Muslim cemeteries face generation gap
More Swiss cemeteries are setting aside special Muslim plots, but controversially these remain largely empty, with older Muslims preferring to be buried in the land of their birth. That situation could change with the younger generation.
Since 2000, about 15 cities, mostly in German-speaking parts of Switzerland, have created Muslim sections in their cemeteries. Debate over whether this was necessary erupted last spring when several German-speaking media outlets reported that few of these plots were being used.
The Lucerne youth chapter of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party called for the Muslim section of one municipal cemetery to be shut as only ten burials had taken place since it was set aside in 2008. In the canton of St Gallen, the same party opposed a new law allowing local cemeteries to reserve plots for Muslims. Despite this, the law was passed in June.
Meanwhile, in Biel, less than a year after the city reserved 800 plots for Muslims, the first burial in the section was also cause for concern.
But religious experts, Muslim residents and even cemetery directors, are calling criticism of these special sections short-sighted.
They told local newspapers that it was only a matter of time before Muslim plots would be in high demand. Today’s older generation of Muslims are immigrants and usually want to be buried in the country where they born, the younger generations are expected to have a different outlook.
The Association of Islamic Organisations in Zurich estimates that at present more than 90 per cent of deceased Muslims are repatriated to their country of origin. (...)