Still battling backlogs

2017-11-14 06:00
Ahmed Paruk from the Islamic Burial Council PHOTOS: AISHAH CASSIEM

Ahmed Paruk from the Islamic Burial Council PHOTOS: AISHAH CASSIEM

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Members of the Islamic Burial Council in Durban made their way to Cape Town last week to help find solutions for the current backlog at mortuaries.

Organisation chairperson Ahmed Paruk says the issue can be dealt with better if the Muslim community stands together. Paruk visited various masjids and organisations to raise awareness of the delay in the release of Muslim bodies to families, which is breaking the Islamic burial procedure.

Muslims across the city are still battling the frustration, some saying they are also disappointed in the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).

“I feel sorry for the people of Cape Town. They have not done enough. The postmortems should have been done by now,” Paruk says.

Officials of the health department confirm that Salt River mortuary has 69 bodies that require postmortem examination. Of these, six are Muslim. Two of the six bodies have not been identified.

From Monday 9 October to Sunday 5 November, they received 35 Muslim bodies. Of these, 28 were released after between one and seven days.

Tygerberg mortuary currently has 92 bodies that require postmortem examination. Of these, three are Muslim. One has not been identified yet. From Monday 9 October to Monday 6 November they received 18 Muslim bodies. Of these, 17 were released after two to six days.

“The state is telling us that they have a backlog of corpses and Muslims have to go on a queuing system. I don’t think this is fair because when the health department took over from the police service, the standing order was transferred to their department and bodies were supposed to be released on the same day. Unfortunately, this is not happening,” says Paruk. “This issue is really bad and we need to take action against it as soon as possible.

“If this had been in KwaZulu-Natal, my head [as chairperson] would have been on a silver platter a long time ago. This is how bad the issue is.”

Paruk says his team has been consulting with the United Ulama Council of South ­Africa.

“The time has come for us to have a national body representing Muslims in the country. This is just the beginning for Cape Town. In years to come, we will have another issue [for instance that] there is no space to bury bodies and you will have to do cremation. What will we do then? This is an appropriate time to put the right structure in place for a unified body that knows about burial.”

On Saturday the Western Cape Muslim Undertakers Forum joined Paruk to discuss the issue.

“We were the first team to assist in facilitating the first batch of bodies released when the issue prevailed. We have been monitoring the process ever since, in order to look at the turnaround time to analyse and study the situation, and to have an informed and knowledgeable impact when we do engage with relevant departments,” says the forum’s Mogammad Abrahams.

“To date we can say there have been minimal changes and the undertakers from this city have been working hard to release the bodies and to create a sense of communication amongst them. All of this took place before the meeting between the MJC and the health minister.”

He says the dignity of Muslims is being tested, making it difficult for the undertakers as well. He feels the MJC has failed them.

“We need to understand that the Islamic principals are not being upheld by religious bodies,” he says, adding that they support Paruk.

MJC spokesperson Mishka Darries says: “We can only provide the community with proper statistics after the meeting scheduled with the health department [today]. However, we can assure the public that we are monitoring the situation and Muslim autopsies are being completed as soon as possible. However, it is still not within the 24-hour period that we would like,” she says.

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