Birmingham & Black Country

Walsall Council wins Muslim graves High Court battle

A cemetery
Image caption Atta Ul-Haq wanted to install the barrier at Streetly Cemetery in Walsall

A Muslim man who said his human rights were breached by a council's refusal to permit a marble edge around a grave has lost a High Court battle.

Atta Ul-Haq was refused permission to install the barrier on his father's grave at Streetly Cemetery in Walsall.

He said his religion as a Barelvi Muslim forbade people walking over graves, but the council said its response was "sensitive".

Mr Ul-Haq's solicitor has said he plans to appeal the ruling.

Image caption Muslim protestors gathered outside Walsall council in August 2016 to challenge their policy at Streetly Cemetery

Mr Ul-Haq had argued the council's refusal to allow him to erect the 4in (10cm) raised edge breached his right to exercise his religion, as is enshrined in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council defended itself by saying it permitted "mounding of the graves" at the cemetery and that this is how Muslims normally inhibit people walking over them.

It also said it could not accommodate Mr Ul-Haq's wishes without harming the rights of other Muslims.

High Court judges heard both arguments in December and returned their ruling today, dismissing Mr Ul-Haq's challenge.

They concluded that council bosses had "acted in a way which is justified" and said what council had decided fell within their "margin of judgment".

'Very disappointed'

Mr Ul-Haq's solicitor, Natalia Garcia, said he intends to take his case to the court of appeal.

She said the case is of "significant wider public interest to the Muslim community".

Mehboob Matloob, who organised a protest outside Walsall Council in August 2016, said he was "very disappointed" with the ruling.

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Mr Matloob's brother is also buried in Streetly cemetery, and he said the ledges on his grave had been damaged.

"I can't see how they can justify it," he said.

The council said it was "pleased" with the ruling, saying its cemetery rules "do not discriminate against any individual or community and are appropriate and fair."

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