The Western Cape Muslim Undertakers Forum has raised concern around the lack of security at the Mowbray makbara to safeguard the premises at night. This comes after 80 headstones were removed on Wednesday morning and placed in cult-like symbols in the cemetery. The desecration has caused outrage in the Muslim community and families who recently lost loved ones have been left devastated by the callousness of the crime. On social media, there were many calls for the cemetery to improve its security, however, the cemetery board declined to speak to VOC on the matter.
The forums chairperson Ebrahim Solomon says after-hour burials remains a safety concern and surveillance cameras must be installed. He believes this will also assist burial workers, who are often victim to assault.
Solomon said he was concerned that Mowbray cemetery did not have a proper grave identification system in place. With the defacement of the headstones, this would make it difficult for some people to locate their relative’s burial places.
“I know at the other cemeteries, there is a record being held of where the person is buried. I spoke to the supervisor (at Mowbray) and wanted to know if there are proper records. The only information they have is in which block the person is buried, but not which grave. Yet, in Johnstone road cemetery, for the past forty years, people will still be able to identify the exact position of their graves,” he said.
He urged people who have loved ones who are buried in the top section of the graveyard to visit the site and ensure their relative’s graves are in position.
Second-deputy president and cemetery management committee chairperson of the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa (MJC), Shaykh Riad Fataar said that the desecration of the maqbara brought a very sad day for Muslims.
“It is a sad day when people are disturbed in their resting place. It is a sad day when one sees that the Muslim maqbara has been targeted. It is a sad day for people who have just recently buried their loved ones and who now have to go back and return the headstones,” said Shaykh Fataar.
Despite the heinous and ignoble act, Shaykh Fataar is calling on the ummah to exercise sabr (patience) while adding that there’s likely more than one perpetrator.
“As a Muslim ummah we always live in peace and harmony with everybody – we are not going to go out there and say all Christians are responsible for it. There are a few individuals responsible here and we know it must be a few because of the weight of certain marble headstones which can only be lifted by three or more people…
We wait on saps to help us with the investigation.”
The sinister symbols placed throughout the maqbara – including a large cross and triangles – were created using the headstones stolen from various graves at the site.
Shaykh Fataar says that while some are commenting saying that the cross is in fact rather the antichrist cross as opposed to the traditional Christian one, “many ulama are looking at the different signs and symbols.”
The MJC is currently engaging with various organisations in an effort to arrange increased lighting and security at the maqbara.
“We ask our community for calm while there are deranged people doing weird things. Know our duahs, and that of the ummah, wish all those deceased that Allah grant them Jannat. When a person removes the headstone, it doesn’t mean anything. Your loved ones stay in the care of Allah SWT…”
Further, workers at the cemetery say they have been asking for better security for years. They stressed that the increased security would not only benefit them as workers, but also those visiting the resting places of their loved ones after hours.
The Moslem Cemetery Board has requested the community to assist in restoring the graves of the deceased and placing the headstones at the correct gravesites. In a statement, the Board has assured that they would do their best to ensure the perpetrators are held to account for their actions.