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Italy’s Muslims faces lack of burial space, deepens grief in pandemic

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Italy’s Muslim community, like others, suffered many deaths as the coronavirus pandemic hit the Mediterranean country hard.
Compounding the pain for the religious minority has been the grim reality of a lack of space to bury their dead.
Imams and Muslim community leaders are now calling for more Islamic cemeteries, or additional space in the country’s existing graveyards, as the faithful increasingly want to be buried in Italy, their home.
“We have experienced the pain (of the pandemic), but it has sometimes been deepened when some families could not find a place to bury their dead because there were no Muslim sections in the town cemeteries,” Abdullah Tchina, imam of the Milan Sesto mosque, told AFP.
More than 34,000 people have died from the virus in Italy, mostly in the industrial north, and for months global air travel has been at a near-standstill.
As a result, Muslims who died of COVID-19 or other causes could not be repatriated to their countries of origin, as was the practice previously.
That led to a spike in requests for burials — and the realisation that Italy lacks the space.
Italy’s Muslims number around 2.6 million, or 4.3 percent of the population. Living mainly in the country’s north, 56 percent hold foreign citizenship, many from countries in North Africa or South Asia.
No official statistics are available on the number of Muslims, whether Italians or foreign nationals, who lost their lives during the outbreak.

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