Backlash Greets Plans for Muslim Cemeteries Across US

Denise Lavoie, AP, April 25, 2016

On the site of a long-idle dairy farm, leaders of a local mosque hope to build a final resting place for about 500 Muslim families–to the dismay of many residents of this quaint town in central Massachusetts.

In arguments cemetery developers and activists decry as thinly veiled bigotry, neighbors say they fear burial practices could contaminate groundwater because Muslims traditionally do not embalm bodies and bury their dead without coffins. They also cite concerns about noise, vandalism and increased traffic on the narrow road where the cemetery would be built. One resident said he worried he would have to put up with “crazy music” like the Islamic call to prayer.

Similar sentiments have been expressed by people in communities around the country where Muslim cemeteries have been proposed, including Farmervsille, Texas; Walpole, Massachusetts; Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and Farmington, Minnesota.

In some cases, opponents have succeeded in defeating the new cemetery projects, while in others, Muslim groups have appealed and judges have cleared the way.

In Farmersville, near Dallas, some residents were openly hostile during meetings on a proposal to build a Muslim cemetery on a 35-acre site just outside the city. {snip}

“People don’t trust Muslims. Their goal is to populate the United States and take it over,” Barbara Ashcraft said during a meeting in August.

“You’re not welcome here!” another man yelled, according to news accounts.

City leaders were so bombarded with complaints that they published an informational guide on the city’s website, assuring residents that there is “no training facility planned for this site . . . no terrorist activity associated with this site . . . no plans for a mosque at this site.”

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There are relatively few dedicated Muslim cemeteries around the country, so many Muslim communities use sections of other cemeteries to bury their dead.

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In January, a Minnesota judge overturned a local board’s denial of a permit for a cemetery near Farmington. In his written ruling, Judge David Knutson called the denial “arbitrary and capricious.” The judge said the proposal was rejected despite a “lack of any justification based on the health, safety and general welfare of the local residents.”

In West Pennsboro Township, Pennsylvania, a local board rejected a plan for a cemetery proposed last year by the Bosniak Islamic Cultural Center of Carlisle. A judge quickly overturned that ruling.

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