many people’s beliefs and cultures.

“We also believe it was important for such changes to be thoroughly discussed with all local mosque representatives before being implemented.”

A petition which calls for further consultation had already received more than a thousand signatures within a day.

Mohamed Ugradar, who posted the petition on behalf of Mohaddis-e-Azam Mission Mosque, said: “Although I agree that rules should be in place to allow for some order and to help to ensure fairness and safety, I strongly believe that there should be a thorough consultation with the Muslim community so that the rules being imposed do not impact the community and their customs and traditions in a negative way.”

In details released to mosques in a letter the proposals under consultation:

  • A family member of the deceased will be asked to estimate the attendance at the funeral (Up to 60 people, 60 - 150 people, 150 - 220 people or above 220 people).
  • Grave spaces should not be made larger or deeper after the excavation of the grave by the Council. Graves to be kept as a lawned cemetery and nothing should be placed onto the grave, mound or mid-feather.
  • This includes, kerb-sets, concrete, ornaments, fencing, stones, or the planting of flowers, plants and trees. (Please note, mourners bringing flowers to a funeral can continue to leave the flowers on the grave, where they will remain for up to two weeks).
  • All grave mounds should be the same height and adhere to the mound template, which will be available on the new extension and will help you to shape your grave mound.