Berlin: Proposal to allow shroud burial

Berlin: Proposal to allow shroud burial

In the future, deceased in Berlin it might be possible to be buried in a shroud, without a coffin. The Senate would deal with the issue for the first time on Tuesday. The proposal is part of the new integration act and says that for religious reasons it would be possible to bury a body in a shroud, without a coffin.

The undertaker's union criticized the planned abolition of the coffin requirement in Berlin. Spokesperson Fabian Lenzen said that there are practical problems with the customary Muslim burial in a shroud. In Turkey, a relative goes down into the grave to put the body down and orient it towards Mecca.

In Germany, the grave is usually 1.8 meters and it's therefore more difficult to put the body down. The leakage of body fluids could also be a risk for the people involved in the funeral. Lenzen says that solutions should be found before the law is applied.

But there is also criticism from the Muslim's side. Volkan Coskun, director of the Islamic department of Germany's largest funeral parlor, Ahorn-Grieneisen, opposes burial in a shroud. He refers to an Islamic legal opinion from 1985 that allows burial of religious Muslims in simple coffins. "We're not in the middle ages," says the Alevite. His company conducts 300 Muslim burials a year - all in coffins. He says that in the past he hadn't gotten a single request for burial in a shroud.

Karin Rietz, spokesperson for the Senate Social Administration, says that Berlin is a land of immigration, where there are people of different religions. These different traditions should be respected and people should learn to live with the differences.

In addition to a shroud, according to the Islamic tradition the deceased should be buried as soon as possible. That is not yet possible in Berlin, as the law requires a coffin and for the funeral to be at least 48 hours after death.

The DITIB (Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs) supports the proposed amendment and says it's a further step in the acceptance of Muslim needs. A funeral without a coffin is a required religious rite, says Bekir Alboga, DITIB spokesperson.

Nationally the Christian-Islamic Meeting-Place and Documentation Centre estimates that 90-95% of Muslims in Germany are buried in their country of origin The dead are ritually washed a prayer is said, and they are then flown in a sealed coffin to their their hometown, where they are buried without a coffin.

Kreuzberg undertaker Bahri Deniz, who came to Berlin from a central-Antalyan village when he was 11, says he wants to buried in Turkey. At the same time he admits that he doesn't know what his children will do. Times are changing. More and more Muslims are born and raised in Germany, and he estimates that they'll also be buried here. Over time, he says, many will stay here.

Asked what he thinks of the proposed amendment, the devout Sunni says: "As an undertaker, with a coffin. As a Muslim, without a coffin." And then he adds: "We live in a modern country." He will therefore continue to recommend to his customers a coffin burial, even if the Berlin Burial law would be amended.

While it's being discussed in Berlin, a funeral without a coffin for religious reasons has been possible in Hamburg for the past 15 years. A look at the statistics shows that relatively few use the option. In the first three years after the law was amended, not one Hamburg Muslim was buried without a coffin. In 2008, 59 people were buried in the Ohlsdorf Öjendorf cemetery in a shroud. In the same period there were 144 Muslim coffin burials.

Source: Berliner Morgenpost (German), h/t NRP