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|Emotional Farewell To Refugee Schoolboy|
Glasgow, February 27 2004 (The Herald) – A SOMALIAN refugee schoolboy who died after collapsing at his school was laid to rest yesterday following an emotional funeral service.
More than 180 mourners attended the service for 11-year-old Suhail Saleh in the Central Mosque, Glasgow.
Prayers were said in a short service at the mosque before Suhail's coffin, covered in a traditional Muslim cloth bearing scriptures from the Koran, was taken to Cathcart cemetery in Glasgow's south side.
Suhail died after collapsing at All Saints Roman Catholic secondary in the Barmulloch area of Glasgow on Tuesday, after an alleged incident in the dining hall.
A 12-year-old asylum seeker was arrested in connection with the death, but later released from custody pending further inquiries.
Pupils and teachers from the school attended the mosque yesterday. Some pupils had to be comforted by teachers and hugged their classmates outside as they placed wreaths in the back of the hearse and waited for it to leave for the cemetery.
Saeed Ghalib, Suhail's father, attended the funeral but his mother, Samira, 29, did not. It is customary in Somalia for men to attend funeral prayers but for women to remain at home and grieve with female relatives and friends.
The family also decided that the service would be private, which meant the media were not allowed into the mosque.
Imam Habib Rahaman said: "The prayers were similar to those we normally have, other than the introduction when we expressed our sympathy to the family, particularly because this was a sudden and tragic loss.
"I led the prayers before the congregation said their individual prayers and there were displays of emotion then."
Inspector Tom Harrigan, race relations co-ordinator with Strathclyde Police who attended the service, said: "It was low-key but very emotional. Children from the school found it very emotional."
Most of Suhail's family and friends went in a cortege of about 10 vehicles to the cemetery, where there was another short ceremony before he was buried in a section dedicated to the Muslim community.
Tom McDonald, Suhail's head teacher at All Saints, said after the service: "It was a traditional Islamic service so we didn't participate fully. We stood among the mourners and said prayers. It was a short but very meaningful ceremony."
Imam Omair Malik, another religious leader at the mosque, later revealed that Suhail had been attending classes there to learn by heart the last 14 chapters of the Koran.
He said people at the mosque had not realised the dead boy was one of their students until a few minutes before the service yesterday.
He said: "I was so shocked when I found out. I taught Suhail for two hours a night, three times a week for the past month. Suhail was always smiling and was a good student."
He added: "There is great sadness. Most of the other children in the class will not know it was Suhail who died, so I will have to tell them."
Suhail's family came to Scotland in 2000 from Djibouti, near Somalia, and was granted refugee status in 2001. He had two brothers, Mohammed, 13, a pupil at All Saints, and one-year-old Ahmed.
Of the 909 pupils at All Saints 10% are either asylum seekers or refugees who have had asylum claims approved.