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THE formal opening of a new cemetery space for the Muslim community in Melksham took place on Friday 26th April which welcomed Wiltshire Council, Melksham Town Council and members of the Muslim community.
Chris Pickett, Melksham’s older people’s champion reports, “Since the 1960s, Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and more recently Turkey and Syria have been settling in the beautiful town of Melksham. In some cases, the children know no other home and between the communities, excellent benefits have been brought to Melksham through trade and commerce. This has resulted in full integration, making Melksham their homeland. As part of this full integration, the Muslim community no longer send those who have died, back to other continents to be buried.
“Once a funeral has taken place, there is a religious requirement for the remaining family members to visit the grave frequently to keep it clean and, also, recite prayers for the deceased at the graveside. Traditionally, this is done every Friday, after Friday prayers, and on every major religious festival such as Eid and Ramadan. Against this backdrop, the location and distance of the cemetery from the community is critical. In this regard you might be aware that the Muslim prayers are to be performed at certain times of the day and, in winter months, the afternoon prayer times are very close.
“As an example, in December on the shortest day, the first afternoon prayer is at 1.15pm, the second at 2.30pm and the third at 4.00pm. You will note that this gives very limited time to family members to travel to and visit their deceased, perform the grave cleaning and conduct prayers before having to start their next prayer. Therefore, if a cemetery is miles away in another town, they would not be able to complete this duty. This is a particular issue for the elderly, as often they are the ones who visit more frequently.
“Thanks to Wiltshire Council, and elected members, Melksham has now been able to extend the public cemetery to include an area for the Muslim community to use.”
Above: Melksham town cllr Jon Hubbard, Chris Pickett, Wiltshire cllr Bridget Wayman and Gias Uddin, leader of the Melksham Muslim community and fellow members at the cemetery.