Historic Muslim cemetery in Cape Town reopened because of Covid-19 deaths
Cape Town - For the very first time in nearly 100 years, burials will be able to take place again at the Al Jaamia Mosque Cemetery in Claremont after it was closed to the public during apartheid.
The first burial at the Al Jaamia Mosque Cemetery in Stegman Road took place in 1868. The reopening of the cemetery has brought hope to many, particularly due to the limited space at Muslim burial grounds.
The Muslim Judicial Council second deputy president Riad Fataar said: “We are still suffering the effects of apartheid in the Covid-19 pandemic. The Muslim community is having a serious problem with burial space. This issue has been taken up over the years over various platforms and has now become even more serious. We have raised these issues with the City of Cape Town and the president.”
Fataar said they had finally received the go-ahead to open the cemetery. For almost 100 years, they have been struggling to get the cemetery open. The approval comes after much lobbying.
“This moment did not happen in previous times and many have tried. Many obstacles have been overcome,” he said.
The Muslim cemetery (maqbara) has been closed due to the displacement of the community by the apartheid government. The Muslim community of Claremont were among the first people to be forcibly removed from the area as a result of the Group Areas Act.
Today the Al Jaamia mosque represents a rich history of the previous generations who lived in Claremont before and during apartheid.
A formal cleaning of the Stegman Road Cemetery will take place, including an official opening.
Claremont Main Road Mosque Imam Rashied Omar said: “The Claremont Main Road Mosque welcomes the news of the re-opening of the historic Stegman Road cemetery with the provision that the same Covid-19 protocols be applied such as at other cemeteries during this time.”
Omar said the opening was long overdue and should not have been dependent on the Covid-19 pandemic pressure, because it was closed unjustly during the apartheid era.
“We hope that the management of the cemetery will be done equitably and efficiently in the interest of the whole Muslim community,” he said.