More than 100 people of different faiths and ethnicities gathered Monday evening at a town hall in the southern metro to discuss a cemetery that people of the Muslim faith hope to call their own.
Castle Rock Township in southern Dakota County held a public hearing regarding a conditional use permit for Al Maghfirah Cemetery, a planned Islamic cemetery that has experienced attempted arson and vandalism during the last years.
Holding signs reading ‘Hate has no place in our community’ and ‘We support Al Magfirah Cemetery’, the majority of the standing crowd spoke out in favor of changes to a use permit conditional (CUP) for the site.
The 73-acre cemetery in a rural area of the county would provide a final resting place for members of the Muslim community.
Amendments to the CUP called for the construction of space for a prayer hall or mosque, space for washing bodies without chemicals or embalming, and waiving the requirement for metal or concrete vaults for burials. The organizers also hope that no tree lines block the view of the property.
Many in the audience expressed support for Muslims’ desire to bury their family members naturally – often in “green” burials, without the use of coffins – and with dignity and respect.
A handful of people have expressed concern about groundwater contamination for those who drink from nearby wells. Other neighbors have mentioned that the property hasn’t been well maintained since it was purchased in 2014.
Council on American-Islamic Relations-MN executive director Jaylani Hussein, who has championed the cemetery since 2015, said there are few other burial options for the state’s Muslim community.
“The Muslim community is growing, and the cemetery will be used for this to welcome us. We currently have [one cemetery, in] Burnsville right now; there are no plans for another cemetery. That’s it,” Hussein said.
Other communities have many options for burying loved ones with dignity and respect — and those communities don’t face backlash from the community, Hussein said.
When Bishara Mohamed’s aunt died in April, her family went to Burnsville Cemetery on a cold day to honor her life. She was the first close member of Mohamed’s family to die and she hoped to have enough time to remember her life, she told the crowd.
“We had to rush through the ceremony, the burial, our prayer. We never really got to spend time appreciating and praying for her enough because it was really cold for us,” said Mohammad said. “I just imagine what it would be like to have a room to take our time and pray for our family members.”
The decision regarding conditional use permits will be made at a future meeting of the Township of Castle Rock Planning Committee.