Provision of Islamic funerals in Germany contributing to Muslim integration

The provision of traditional Islamic funeral rites for Muslim foreigners by Christian funeral homes has made a positive contribution toward the integration of Muslims into German society where immigrants from Muslim countries have long sought a status for Islam equal to that of Christianity and Judaism.
Several Muslim cemeteries have been established across Germany in recent years and some Christian undertakers have started offering Islamic burial services to Muslims. This is largely thanks to the efforts of organizations such as Arbeit in Vielfalt (Working in Diversity), a joint project of the Hafemeister Funeral Service and the Society for Intercultural Cohabitation (GIZ), which has promoted intercultural and interreligious dialogue for years in Berlinand’s outlying neighborhood of Spandau.
Hafemeister Funeral Service, after months of preparation, has begun performing funeral services for Muslims in the Gatow Christian cemetery in Spandau. The 13-hectare cemetery has included an eight-hectare area set aside for Muslims since 1988, but Hafemeister is only just now providing the service themselves. In the past, Muslim families would have had to find someone perform the services from outside.
The cemetery is open to all Muslim residents of Berlin, irrespective of national origin, but most are from Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Two hundred fifty Muslims were buried in Gatow last year.
and”We wanted to stand by our Muslim Berliners in their days of sorrow,and” Hafemeist Funeral Service Manager Berger Sieglinde told Todayandacutes Zaman. Sieglinde added that their efforts are based in a respect for every religion practiced in Berlin, something required to maintain the cityand’s cosmopolitan and multicultural environment.
and”As we respect each otherand’s traditions in order to be able to live in peace and harmony with one another, we also need to support each other, especially during those [sad] times,and” Sieglinde said in a press briefing at the Gatow cemetery in Spandau on Wednesday.
Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) federal deputy Swen Schulz also attended the media briefing on funeral ceremonies held thus far. Praising the increasingly positive attitude towards Muslims in Germany Schulz said it is important to have Muslim cemeteries across the country as and”Islam is part of Germany.and” and”Having Muslim cemeteries is a wonderful sample of integration policy,and” Schulz added. Most Muslim immigrants living in Germany have historically preferred to be buried in their countries of origin rather than in Germany, but this is changing. Greater numbers are now choosing to be buried in Germany as they now consider it their new homeland, according to GIZ coordinator Musa Bozkurt. and”In previous times, those who died in Germany were sent to Turkey to be buried, but now this tendency has decreased, as people prefer to have the remains of their relatives and friends here in Germany so that they can visit their graves and pray more frequently,and” Bozkurt said, explaining the benefits of being able to visit the cemeteries every Friday, at least, to recite the Surah al-Fatihah, an important surah for the dead.
Assessing the initiative for the provision of Islamic burials as and”important and worthwhileand” in terms of the integration of Muslims in non-Muslim German society, Dr. Britta Marschke, director of GIZ, said it is designed to bring the wider German society closer to Muslims, adding: and”So far, we have always expected efforts toward integration to come from Muslims and foreigners, including Turks. [andhellip] Now we are working from the other direction: It is time for Germans to open their doors to Muslims.and”
and”[The availability of Muslim funerals] also lends to an exchange of cultures. It will pave the way to help Germans learn Islamic culture,and” a Berlin resident of Turkish origin, Asli Ganduler, said.
Taking care of all the funeral procedures, the funeral companies will pair families with imams for rituals such as washing and prayer. They will also assist the family in matters of bureaucracy, in order to ensure that the pension of the deceased is properly administered, and to facilitate issues of insurance. Most funeral companies also offer personal consultations with the family.
There are currently more than 15 million people with an immigrant background living in Germany, according to the German Statistics Office. This figure includes all those who have migrated to Germany, as well as those born in Germany with at least one immigrant parent. Approximately 4 million Germans are practicing Muslims who consider it important for funerals to be conducted according to Islamic tradition.
While significant steps have been made, there are still many issues remaining at the federal level. Islamic communities are by no means treated equally to Christian or Jewish communities, either legally or in the eyes of the wider society, according to the SPD-affiliated Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung (FES), in the introduction to its report titled and”The Recognition of Islam in Germany,and” published on Tuesday. Accordingly, there is considerable need for action before Muslims can enjoy full equality in Germany. Funerals are just a single instance of this lack of equality. Though large numbers of Muslims have lived for decades in Germany, establishing families, some still prefer to be buried in their homelands, as the German regulations for funerals are still difficult to reconcile with the customs and rites of Islam. As of yet, there is still no federal regulation governing the burial of Muslims according to Islamic rites in Germany.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman