In a quaint town in central Massachusetts, leaders of a local mosque were planning to build an Islamic cemetery but were met with resistance and hostility by townspeople who claim that Islamic burial practices could contaminate groundwater due to the embalming practices and the way that Muslims bury their deceased without coffins. They also cited concerns about noise, vandalism and traffic with one resident saying he was worried about the “crazy music.” Developers and activists have denounced this as not so thinly veiled Islamophobia.
Similar protests have been made in Farmervsille, Texas; Walpole, Massachusetts; Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and Farmington, Minnesota. In some cases, Muslim groups have won court cases allowing the cemetery projects to move forward but in other instances, opposition has won and halted the cemeteries from being built.
Muslim leaders have been appalled by the level of animosity. “We were absolutely flabbergasted, to be honest, to see that kind of opposition,” said Ismail Fenni, a representative of Al-Marhama Islamic Burial. “All we’re trying to establish is a place for a final resting place for the loved ones of the Muslim community members.”
Douglas Cwienk, a hydrogeologist who has testified on behalf of Muslim groups, has said that Muslim burial practices are unlikely to contaminate wells or groundwater, and that not embalming is actually better for local groundwater. (Jewish tradition also prohibits embalming.)