About 60 people gathered at Castle Rock town hall on Tuesday as the board of trustees approved a request from a Muslim cemetery to use an on-site building as a prayer hall and ritual washing space for the burial.
More than a dozen people brought signs saying “We support Al Maghfirah cemetery”.
The city council unanimously approved the permit on the condition that the cemetery install fences or plant trees as a screen wherever the cemetery abuts houses.
Board member BJ Elvestad said there was a lot of support and most of the concerns were about the specifics of the use of the cemetery, he said.
Somali community members distributed donuts and cookies after the approval.
“The majority of people today said no to hate,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “This cemetery will serve the Muslim community in the metropolitan area for over 100 years.”
The permit authorizes a prayer hall or mosque and space for washing bodies without chemicals or embalming and a second structure to hold cemetery equipment, including an excavator for digging graves and landscaping equipment.
The 73-acre cemetery located in a rural area near Farmington will provide a final resting place for members of the Muslim community, which has only one other cemetery accepting new burials in the metro area. This cemetery is in Burnsville.
Hussein said the cemetery’s location in a rural area allowed for a larger cemetery that would have room for longer burials.
Hussein said the cemetery had been vandalized in recent years and buildings there had suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Such incidents are not isolated, he said.
“I think the most important thing is that Muslims continue to face challenges with opposition to the use of land for cemeteries and mosques,” he said.
Some improvements to buildings and roads near the cemetery will take place over the next year, Hussein said.
Last month, the oversight board held a public hearing that drew more than 100 people, most supporting the project. At a public hearing in June, many participants said they support Muslims’ desire to bury their family members naturally in a dignified and “green” manner, without embalming.
A few audience members said they were worried about groundwater contamination affecting local wells, while others said the property had not been well maintained since it was purchased in 2014.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has been advocating for the cemetery since 2015.