Mumbai’s Muslim engraver at work in Jewish cemetery
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Mumbai’s Muslim engraver at work in Jewish cemetery

74-year-old Mohammad Abdul Yaseen has for decades been inscribing tombstones on behalf of India's Bene Israel community

Muslim tombstone engraver Mohammad Abdul Yaseen, August  21, 2014 (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ INDRANIL MUKHERJEE)
Muslim tombstone engraver Mohammad Abdul Yaseen, August 21, 2014 (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ INDRANIL MUKHERJEE)

The 74-year-old carefully chisels away at a slab of marble, engraving a passage that recounts the devout Jewish faith of the deceased.

On another tombstone he touches up a painted Hebrew inscription, undisturbed by the blare of car horns outside the central Mumbai cemetery.

Muslim engraver Mohammad Abdul Yaseen has for decades worked in this Jewish graveyard, inscribing memorials in English, the local Indian language Marathi, and Hebrew, in which he is fluent.

Yaseen serves the tiny Bene Israel or “Sons of Israel” community, whose origins in India go back about 2,000 years, as well as the Baghdadi Jews who came to do business in Mumbai in the 19th century.

While the country’s Jewish population is now dwindling, Yaseen has been in demand since he took up the trade in the 1960s after arriving in Mumbai from northern India.

He has since received numerous invitations to go to Israel, but has preferred to stay with his family in Mumbai.

“It was not really meant to be a job. But work kept coming and I stayed. In any case, I did not want to sit at home and do nothing,” he told AFP.

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