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Muslim man accuses council of breaching his human rights

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Muslim man accuses council of breaching his human rights

A Muslim man is locked in a bitter High Court fight with a council which he says is breaching his human rights by stopping him from building an edge around his father’s grave.  

Atta Ul-Haq, a practising Barelvi Muslim, wants to erect the edging to stop people walking across Hafiz Qadri’s grave in Streetly Cemetery in Walsall, West Midlands.

He says Islamic law forbids people from stepping on graves and claims that the council’s policy breaches his human right to exercise religion – a right enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Atta Ul-Haq says the rules of Islam forbid people from stepping on graves. Stock image of the damage that was done to Muslim graves in High Wood Cemetery in Bulwell, Nottingham

Atta Ul-Haq says the rules of Islam forbid people from stepping on graves. Stock image of the damage that was done to Muslim graves in High Wood Cemetery in Bulwell, Nottingham

Atta Ul-Haq says the rules of Islam forbid people from stepping on graves. Stock image of the damage that was done to Muslim graves in High Wood Cemetery in Bulwell, Nottingham

But Walsall Council leaders say they cannot accommodate Mr Ul-Haq’s wish without harming the rights of other Muslims.

They say regulations permit the ‘mounding of graves’ and mounding is the way Muslims normally inhibit people from walking on graves.

Bosses say their approach has been ‘careful, sensitive and accommodating’. 

Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Carr began considering legal argument today at the High Court in London, and the hearing is due to end on Wednesday.

Mr Ul-Haq’s lawyers say the case could have implications for the Islamic community.

Barrister Michael Fordham QC, who leads Mr Ul-Haq’s legal team, told judges in a written case outline: ‘He seeks a judicial review of the (council’s) ‘rules and regulations in respect of cemeteries and crematorium’, by which it has and continues to refuse to permit him to erect a raised marble edging around his father’s grave.

Walsall Council leaders say they cannot accommodate Mr Ul-Haq's wish without harming the rights of other Muslims. Pictured are file images of Muslim graves in Bulwell, Nottingham

Walsall Council leaders say they cannot accommodate Mr Ul-Haq's wish without harming the rights of other Muslims. Pictured are file images of Muslim graves in Bulwell, Nottingham

Walsall Council leaders say they cannot accommodate Mr Ul-Haq’s wish without harming the rights of other Muslims. Pictured are file images of Muslim graves in Bulwell, Nottingham

‘The request is borne out of a fundamental religious belief that the grave is sacrosanct and stepping on the grave is a deeply offensive religiously prohibited act.’

Barrister Jonathan Auburn, who leads the council’s legal team, said Mr Ul-Haq’s claim should be dismissed.

He said Mr Ul-Haq wanted a rule change which would be unacceptable to other Muslim groups.

‘(The council’s) approach has been careful, sensitive, and accommodating,’ he said, in a written case outline.

Atta Ul-Haq has taken his fight against Walsall Council to the High Court in London

Atta Ul-Haq has taken his fight against Walsall Council to the High Court in London

Atta Ul-Haq has taken his fight against Walsall Council to the High Court in London

‘The one accommodation which (it) has declined to make is the one which it is not possible to implement without harming the rights of other Muslims.’ 

But Walsall Council leaders say they cannot accommodate Mr Ul-Haq’s wish without harming the rights of other Muslims.

They say regulations permit the ‘mounding of graves’ and mounding is the way Muslims normally inhibit people from walking on graves.

Bosses say their approach has been ‘careful, sensitive and accommodating’.

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