Thursday, July 18, 2019 -
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Now it’s burial that’s under fire in Europe

The St Pancras Coroner's Office (Jewish Chronicle)

The St Pancras Coroner’s Office (Jewish Chronicle)

As secularism becomes an ever more dominant force in Europe, new ways are discovered to suppress age-old religious traditions.

Much of this “secularism” has less to do with pure philosophy than it does to do with anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. There’s a lot of tribalism in Europe, which means a rejection of minorities’ cultural and religious norms. Turns out the new dogma of “multiculturalism” isn’t as deeply ingrained as some would hope.

What it means, though, is that there are ever new ways for cooperation and collaboration between minority communities — specifically Jews and Muslims. There’s always a silver lining, and in this case, it’s the opportunity for two communities often at odds due to geopolitics, to explore what they share. Circumcision, kashrut, religious education, forced integration — and now, burial. These are all issues under fire in many European countries that directly impact both Muslims and Jews.

Last week, Britain’s Jewish Chronicle reported that a London coroner is delaying Jewish funerals, saying “no death with be prioritised in any way.” According to both Islamic and Jewish law, a burial should take place as soon as possible following a death. Both the Jewish and Muslim communities in the area have reported delays with regards to burial.

But respect for faith groups is obviously not particularly important to Mary Hassell, the senior coroner at St Pancras coroner’s office, who has stated that when it comes to releasing bodies, she will not take religious sensibilities into account. Hassell is also putting the kibosh on shemira, a fundamental Jewish practice that ensures a body is never alone until the moment it is buried.

The disregard of these religious practices is repugnant, especially as Hassell’s actions will impact people during what is already an emotionally trying chapter in their lives. So much for multiculturalism — guess that only applies to things like exotic food and foreign film, but not to the rituals that are actually important to those other cultural groups.

But the silver lining: Jews and Muslims are already cooperating on publicizing and fighting this policy. In all their anti-religion policies, European governments are succeeding in transforming themselves into a common enemy. We’re not sure that was their goal.

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