Det Labour-kontrollererte byrådet i den innvandrertette bydelen Tower Hamlet i London overveier å grave opp 350.000 lik på en historisk kirkegård for å anlegge en såkalt «multireligiøs» gravplass. Offentligheten har reagert med vantro og sinne:

It is a peaceful resting place for 350,000 souls – an historic graveyard which now serves as a nature reserve.

But plans are afoot to dig up the ancient graves at Tower Hamlets Cemetery – and reopen it as a 21st century burial site.

Officially it would be known as a «multi-faith» cemetery but it is likely that it would principally answer calls for a Muslim graveyard in the largely-Asian East London borough.

Den gamle Tower Hamlets Cemetery – som ble åpnet i 1841 og erklært for full 1966 – er en grønn lunge i storbyen, har et rikt dyreliv og blir i stor grad benyttet som turområde. Området stelles av 1600 frivillige fra foreningen Friends of the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, og årlig besøker 8.000 skoleelever kirkegården for utendørs naturleksjoner.

Etter at byrådets planer for kirkegården ble kjent, har lokalavisen i området blitt bombardert med brev fra historikere og naturelskere:

The local newspaper has been bombarded with letters from historians and nature lovers declaring: «There is no way we’ll allow them to dig up our ancestors.»

But the Labour-controlled council’s environment spokesman Abdal Ullah appeared to be in no doubt about the feasibility of the plan when he said: «To preserve the respect and dignity for everyone, I think most of the graves would have to be cleared out and we’d start afresh.»

He said a corner of the cemetery would be reserved for Muslims who are buried in shrouds at a depth of 6ft and on their side facing Mecca.

By law, any graves more than 75 years old can be removed.

At the cemetery yesterday, liaison officer Ken Greenway – the only paid member of staff tending the 33-acre site – said he was astonished that anyone would even contemplate such a move.

«I’m against it and I have to stand up for that because of the huge value of this site today,» he added.

«It’s a beautiful haven for wildlife and people.»

Til tross for Ullahs uttalelser benekter nå byrådet at det foreligger noen planer for å gjenåpne den historiske kirkegården og parken som en multireligiøs gravplass, men innrømmer likevel at de ser på «muligheter» for nye gravplasser og at Tower Hamlets Cemetery er en av mulighetene som blir vurdert.

Daily Mail: Anger over plan to dig up 350,000 bodies in historic London cemetery for Muslim burial site