In parts of London Muslims & Jews say they are scared to die

In parts of London Muslims & Jews say they are scared to die January 19, 2018

Pressure is being put on a well-respected London coroner, Mary Hassell, above, to resign because she stands accused of being ‘insensitive’ to Jews and Muslims by failing to release bodies for burial fast enough.
A member of the Jewish community told BBC Radio 4 tonight that the areas covered by St Pancras Coroner’s Court where Hassell works contains large numbers of Jews and Muslims who are “afraid” to die there, for fear breaching the religious rule that says they should be stuck in the ground within 24 hours of snuffing it.

Orthodox Jews and Muslims, incidentally, are vehemently opposed to cremation.

Earlier, according to this Camden New Journal report, a Muslim Labour councillor, Abdul Hai, above, called on Hassell to resign, following complaints from religious leaders who say she has caused “immense anguish and trauma” to bereaved families.
Hai said Mary Hassell should leave her post and move to an area that has “less faith sensitivities”.
Muslim and Jewish families have repeatedly criticised Hassell over what they perceive as a failure to accommodate their religious beliefs. Both faiths prohibit invasive post-mortem examinations and require swift burials after death.
The coroner investigates deaths in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets – collectively making up some of the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in the country. The issue came to a head over Christmas when the closure of the court lead to further hold-ups in releasing bodies to Jewish families.
Hai said he will be asking Phillip Lee MP, a justice minister, to intervene, adding:

It would be better if she goes to work in an area that has less faith sensitivities. We need a coroner that really understands the diversity, ethnicity and cultural matters of the community.

A Jewish burial society wrote to Camden Council earlier this month demanding Hassell’s  dismisal. Councils in the four boroughs jointly appoint the coroner and pay her salary. However, according to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, once appointed, only the Lord Chancellor, with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, may remove a coroner on the grounds of “incapacity of misbehaviour”.
Relations between Hassell and the Jewish community were strained when she removed an agreement that corpses could be taken to a mortuary that allowed them to be “guarded” by members of the faith until they could be buried, in accordance with Jewish law. Lawyers for the burial society have threatened to take Hassell to court, alleging an abuse of power and unlawful discrimination.
Rabbi Asher Gratt told the Camden New Journal:

People are living in fear because of these draconian decisions.

Referring to a recent conversation with a Holocaust survivor, he said:

He can’t sleep at night because of the fear of what will happen to him when he dies. This is someone who has gone through Auschwitz.

In his letter to Camden Council, Rabbi Gratt said:

Other coroner offices, knowing of some religions’ obligations for prompt burials, demonstrate flexibility in prioritising these where possible, but Ms Hassell’s office seems to make a habit of delaying them, notwithstanding that she knows this causes immense anguish and trauma for relatives.

St Pancras Coroner’s Court said Hassell could not comment publicly as it would be:

Incompatible with her judicial role.

A copy of a letter by Hassell, obtained by the Camden New Journal, states that she is “very familiar with the Jewish and Muslim religions’ teachings” and “always take these into account”.
She added:

There is a difference between being sensitive to faith wishes, and prioritising one person over another because of their religion. The coronial area of Inner North London contains the greatest concentration of Orthodox Jewish people in Europe, and the office of HM Coroner is here to serve that community, but not only that community.

Commenting on the CNJ report Anne-Marie Sullivan wrote:

I am deeply saddened to read this article. I lost my precious father in the most tragic of circumstances and as a result his remains were brought to St Pancras Coroner’s Court for a postmortem before an inquest took place. We are practising Catholics and it is not unusual in our faith for burials to take place within 2/3 days.
Although I have also read in the JC that this can be 2/3 weeks which is not factually correct. The point that seems to be missing is that the Coroner’s Court only investigates certain deaths, be it unsuspected or sudden. It often takes time to carry out the necessary investigation and although we waited three weeks until we could lay my father to rest we respected the law of the court and didn’t insist they hurry their tests.
We were treated with upmost respect by Mary Hassell and her brilliant team. I will never ever forget her professionalism, it’s the kind you don’t meet every day. ?I am of the opinion that no religion should have special privileges over another and furthermore I hope Mary Hassell remains in her post.

Alex Mo responded:

Thank you very much Anne-Marie for sharing your experience. I find unacceptable that some people are trying to bully such a great and respected professional. These types of analysis can take a long time, she is just applying the law as it should be, with the same standards to anyone.

But Ash Rahman came galloping to Hai’s defence:

Abdul Hai has been lobbying the government about the much needed reform to the coroner service for the past five years. We’re grateful to him for his energy and time. He cares for our community issues.
The coroner has been an obstacle to responding to the faith community needs. She has been a barrier to introducing the out of hours service. She doesn’t understand diversity and the Equality Act. I know the coroner’s approach has caused families unnecessary discomfort.

The inability of the Coroner’s service to respond to out-of-hours or weekend calls and enquiries has been a concern to me. This lack of a round-the-clock service particularly impacts upon members of the Muslim and Jewish communities when striving to bury the deceased as soon as possible after a death.
Coroners in other districts provide a flexible service to meet their faith community needs, however this coroner has no understanding of the diverse community.
The coroner continues to offend and shows disregards towards our faith communities. She is the problem and she should resign or move for this district.

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  • sailor1031

    If only the religious would apply a modicum of common sense. The rabbis and imams, if they wanted to could tell their congregations that the reason for the interment within 24 hours was a blanket edict made by somebody unknown on purely hygienic grounds. In hot countries in the bronze and iron ages decomposition of corpses is greatly accelerated with alarming results and it quickly becomes a health issue for the still-living. In 21st Century London with refrigeration in mortuaries this is no longer issue and the edict need no longer apply.
    They could tell them that; just as they could tell them that pressing an elevator button on a Saturday is not “making fire”. But they won’t because they fear losing control of their weak-minded followers who might begin to question all kinds of other edicts too – such as not eating pork originally a health edict to protect people from trichinosis and the results of eating rotting meat due again to the hot climate.

  • StephenJP

    While one understands that there may be certain religious superstitions about getting the mortal remains of a person under the sod ASAP, in a civilised society these should take second place to the process that that society requires in order to ascertain the cause of death where that is not immediately clear.
    If I was a suspicious or cynical sort of person, I would wonder what the real reason was for the haste with which these people want their dead to be buried without any questions asked.

  • L.Long

    Fine! Give them the dead rotting meat! And then declare there is no such thing as murder in the jew or isLame areas! The only reason to do autopsy is for suspected foul-play. Since their dimwitted stone age superstitions are more important then they should not really care how the people died…I sure don’t!

  • Robster

    Sailor suggests “If only the religious would apply a modicum of common sense.” Be as likely as god or the baby Jesus showing up.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Ash Rahman quotes the Equality act. This act states that you cannot person A less favourably than person B if the reason you are doing so is because of a protected characteristic, in this case religion. However, what he is asking for would mean that anyone who doesn’t follow either judaism or islam would be treated less favourably, which would be against the act.

  • Bubblecar

    Superstitious crybabies. By their “logic”, the only good coroner is one who refuses to do their job properly.

  • Johan

    Just tell them to fuck off to some primitive country or warlord bandit ridden fiefdom if they want to observe primitive rituals. This Great Britain and we do things the right way. Got it?

  • Broga

    There is no end to the demands of the religious for privileged treatment over the rest of us. In the meantime, the wish for a quiet death of terminally ill people dying in agony continues to be opposed by the religious.
    What is this so superior life of “people of faith?” Yesterday, and unusually for me, I watched a half hour programme on the work of vicars. As a sympathetic (I hope) atheist I started to feel sorry for the vicars. Their work seemed so shallow and unwelcome to their communities. Imagine a job which involved endlessly smiling and attending events which seemed to require meeting people who had baked cakes to sell to raise money for the church.
    They needed “a new approach” but this was a new approach to raise money. Nothing to do with confronting the nature of what they believed. When a curate asked his disappointed father why he didn’t believe in God his father told him. Instead of a discussion the curate ignored the points made and changed the subject.
    What a waste of time on lives based on pretence. The vicar, at a christening, said most of those present never came to his church but he hoped some might return. Forlorn hope, I suspect.

  • barriejohn

    Broga: That “new approach” would seem to involve seeking more state subsidy.
    It’s a strange god that would punish people for not being buried sooner!

  • barriejohn

    PS Re my last point, above:
    Under Jewish and Islamic law, bodies must be buried on the day of death or as soon as possible afterwards.
    Isn’t that exactly what is happening? After all, we are dealing here with people who regularly hoodwink their god by tying a piece of string round the lamp posts to convince it that they all live together in one big house, and use “Shabbat Elevators” to get around Sabbath restrictions, so what’s the big problem?

  • andym

    The religious again behaving like spoilt brats because they’re not being privileged over the everyone else. As ever with these requests for exemption and special treatment there is no attempt to justify the practice requiring such treatment. The attitude is that because it’s faith-based, it does not need to be justified.
    I suspect that deep down they know they’re silly anachronisms which don’t stand too much scrutiny.

  • Great Satan

    It is high time that people lost the culture of deference towards these over privileged ethno religious cabals ;

  • Laura Roberts

    “Referring to a recent conversation with a Holocaust survivor, he said:
    He can’t sleep at night because of the fear of what will happen to him when he dies. This is someone who has gone through Auschwitz.”
    I hold Mr. Gratt and his ilk wholly responsible for adding to a holocaust survivor’s suffering by supporting these delusional superstitions. Nobody who endured the horrors of the Second World War should be made to fear what will happen when he dies. Mr. Gratt and his religious peers have now had more than 70 years to help ease the suffering of their tortured compatriots; blaming a coroner now is a feeble, disgraceful excuse.

  • Broga

    barriejohn: One of the wheezes in the programme were the plans for a vicar to establish a camping site next to his church. The idea being that the happy campers might attend his church. Compare this flitting about with a dog collar and being endlessly smiling to having a job with responsibilities and making decisions.
    Some of those in the programme referred to the feeling that “God had called me” and they responded. Now that invites some analysis which might have helped them escape their religious delusions.

  • Jobrag

    I’m mystified here, is there a problem with souls going to heaven if the body is left lying around, if so what happens to the souls of “martyrs” who blow themselves up and don’t leave enough remains for a burial, if a Muslim or a Jew dies at sea does comital to the deep count as burial, but if you drown and sink without a service are you in the dodo. What will happen to all the souls of bodies that have been vaporised if Iran and Isreal start lobbing nukes at each other? Why don’t the Quarn and Torah answer these questions explicitly a simple verse along the lines of, the souls those killed by weapons that work by nuclear fission go straight to heaven, would do. Please don’t suggest that the prophet and patriarchs weren’t made aware of nukes by God because that would imply a certain degree of divine fallibility and that would never do.

  • Jobrag

    Broga, as another “sympathetic atheist ” I suspect in my case it means too polite to confront C of E in suits and dog collars.

  • barriejohn

    Jobrag: The problem of people who perished at sea has long worried the religious, which explains a rather strange verse in The Revelation which states, “The sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead, and each one was judged according to his deeds”. Why would those who died at sea not be held by Death or Hades? It is quite clear to anyone who has studied the Old Testament that, in earlier times, the Hebrews had little or no concept of souls being “resurrected to judgment”. Many Jews still have no belief in the sort of eternal existence of the soul that Christians do, though others HAVE adopted such ideas:

  • Broga

    Jobrag: Problem, isn’t it? Some Christians happily tell atheists that they are headed for eternal hell fire and polite, sensitive atheists hesitate to hurt their feelings by stating that obvious nonsense is nonsense.
    I rarely meet any declared Christians apart from a devout relative who has a long term, and so far unsuccessful, project to make me “take Jesus into your heart.” But when I do I like Richard Dawkins’ suggestion of asking what they mean by God.

  • Stephen Harvie

    Yet again the religious demanding special treatment on account of their delusions

  • John

    If these silly people have their way then North London could well become the murder capital of the world.
    Where else would dead bodies be thrust into the ground overnight without an autopsy being carried out?
    Hai is just grubbing for votes by trying to echo the sentiments of the irrational and uneducated.
    I hope Mary Hassell tells the lot of them all to get lost.

  • StephenJP

    Bravo for those excellent comments above, especially Laura’s.
    I am delighted to note that Mary Hassell has pushed back: she has reiterated her judgement that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family”. In my view, the bar for doing anything different should be set pretty high.

  • DOM

    Anyone who lived through the holocaust should have plenty of reasons not to believe in any gods.

  • Stephen Harvie

    Exactly! What was their god doing while six million plus perished in unimaginable circumstances? Testing their faith perhaps?

  • Michael Glass

    Imagine this as a plot for a telemovie: A Palestinian activist dies suddenly. The relatives are distraught and fear foul play. The coroner feels that the death is unexplained and arranges an autopsy. However, the Imam, backed by a local Rabbi say it’s against Jewish and Islamic law to delay the burial.
    The decision falls to the Coroner, a youthful woman who has a no-nonsense approach to autopsies that has riled the local Jews and Muslims. She comes under immediate pressure from the local Jewish and Islamic clerics, and a curious piece of advice from the Foreign Office suggesting that she might be wise to back down.
    Her assistant finds a couple of small puncture marks on the dead man’s arm. Toxicology studies are ordered, but they will take several days. There is a demonstration outside the Coroner’s office and demands for the Coroner’s resignation or transfer but she holds firm against all this pressure.
    The results come in.The Palestinian activist has been poisoned by an unknown substance. Suspicion immediately falls on Mossad but it also falls on some extremist Islamic organisations, for the activist was known for his secular views.
    The Coroner is vindicated. The Jews blame the Muslims for killing a secularist; the Muslims blame the Jews for killing a Palestinian activist; Secularists blame both parties for trying to stop the post mortem. The Foreign Office suggests the Coroner may be in some danger and suggests a transfer to somewhere quieter, like Rutland,
    Meanwhile in Buffalo, New York, another young Palestinian dies suddenly on his honeymoon. The State Department immediately issues a statement saying that Israel was NOT involved…….

  • John

    Aren’t there still questions unanswered over what caused the death of Yasser Arafat?

  • Mr C

    Around 10 years ago I used to work in an NHS hospital in the UK. The MRI scanner was only funded to scan patients 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Come into hospital on a Friday evening with severe back pain for example, and you’d have to wait until next week to get a scan (life threatening emergencies got sent to another hospital for urgent scan out of hours). Ironically the scanner was available at evenings and weekends to scan the bodies of recently deceased religious individuals who wanted a quick death certificate issued without the need for a post-mortem. I believe that this facility was funded by a donation from the religious groups involved. Seemed a bit like prioritising the dead over the living to me.

  • Stephen Harvie

    No, it was Ringo Starr who died – Yasser is still on the go!

  • andym
    Why am I not surprised? Again no attempt to explain why this is so important it warrants special treatment. It’s “faith,” therefore to be accepted unquestioningly.

  • barriejohn

    Sadiq Khan is a weasel. I had no idea that coroners up and down the country were “prioritising” Jewish and Mohammedan deaths. If they are, then the Lord Chancellor should be telling them to desist, as there is no rational reason for this. You could almost be forgiven for thinking that Yahweh and Mohammed couldn’t have foreseen the advent of refrigeration, but that couldn’t possibly be the case, could it?

  • John

    Khan is just grubbing for votes.

  • barriejohn

    And here’s another publicity-hungry politician spouting bollocks:
    One can just hope that she has the strength to stand firm on this.

  • barriejohn