The agreement will allow Muslims to be buried in full accordance with beliefs of Islam.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 27/10/12
An agreement between Belgrade officials and the Islamic community of Serbia will create separate burial plots at four cemeteries. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]
A recent agreement between Belgrade authorities and the Islamic community of Serbia will significantly contribute to better mutual understanding and respect between the two groups, analysts said.
The agreement, signed earlier this month between Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas and Serbian Mufti Muhammed Jusufspahic, allows Muslims to be buried in full accordance with their customs.
Muslims have shared burial space with members of other faiths, which prevented graves from being properly oriented. According to Islamic beliefs, graves should be oriented in a southwest-northeast direction, and the right side of the deceased should face Mecca. Christian burial plots are oriented in an east-west direction.
"We have realised three Islamic community requests on funeral issues: Some 600 separate parcels, constructed in accordance with Islam, with southwest-northeast orientation, special vehicles for transportation of the deceased from chapel to graves, without any religious designation, as well as preparation of one special room at one local cemetery for preparation of the dead person for the burial," Ragan Baltovski, director of the Public Utility Company Funeral, told SETimes.
Jusufspahic said making sure that gravesites are properly oriented is a matter of fundamental freedom for the state to ensure.
"God has given us freedom, but it must be carried out equally," Jusufspahic told SETimes.
He added that he is satisfied with the agreement and that it is going to improve internal relations and, "make [Serbia] more beautiful than it is at this moment."
Muslims in some neighbouring countries where they are a religious minority used to have similar problems.
In Montenegro, there are separate burial sites and chapels for preparation of the deceased in Podgorica. Cemeteries in Budva, Kotor, Herceg Novi and Tivat do not have separate plots, and many Muslims from those areas are buried in Podgorica.
"Even pets have the right for a dignified send-off from this world, but it is not the case with Muslims in some municipalities in Montenegro, because they have a worse treatment from them," Džemo ef. Redžematović, major imam for Podgorica and Niksic, told SETimes. "Since burial is a very important issue for us, our Mešihat [Islamic community] have been criticising the mayors of cities where Muslims do not have separate cemeteries."
Redžematović also said that relations between the state and Islamic community in Montenegro are regulated by the constitution and an agreement signed this year by Prime Minister Igor Luksic and Reis Rifat Fejzicm greatly helped stabilise relations because it deals with many issues of personal and religious freedom.
In Macedonia, where Muslims comprise about a quarter of the population, Jakup Selimovski, representative of the Islamic religious community, said Muslims are part of the country's indigenous population. Muslim burial in Macedonia was fully in accordance with the regulations of Islam from the time of the Ottoman state.
"Muslims have their own cemetery, in most cases on completely separate parcels, and in fewer cases have separate plots in common graves," Selimovski told SETimes.