Family barred from burying their dead stepfather on a Saturday ... because he isn't a Muslim

The family of a 75-year-old man have been refused permission to bury him on a Saturday because he is not a Muslim.

Harold Lemaire died last week and his family wanted the service to be held this Saturday to make it easier for far-flung relatives to attend.

But their plans were scuppered after the council said only Muslim and Jewish funerals are allowed on weekends and bank holidays.

JEAN MALTBY
Harold Charlie Lemaire

Outraged: Jean Maltby (left) wanted to bury her stepfather Harold Lemaire (right) on Saturday but has been refused by the council because of their religion

Sheffield City Council offers the 'extended service' to Jews and Muslims because their faith and traditions require the dead to be buried as soon as possible.

But as Jews cannot bury their dead on the Sabbath – from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday – it means that effectively only Muslims can use the service.

Other local authorities are also understood to offer weekend burials only to Jews and Muslims.

However, Mr Lemaire's family accused the council of discrimination and Islamic groups also backed calls for everyone to receive equal treatment.

Mr Lemaire's stepdaughter Jean Maltby, 56, wanted a Saturday ceremony so her brother Stephen, 54, who lives in Dorset, and relatives in the Isle of Man could attend the service at City Road cemetery.

Mrs Maltby said: 'It's 2008 but there seems to be a group of rules for one section of society and a group of rules for another.

'I am not criticising Muslims, my criticism is directed at Sheffield City Council. It's another case of political correctness gone mad.

'This type of attitude will only alienate one section of society against the other, it's a stupid policy and one that needs changing.'

Sheffield's council-run City Road Cemetery

Religious ruling: Sheffield's council-run City Road Cemetery buries non-Muslims only on week days

She said the funeral had now been switched to tomorrow. Her funeral director, Michael Fogg, said: 'I am not a racist, I have Muslim friends, but what the council is doing is operating a two-tier system and this will only alienate people against Muslims in the city.

'Bereavement is a sensitive issue and the council needs to re-think its policy to make it fair to everyone.'

His view was supported by Abdool Gooljar, president of the Sheffield branch of the Society of Islam.

'The last thing we want to do is cause more upset at the time of bereavement, and I would urge a rethink so everybody has the right to bury their dead when they want,' he said.

'I, firstly as a Muslim and secondly as a citizen, do not want preferential treatment.'

Martin Green, senior bereavement services manager for Sheffield, said: 'The council recognised the specific cultural and religious needs surrounding burial and has been offering an extended burial service to the Muslim community.

'This degree of flexibility is in line with services offered by major cities throughout the UK.

'The service was reviewed and agreed last year in consultation with representatives of other religious communities, a cross-section of elected members, and local funeral directors.'

The council confirmed the weekend service was also open to Jews.

Family barred from burying their dead stepfather on a Saturday ... because he isn't a Muslim