Calls for Leeds Muslim community to be given more dedicated burial space

Calls: Cllr Javaid Akhtar

By David Spereall, local democracy reporter

Leeds City Council has been urged to set aside more dedicated burial space for the city’s Muslim community.

Some members of the Islamic population in west Leeds are having to take “two or three buses” to pay respects to their loved ones, a council meeting was told on Thursday.

There are 24 public multi-faith cemeteries across Leeds, but only Whinmoor, on the eastern side of the city, has specific plots allocated for Muslim burials.

Labour councillor Javaid Akhtar, who represents the Little London and Woodhouse area, said the issue was a “great concern” for people of the faith living in the western parts of the city.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee on Thursday, Councillor Akhtar suggested sections could be devoted to other religions too, adding: “This issue has been raised on a number of occasions, going back to before 2008.

“There are many of my faith in the Muslim community who live in the west annd north-west, not just Pakistanis and Kashmiris, but we’ve got such a huge Arab population in the west of the city.

“We need to address this issue and see if we can find a way forward.”

The Whinmoor cemetery itself, located off Thorner Lane, was only created in 2013, making it Leeds’ first new burial space for more than 75 years.

Back then, a portion of the five-acre site was dedicated specifically for Muslim graves, following a request from the Association of Leeds Mosques for a long-term supply of burial space.

Responding to Councillor Akhtar, Sean Flesher from the council’s parks and countryside department, said he would take the point on board.

“All our cemeteries are multi-faith,” he told the meeting. “Every cemetery is open to everyone of any faith or no faith to be buried in.

“There’s adequate provision, but it’s very much up to individuals where they choose to buried.

“No matter where you live in Leeds, any of those cemeteries you can choose to be buried there.

Councillor Akhtar responded:”I absolutely welcome and respect multi-faith cemeteries.

“But I think I speak on behalf of many faiths in the city where I think they’d feel more comfortable if a section of those cemeteries was allocated to those communities, like we have in Whinmoor.

“It’s something I think we need to look into, especially for the west and north-west of the city. ”

“Travelling to Whinmoor – it’s two or three buses before you can go from either Weetwood, Headingley, or Little London to get to this site to pay your respects.”

Leeds currently has enough burial space for all communities to last until the end of the 2030s.

However, the council is planning to expand both Whinmoor and Cottingley cemeteries in future to ensure there are enough plots for the next 50 years.

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