Caretakers at the Mowbray cemetery were shocked to find the cemetery desecrated on Wednesday morning. Cemetery workers arrived at the upper part of the cemetery and found that approximately eighty tombstones had been removed from their original grave spots and arranged in what appears to a cross as well as other cult symbols. Supervisor of the Mowbray maqbara (cemetery), Ismail Abrahams says that when they arrived at 8am to continue their excavations in preparation for the deceased, they discovered the eerie symbols.
Adiel Samaai, whose father’s plank marking was removed from the grave spot, urged that anyone who buried family or friends at the maqbara in the last few months come and identify their grave spots so that the markings could be restored to their rightful places.
Second-deputy president of the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa (MJC), Shaykh Riad Fataar condemned the desecration.
“It is with total sadness that we stand at the Mowbray maqbara today where we see the desecration of graves – the desecration of the maqbara… I’m so disappointed and saddened… I really don’t want to use the wrong words but I’m very emotional,” said Shaykh Fataar.
“We want to call on our Christian brothers to know that the Mowbray cemetery has been desecrated by someone putting a cross right in the middle of the cemetery and removing headstones. We consider this extremely serious [from the MJC] and we’ve advised the board of the Mowbray cemetery to lay a case at the police station. This is completely unacceptable.”
“We hope to get to the bottom of this and make duah that Allah SWT grant us that this doesn’t extend into other communities. We will investigate further. May Allah protect us and ensure that nobody disturbs the peace that exists between the Muslim and Christian community.”
Shaykh Fataar called the desecrator “deranged”, but no leads have been found to the perpetrator/s yet.
“Islam calls that we look after our loved ones that have passed on [and] it extends to respecting even those [deceased] not of the Muslim faith.”
Fataar has appealed for calm saying many community members have buried their loved ones and it will not be easy for relatives to return to identify headstones. Given the distress caused to many families, he urged members of the public not to take videos or photos of the deceased names, and not to forward these on social media.
“We know it is a difficult and emotional time. We will get to the bottom of this. We have police investigating and we have others cooperating with us.”
He added: We can never allow such agent provocateurs to spread hatred, incite reciprocal violence and disturb the positive interfaith relations that prevail in our nascent democracy.”
The cemetery board told VOC News earlier the police will conduct visible patrols in the area. However, it declined to comment any further.
Woodstock police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property case relating to the damages caused to the graves at the Mowbray cemetery.