A Sleaford muslim leader is ‘surprised and shocked’ to have found what could be seen as racist graffiti scrawled across new signs for a dedicated burial ground in the town.
Local restaurant owner Nadim Aziz, deputy chairman of the Sleaford Muslim Community Association was visiting the town cemetery this morning and discovered signs referring to a newly dedicated muslim burial area had been defaced and vandalised overnight (Tuesday/Wednesday). The matter is being treated as a ‘hate crime’ by Lincolnshire Police.
Cemetery owners, Sleaford Town Council had just months ago agreed to specify an area for muslim faith burials and Mr Aziz said: “We had signs put up just two months ago, one at the entrance and one near the burial area and everything has been fine. But this morning (Wednesday) I came there found all the signs in a mess.”
Attempts were made to remove some of the signs and the lettering on two others had been crossed out with permanent marker pen.
Mr Aziz then alerted the cemetery staff.
Mr Aziz said the signs had all been restored now, but said: “It is upsetting. It is a cemetery for everyone and a peaceful area and it is not doing any harm.
“Everyone uses the cemetery, not just muslims and I am surprised and shocked that it has happened in Sleaford. I have never experienced any racist incidents like this having lived here since 1988.”
He added: “There was some vandalism a couple of weeks ago when one of our community members caught someone sleeping rough in the entrance of our mosque. We called the police and moved them on. There has also been someone sleeping in the cemetery recently - lots of things are going on.”
In a statement via its Facebook page, the Town Council said it was “disappointed” by the vandalism and the police have been informed.
This comes after security patrols were introduced after a series of thefts of items left on graves and a shed being wrecked by intruders in the cemetery at night over recent months.
Clerk to the Town Council, Kevin Martin told The Standard: “Two of the five signs directing visitors to the Muslim Burial area had undecipherable graffiti on and physical attempts had been made to remove the signs from three other posts including the removal of nuts and bolts. As the signs are some distance apart whoever carried out the offence would have had to walk around the cemetery grounds.
“The matter was reported to police via the 101 service and an officer from Lincolnshire Police visited the cemetery site within an hour.
“Council staff have managed to remove the graffiti and the remaining signs have been re-fixed to their posts. Lincolnshire Police have confirmed that the incident has been logged as a hate crime and thus a criminal offence.
“If anyone has any information regarding this incident they are asked to contact Lincolnshire Police quoting case number 17000403974.”
Mr Martin explained the signs were provided by the council as it has for all other information boards/signs at the site.
He said: “The Muslim faith requires a certain alignment for burial. Hence a small area of the burial ground was allocated to best facilitate that. The signage directs mourners to this area because of its position within the new part of the cemetery. It would not be immediately evident without signage.”
He added: “The cemetery is a burial ground for human remains thus is available to all residents and non-residents irrespective of faiths or non-faith. The site has been used since 1856 so contains a wide range of headstones/markers relating to faiths, non-faiths, war graves, woodland and white graves.”