A normally quiet town of 3,000 in Texas has been up in arms in recent weeks over plans to bring an Islamic cemetery within their city limits. More than 100 residents packed a Farmersville City Council meeting Tuesday night to express their concern.
"It is my duty and my right to warn when there is a danger,” one resident said, according to the website of WFAA-TV, an ABC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth. Another resident warned that the cemetery would “kill Farmersville."
The cemetery has been proposed by five Islamic centers in Collin County, the county within which Farmersville is located. Khalid Abdur-Rashid, a resident scholar at an Islamic association, said the anger is rooted in misinformation over plans for the land.
“Some thought it was a mosque going to be built. Others thought it was a training ground,” Abdur-Rashid said. “We want to be very clear that this is a cemetery,” he said.
Some residents took issue with how Muslims bury their dead, KTVT-TV, a local CBS affiliate, reported. Muslims typically bury their dead immediately, and rather than using a coffin, the corpse is shrouded in a white cloth and placed directly into the ground.
“When somebody dies they bury them at that time. They don’t know whether they were shot, diseased or anything else. All they do is wrap them in a sheet from the grave and bury them,” town resident Troy Gosnell said.
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One resident expressed concern the burial practice could contaminate the town’s drinking water.
It isn't the first time residents in American towns have protested plans for Muslim establishments near their homes. A nearly four-year tense legal battle over plans for a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, was laid to rest in 2014 after the U.S. Supreme Court denied to hear the case. Residents had taken issue with a mosque being built in their town after their local council unanimously voted to approve the plan. Opponents and supporters of the Muslim community held rallies, and the mosque was subjected to both vandalism and arson.
The cemetery issue was not an official agenda item for Tuesday night’s meeting, as it is not yet up for a vote. But residents who spoke during a 30-minute time allocated for community comments are hoping to thwart the plan. Some have reportedly threatened to dump pigs' blood or put pigs' heads on posts so Muslims won’t buy the property, the CBS affiliate reported.
In order to move forward, the proposal still has to be approved by the planning and zoning commission before moving ahead for a vote by the city council.
Muslim community leaders behind the plan seemed hopeful that construction would move forward and the local community’s concerns would be eased.
“They are fearful of what they don’t understand and hopefully it’s an opportunity for us to come together and learn a little bit more about each other and hopefully dispel some of those misconceptions,” said Alia Salem with the Dallas-Forth Worth chapter of Cair (Council on American-Islamic Relations) Texas.