Page last updated at 18:35 GMT, Saturday, 25 April 2009 19:35 UK

Bereavement Centre still on hold

By John McManus
BBC News

Muslims at prayer
Leicester's Muslim community is growing in size

Plans for a Bereavement Centre for Muslims in Leicestershire are still on hold, two years after they were first announced.

The Muslim community wants the new centre to provide physical space for mourning rituals.

There are also plans to open it up to people of other Faiths, and none.

But so far an affordable site for the new building has not been found.

Currently Muslim families use one of several local mosques to lay out the bodies of deceased relatives, and perform ritual cleansing ceremonies before burial.

Community leaders want to ease the pressure on the mosques who provide this service, and circulate more education and training around the needs of bereaved Muslim families.

Leicester City Council says that, according to forecasts based on the 2001 Census, the city is on the way to becoming the UK's first "plural" city, where no single ethnic group is in the majority.

Well-wishers have already said they will contribute, when the time comes
Suleman Nagdi, Muslim Burial Council

The Muslim Burial Council of Leicestershire say that as several ethnic groups - including Muslims - are growing, it is important to plan for all aspects of the future.

With this in mind, they hope the Bereavement Centre will also be open to people of other Faiths, including Hindus and Jews.

Suleman Nagdi is the chairman of the Muslim Burial Council, and one of the drivers behind the project.

He is keen to provide more training for nurses and police officers around bereavement issues, and hopes the planned centre would be able to offer courses for all faiths, and none.

Gender division

Mr Nagdi says the ideal location for the centre would be within the city boundaries, but that land is at a premium.

"We're now looking at renovating derelict sites such as old factory units.

"We did identify a property six weeks ago but were unable to agree a price."

He is still searching , and hopes that one solution might be to bid for a brownfield site that has been the subject of a compulsory purchase order by Leicester Council.

Suleman Nagdi
Suleman Nagdi is searching for a site for the Bereavement Centre

Another option is to site the building within the wider county of Leicestershire, but this would present new problems around transport links for those without cars.

It is hoped donations for the centre will come from the Muslim community, but so far no one has been asked for any financial contributions to the project.

Mr Nagdi is waiting until the site of the centre has been finalised.

But he remains confident that funding will not be a problem.

"Well-wishers have already said they will contribute, when the time comes."

One of the more unusual aspects of the new centre will be a mortuary divided along gender lines.

Gender division is an important part of many Muslims' faith, in life as well as death.

Counsellors will also be on hand to help the local community.

Mr Nagdi believes this is an important service for new, or recently arrived immigrants.

"Many students for example, don't have family living with them, and need somebody to support them, particularly if there has been a death overseas."

For the moment though, the search for a suitable property continues.

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