Texas res­i­dents fight plan to open Mus­lim ceme­tery

Cape Breton Post - - CLASSIFIEDS / WORLD -

Mus­lims say they’re look­ing for a place to bury their dead. Lo­cals say it’s a plot to gain a foothold in their small ru­ral Texas town.

A pro­posal to bring a Mus­lim ceme­tery to Farm­ersville has stoked fears among res­i­dents who are ve­he­mently try­ing to con­vince com­mu­nity lead­ers to block the pro­ject. The sen­ti­ment re­flects an anti-Mus­lim dis­trust that has been brew­ing over the last year in parts of Texas, most no­tably 25 miles (40 kilo­me­tres) away in Gar­land _ the scene of a deadly May shoot­ing out­side a car­toon con­test lam­poon­ing the Prophet Muham­mad.

“The con­cern for us is the rad­i­cal el­e­ment of Is­lam,’’ David J. Meeks, pas­tor of Beth­le­hem Bap­tist Church, told The Dal­las Morn­ing News. He said he thinks the ceme­tery would be the first step to­ward a broader Mus­lim ex­pan­sion in town.

“How can we stop a mosque or madrassa train­ing cen­tre from go­ing in there?’’ he asked, re­fer­ring to a type of Is­lamic school.

The is­sue is flar­ing up as Farm­ersville lead­ers con­sider a 35acre (14-hectare) de­vel­op­ment re­quest from the Is­lamic As­so­ci­a­tion of Collin County, which faces a short­age of space to bury mem­bers of its faith. Although the area al­ready has a Bud­dhist cen­tre and Mor­mon church, res­i­dents showed up in force at a re­cent town meet­ing to op­pose al­low­ing a Mus­lim ceme­tery, which would in­clude an open-air pav­il­ion and small re­tail com­po­nent that would run along a busy high­way through town.

“There’s just a ba­sic con­cern or dis­trust about the ceme­tery com­ing into town,’’ said Mayor Joe Helm­berger, who calls the towns­peo­ple’s wor­ries un­war­ranted.

He said the ceme­tery would be ap­proved as long as the town’s de­vel­op­ment stan­dards are met, point­ing out that the U.S. was founded on re­li­gious free­dom and that the as­so­ci­a­tion is sim­ply try­ing to se­cure a burial site.

Con­cerns over Mus­lim ceme­ter­ies gained na­tional at­ten­tion in 2010 when the town of Sid­ney Cen­ter in New York voted to in­ves­ti­gate how Mus­lims were bury­ing their dead. The is­sue was quickly dropped af­ter lo­cal lead­ers re­ceived wide­spread crit­i­cism.

Many res­i­dents of Farm­ersville, a pre­dom­i­nantly white com­mu­nity of ap­prox­i­mately 3,500 res­i­dents about 35 miles (56 kilo­me­tres) north­east of Dal­las, are push­ing their lead­ers to take a sim­i­lar stand.

Some op­pose the pro­ject be­cause it would at­tract Mus­lims, while oth­ers ex­pressed con­cern that Mus­lim burial prac­tices _ Mus­lims tra­di­tion­ally don’t bury their dead in cas­kets _ would present health risks for res­i­dents.

“When some­body dies, they bury them at that time,’’ Farm­ersville res­i­dent Troy Gos­nell told KTVT-TV. “You don’t know whether they were shot, dis­eased or any­thing else. All they do is wrap them in a sheet, throw them in the grave and bury them.’’

AP PHOTO

Alia Salem, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Dal­las-Fort Worth chap­ter of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions poses for a photo by an open-air pav­il­ion in the Is­lamic Gar­den, a burial site for mem­bers of the Mus­lim faith that is part of the Rest­land Ceme­tery, Fri­day.

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