Grave policy challenge 'could have implications for Muslim community'

Lawyers say a Muslim man has mounted a human rights challenge against a council's cemetery policy which could have implications for the Islamic community.

Atta Ul-Haq wants to build an edge around his father's grave at Streetly Cemetery in Walsall to stop people walking across the burial site.

His lawyers say Walsall Council bosses have refused his request on the basis that it is a breach of their cemetery policy.

They say Mr Ul-Haq is preparing to ask the High Court to declare the council's decision unfair.

Mr Ul-Haq says the rules of Islam forbid people from stepping on graves and he is arguing 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.

Solicitor Natalia Garcia, who is representing Mr Ul-Haq and works for Fountain Solicitors, says a judge at the High Court in London is expected to analyse the case in the near future.

"It is arguable that Walsall Council's cemetery policy breaches Article 9," she said.

"This is because the policy prohibits edgings around graves in the lawn area which is reserved for Muslim burials.

"There is therefore nothing to prevent my client's father's grave from being traversed by foot or maintenance machinery, which is against my client's beliefs."

She said the case was of "significant wider public interest to the Muslim community".

Earlier this year, a High Court judge ruled in favour of two Muslims who complained that dirty conditions in cells at an immigration removal centre hampered their prayers.

Mr Justice Holman decided the men's ability to pray at specified times in a clean area was hindered when they were locked in 12 metre square cells with other detainees between 9pm and 8am at Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport.

He concluded that their Article 9 rights had been infringed by Home Office ministers without justification.