Largest Muslim cemetery of Western Europe opens in the Netherlands

12-01-2023

Western Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Imam AbdelAziz Elouahabi during the digging of the first grave at the new Muslim cemetery in the Dutch city of Arnhem. Photo ANP, Robin van Lonkhuijsen

Muslims believe that deceased people should be secure of an eternal burial place. Due to a lack of space, this is often impossible in the Netherlands. Now, the Muslim community has opened a large cemetery specially designed for this purpose.

The cemetery, called Maqbara Rawdah Al Moslimin (Cemetery Garden of Muslims), has space for 16,000 coffins. Therefore, it is the largest Islamic cemetery in Western Europe.

According to Säid Bouharrou, one of the initiators behind the cemetery, Maqbara meets the needs of Muslims in the country. As many public cemeteries have a policy that graves are cleared after several decades, Muslims often choose to be buried in their country of origin. But younger generations have been born in the Netherlands and are now sometimes buried in a country they do not belong to.

This was also a problem during the Covid crisis, as travel restrictions were implemented. As a result, many Muslims were temporarily buried at a public cemetery until they could be transported to other countries. “Double mourning and an unfinished processing process”, Bouharrou says.

Respect for life

By buying a plot of land so that they can adhere to their religious principle of an eternal burial place, Muslims show that they value life and take it seriously, the Christian theologian prof Mart-Jan Paul says to the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad. He is an expert in Old Testament studies at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Leuven. Paul points out that Christians have a different way of showing this respect for life. “They often put a Bible text on their tombstone and testify of a hopeful future that way.”

“Our life is temporary. The Bible is not about our body here, but about our eternal destination”, prof Paul adds. He states that Christians believe God will raise every body, no matter their condition on earth.

Christian cemetery

In the Netherlands, there are also a few Christian cemeteries. In 2012, six Reformed churches from the centre of Holland bought a plot of land to open a cemetery. They did so because the public cemetery was going to build a crematorium, despite the protests from the churches.

Whether this cemetery will remove graves or not is yet to be seen. According to secretary Kees Bouw, this question has not risen yet, as there has been enough space up till now. At the same time, he notices that the group of people who want a grave for an undetermined period of time grows. “Some people choose this option because they believe there are Biblical arguments against removing graves. Some even buy such a grave in advance because they know that their children have a different opinion about this.”

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